DCIM100GOPROI missed the morning glass because I had to wait around for the surf shop to open so that I could buy a new leash. (The existing one has let me down far too many times now.) I was then further delayed fixing the results of the latest round of the ‘Who can put the biggest holes in Rob’s surfboard’ competition undertaken between airlines worldwide.

However I am lucky that there is a break right in front of my hotel called Mambo’s Place, and it is named after it. I have a great room overlooking the break, which is the big window you can see over my left shoulder on the first floor in this picture of me charging into the surf.

DCIM100GOPROThe first thing to mention about this surf was all the turtles. I stopped counting them after a while because there are so many in the water. I was afraid catching a wave would resemble a water based version of hopscotch!

I still caught my share though, even if my delays in getting started meant that it was very windy, resulting in the lumpy waves you see here and a ride like a bucking bronco. 

DCIM101GOPROThis wave is a reef break consisting of a few rocks, but was nothing to worry about when compared to the cheese grating reefs of the Mentawai Islands which I have become used to. Sadly the waves were not in the same league as the perfection I have been enjoying over recent weeks either, but that was no real surprise.

There is a crowd watching from the shore sipping Lion beers and cocktails so you don’t want to look like too much of a kook with so many people looking on. Thankfully I did well, surfing so far in that I almost landed on sun loungers when I got off!

DCIM100GOPROI did have a lot of fun for a couple of hours here before the winds chopped everything up and I got out. Firstly picking out the best right hand line through the waves, and then trying to work my may along it to the shore following the route I had spotted from the sand.

I got out happy to have bagged my first break in Sri Lanka less than ten hours after stepping off the plane.

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Nipussi 1Nipussi is a break that we visited on our previous trip across the Indian Ocean to the Playgrounds area, but I had simply been too tired to go in when we arrived. The sun had beaten the life out of me.

It breaks close to the shore and Cahn had suspected that the winds today would be perfect here, so we took the risk of leaving Burgerworld where there was nobody else in the water and motored across to this break.

DCIM103GOPROThere were only a couple of guys in the water when we arrived and it didn’t take me long to get over the side and join them, whilst David and the others who had spent the morning surfing rather than fixing dings, took some shelter from the sun.

I wasn’t waiting long before my first ride which just broke beautifully, peeling right all the way towards the beach. I was loving such a perfect wave on my forehand too.

DCIM104GOPROThe waves broke like this for the whole of the session and knowing it was my last in the Mentawai Islands I made the most of it, skating along the vertical walls of water that I could drag my hands in and getting really long rides.

I had so much fun here and was beaming after nearly two hours in the water. The sun was out for most of the session which fogged the camera up almost straight away, but the memories of my surfing will be crystal clear in my own head for many years to come. A great way to say goodbye to the Mentawais.

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WP_20131110_005My options for the last day at Aloita were do nothing or stump up 50% of the cost to take the yellow boat across to Playgrounds once more. I didn’t need much persuading!

The weather on the journey across was miserable and the wind was biting through everything. Being the Boy Scout I am I had taken a windproof jacket with me, but not everybody had the same foresight. You can see David here trying to shelter from the elements under my towel. 

IMG_9556It took us two hours in the driving rain to reach Burgerworld, which was on the limit of the boat’s fuel capacity, and everybody was cold when we arrived.

If the sight of the waves breaking off the point didn’t warm your heart, getting into the sea certainly would. The temperature of the water is nearly 30C, so it was like getting into a hot bath. The chill I had acquired on the journey across instantaneously vanished.

DCIM101GOPROThings didn’t start very well for me here though. After paddling right up to the point and catching my first wave my leash once more got ripped off my leg when I wiped out, sending my board in towards the volcanic rocks and coral lining the shore of the uninhabited island.

Cahn chased my board but it was on the rocks before he could get to it, and I then had a nervy swim in through the breaking waves, rocks and coral to join him on the shore. You can see the two of us inspecting the camera which was miraculously unscathed by its journey in through the dangerous shallow water. 

WP_20131110_011The board didn’t get off so lightly though and there were two huge gouges cut into the base where the rocks and coral had torn it open.

The fins were just scratched though and it was good enough to get me back to the boat, even if I didn’t enjoy scraping across a few more sharp objects on the way back out to sea from the island. 

Solar ResinIt was still the start of my session and David was only just getting in when I made it back to the boat, so I decided to try and fix the holes to see if I could get back into the water quickly. Fortunately I had decided to put my ding repair kit into the bag I take on the boat for the first time today, so had everything readily available for me to start working on the damage.

The biggest issue was finding shade to work in. The solar resin I use would cure in minutes in the UK but took seconds under the equatorial sun. After a couple of failed attempts I got there eventually with a little bit of help from the crew of the boat holding a towel above me as I worked.

Then having made the board water tight I sanded down the rough edges and paddled back out making sure that my leash was securely fastened. (It has become an annoying problem that I cant resolve due to the lack of surf shops here, but is going to have to be replaced in Sri Lanka if not before. Your surfboard is often your lifeboat, so I must have faith that it will remain attached to my leg, and at the moment I have none!)

IMG_9568I couldn’t resist catching a few more of the gorgeous rights on offer here though, even if I was nervous about my leash the whole time.

As you can see I did respectably well in the set waves which would come through every few minutes and caught a number of rides quite quickly on my patched up board.

I didn’t stay in long before joining the others to have lunch on the boat, but was still stoked after quite an eventful session.

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WP_20131027_034Welcome Drinks

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

WP_20131027_040My Place

 

 

 

 

WP_20131109_003Aloita

 

 

 

WP_20131027_043Front Garden

 

 

 

 

DCIM101GOPROOmbak Tidur

 

 

 

 

 

WP_20131027_066The Bar

 

 

 

 

DCIM102GOPROIceland Sunshine

 

 

 

 

DCIM102GOPRO

Dropping into Iceland

 

 

 

 

 

DCIM102GOPROSome reefs are deeper than others

 

 

 

 

 

DCIM101GOPROWashing my shorts

 

 

 

 

 

DCIM100GOPROFalling with style

 

 

 

 

 

Mentawai CoralMentawai reef

 

 

 

 

Carla & LucasClara and Lucas

 

 

 

 

Joe & NicoJohannes and Nico

 

 

 

 

DCIM101GOPROSeven Palms

 

 

 

 

 

DCIM102GOPROSurfing through a gap in the space time continuum

 

 

 

 

Cropped 1Telescopes 1

 

 

 

Cropped 2Telescopes 2

 

 

 

Cropped 3Telescopes 3

 

 

 

Cropped 4Telescopes 4

 

 

 

 

Cropped 5Telescopes 5

 

 

 

 

Cropped 6Telescopes 6

 

 

 

Cropped 7Telescopes 7

 

 

 

 

Cropped 8Telescopes 8

 

 

 

 

WP_20131030_036Mentawai Tattoo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DCIM100GOPROThe Banana Boat

 

 

 

 

 

DCIM100GOPROTelescopes Fun

 

 

 

 

 

 

DCIM102GOPROMore fun at Telescopes

 

 

 

 

 

A Frames 1

A-Frames

 

 

 

 

4 Bobs4 Bobs

 

 

 

 

 

WP_20131107_025David under a double rainbow

 

 

 

 

Sunset

Aloita Sunset

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A lazy day today after being exhausted from eleven hours under the equatorial sun yesterday, so here is some surf humour thanks to Keith Sheriffe back in London.

Q: Why is surfing like sex?
A: When it’s good, it’s really, really good. And when it’s bad…..it’s still pretty good.

Two surfers are at getting ready to paddle out. One says to the other, “Hey, guess what! I got a new longboard for my wife!”
The other replies, “Great trade!”

While surfing off the Florida coast, a tourist snapped his board. He could swim, but his fear of alligators kept him clinging to the broken board. Spotting and old beachcomber standing on the shore, the tourist shouted, “Are there any gators around here?!” “Naw,” the man hollered back, “they ain’t been around for years!” Feeling safe, the tourist started swimming leisurely toward the shore. About halfway there he asked the guy, “How’d you get rid of the gators?” “We didn’t do nothin’,” the beachcomber said, “The sharks got ’em.”

Alex and three of his surfing buddies have gone surfing every Saturday for most of their lives. One Saturday, the guys are surfing near a highway when a funeral processional drives by. Alex stands up on his board and places his hand over his heart. This processional is huge and takes nearly five minutes to pass. Once it passes, Alex sits down on his board and waits for the next wave. Needless to say his buddies are floored by his actions. One of them finally speaks up and says, “That was a respectful thing you did there when they went by.” Alex replied, “It seems the least I could do seeing as how I’ve been married to the woman for over thirty years!”

And finally

Surfing Wisdom Give a man a surfboard, and you’ve distracted him for a day. Teach a man to surf, and you can’t get him to work.

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I had time for just a couple of quick waves here whilst everybody else ate lunch. It is called A Frames because you can go left and right off the peak over the edge of the reef.

I hung slightly wide keen to avoid adding to my Mentawai tattoo collection. I bagged one quickly, which was quite a long left around the edge of the reef.

Nothing really to report on beyond that and all the trash that was in the water here. There has been more rubbish floating around in Indonesian waves than the rest of the world combined! All of which is quite sad.

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Rather than just sitting around on the boat waiting for the others to finish at 4 Bobs (and keen to avoid becoming a fifth permanent Bob) I took up Cahn’s suggestion of a cruisey longboard wave.

I paddled the short distance to this break figuring it couldn’t be any worse. However it was, much.

The wave itself was brilliant. Easy take off and a long wall, but wiping out on my first wave I split my hand open on the reef, which was only after the last few seconds of my ride being terrified of getting off anywhere because I could see how close to the surface the reef was and indeed how many sharp heads of coral there were.

I caught one more wave here but had no enthusiasm for staying further in the water. When I got back to the boat I actually discovered that my earlier wipe-out was so bad that there was still a chunk of coral left inside my rash vest! As a a result of many cuts and scrapes at this break I won’t come back!

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The weather is finally kind enough to warrant a day trip out on the boat over to the Playground which is an area rich in a variety of breaks. We first looked at Rifles which can offer 400m long barrels, but wasn’t produce much more fire power than a whoopee cushion when we arrived so we pushed on to 4 Bobs.

I was nearly blinded by my sun cream, which has been burning my eyes daily since arriving, but was left with just enough vision to pick out so many boils on the water’s surface that it looked like a lunar landscape when you are taking off. Shallow and sharp doesn’t come close to covering it!

However I decided to go for it anyway and caught three lovely rights, which have been in short supply since arriving in the Mentawai Islands. Sadly I lost my board once more on the last of them. (I must buy a new leash as soon as I find a surf shop.)

Cahn was good enough to surf over the reef and collect it for me whilst I swam in, all the while have a good look at how gnarly the reef was. As a consequence I decided that three was enough and beat a hasty retreat to our boat.

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After breakfast we went to check the surf more in hope than expectation. Cahn, our surf guide and the crew of the little yellow boat took us on a lap of the local island checking all the breaks to see if there was anything worth surfing. There wasn’t so I went back to bed and had a nap. We hoped things would improve in the afternoon as the tide rose and a because a little pulse of swell was also expected. There is a break here called Suicides (due to the extremely shallow water above the coral) that armed with my surf helmet I was aiming for, however the surf just wasn’t showing enough there to warrant getting in so we returned to our favourite wave at Telescopes.

All the other surfers have now left the island so apart from Cahn and I there is just one new guy from San Francisco called David, who joined us in the boat today. The chest high waves on offer were smaller than I have surfed at the break before but as we all piled over the side of the boat it was the most idyllic scene. For a start there was nobody else out which is rare enough at Telescopes, then you factor in the perfect double rainbow that we were surfing under and add a healthy dose of setting sun over the ocean. The waves were so clean it was like surfing on polished air and I caught loads of really smooth rides before getting out to enjoy a beer in the boat as I watched the last of the sun dipping below the horizon. A pod of dolphins arrived right on queue to top off an awesome session.

It was not quite as perfect as the session I had in Mo’orea but came pretty close, even if there wasn’t a boat full of Hawaiian girls surfing in thong bikinis here. As a consequence you can understand that I was basking in the glow of it all upon returning to our island. Obviously it was dark after the sun had set, but the grounds at Aloita are beautifully maintained with the paths being constructed from the local coral sand, set between lines of upturned coconut husks. I have walked, staggered and run down these paths in the dark more time than I can remember without any incident so was just strolling barefoot back to my bungalow as usual.

I had arranged a massage for later in the evening and I was perhaps rushing down the path in order to have a shower beforehand, chatting with David about how perfect the surf had been for his first session. However only having arrived at our island resort set on the edge of a jungle from San Francisco the previous evening, he was clearly more aware of the potential dangers than me, who has become a little too used to them over recent months. “Is that a …” he started.

He didn’t finish the sentence in time because I was already walking through the snake he was trying to warn me about. The whole thing was immediately wrapped around my foot and I inadvertently hoofed it along the path. I completed this a fraction of a second before I did my own version of the Riverdance in an attempt to get the thing off my foot!

As any of you would be if I kicked you down the road, the snake was not best pleased about getting treated this way, and it’s first reaction was to go into a strike pose before deciding which of David and I needed to die first! We were lucky that David was carrying one of his surfboards at this point because he was able to use it to fend off the very angry snake which repeatedly stuck it’s teeth into the board bag. After a tense minute the snake decided to retreat and slithered off into the undergrowth leaving myself in particular in an understandable degree of distress, which David later described as looking like I had seen the Devil himself.

It was so dark that it is very hard to be specific about the details of the snake. We obviously did not want to get too close to it but David believes it was brown and in excess of three feet long. However knowing how many deadly varieties there are in this part of the world I’m not sure I want to know. I later asked the resort if they have any anti-venom on site and they don’t. In fact there is none kept locally at all so I am currently considering myself very, very, very lucky.

I still went for my massage once I had calmed down a bit, but went to the spa room with more than a cautious element to my steps and with more lighting than Blackpool Illuminations so I could see everything coming!

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The swell has completely dropped so we went in search of anything at low tide this morning.

The rest of the guys I have been surfing with have had to head home so it was a skeleton crew in our yellow boat.

The planned trip down to the playground didn’t materialise because the wind had switched around so the best of a bad bunch of the local waves was Scarecrows.

It wasn’t cranking by any means but at least offered glassy waves over the reef. For some reason I couldn’t catch anything for the first hour but eventually bagged a hat trick of fun lefts in the morning sun.

One more for the scrapbook!

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