blog by Vanessa Cook, The Perfect Wave client and surf travel correspondent!
surfing Nias
I’m not staying in a Brothel again!

Woo hoo! With a quick turnaround we are off! Jetsetting to Indo for 2-3 months.  Thanks to AirAsia it’s so dirt cheap now, we were able to get away from cold, although sunny Australia.  We depart early morning and are flying from Sydney to Kuala Lumpur, with Michael sitting window side and checking this “giant flying sausage” isn’t going to crash, keeping an eye as we go near the middle of Australia. We are both like giggling school kids.. we can’t believe we have pulled this off! This is our last hurrah before we get married and hopefully make some groms! Here’s to surfing our brains out, arms silly and butts off!

First transit stop is in Kuala Lumpur, we get to taste the delicious dumplings and crepes.  Then it’s straight to Medan.  We are met in Medan and stay the night in the 4* hotel.  (Last time I ventured from KL to Sumatra, it did not go so well, my friend (with all our travel info)  missed the flight and I landed in Padang by myself and my mobile had been stolen in KL airport. A quick call to my Dad (2.30am UK time!) to check my email and told to book into a hotel and my friend would fly the next day.  So tourist information kindly booked a room for me and sent me off to this delightful little hotel… only to be told by a departing Aussie that the hotel was in fact a brothel! I hastily made my escape…)

So it was with delight that Medan was comfortable! We were picked up at 6am for the airport return, checked in early and basically paid for another flight ticket with surfboard taxes!

Elephants Doing Ballet!

Our first sight of Nias was green.  It’s definitely a jungle! Although the houses are made of wood or brick, it‘s not poverty stricken appearance like some Indo islands I’ve been to. But quaint even Medieval style houses!

We arrive at Keyhole Surf Camp, and Timmy greats us with a huge smile, we unpack and get out into the water for a very overdue surf!  This is quickly slowed down by the walk across the sharp coral reef to get to the keyhole.. Imagine elephants doing ballet.. that is what everyone looks like I think! And I can’t help but giggle as I watch everyone perform this dance! At one place, it’s as though the reef is breathing.. imagine a drain hole and the water rises and falls, accompanied by a gurgling noise.  So we paddle over to the pack and smile, say our hellos and meet all our new surfing buddies! It’s 2-3 glassy right handers coming through. I’m on my 6’0 Marsh rounded tail and my Go Loopy Surfkini top.  Ahhh blissful surfing begins!

Kelly Slater

We get warmed up in the surf, learning the markers, the sets, the consistency (or lack of in some session!) when to paddle in to pick up the sneaky inside ones and when to paddle for your life to the horizon, the inside or the shoulder… 🙂

For the smaller ones, (i.e. I get a little inpatient waiting for with the pack for the bigger sets.) it’s a strike mission.. the marker is the palm tree tip lined up with the red window pain, stick to this, see a nice long line come in and paddle like crazy inside, pick it up and woosh off you go.. top turns, bottom turns, reo’s, cutbacks, put your hand in the wave and stall for the barrels! I got my first decent sized barrel.. it’s was 4-6’ surf, glassy and I just bottom turned, stalled and got spat out.. the indo kids were hooting and calling me Kelly Slater!  Thank goodness for them, as none of my friends saw it and sods law the dam photographers were surfing with me!

It’s Always A Day Late and BWT (Big Wave Tabby)

The charts were lit up! 8-10’ they were saying.. everyone was frothing, ansty, and frustrated.. as it wasn’t in and it’s always a day late….  But when it came… it came! And then we waited and then it came again! The period was 17 seconds… and the big waves were about 10-15 minutes between sets.. enough for the pack to regain themselves.. with over 40 people out there and only 4 waves in a set.. not everyone was getting their quota and it was turning ugly.

I was sitting at the peak on my Al Merrick 6’6 board, saw this line rise and started paddling, I paddled to the inside, then to the shoulder more, I was in perfect position.  I paddled with so much force and power, next minute I’d popped up and did a late airdrop, landing like a cat, bottom turned up to the lip and then back down.  I didn’t dare stall!! Michael was hooting me the whole way from the shoulder.  As I came out the water.. the photographers were coming up to me.. big wave. Big wave! I have good photos! Ah yes…..!

David and Goliath

As the day draws to a close, the surf builds even bigger… with spaghetti arms I’d had my fill and was quite happily sitting with the locals watching the waves come in. The local girls had seen my Surfkini, Girl Surf Network and Sambora stickered Marsh and Al Merrick boards and so we all got to make ourselves look pretty using the Samboara nail polish!.  The screams, hoots, and whistles started from the losman’s behind me..  we turned to Indicators- a right hander up the 500m up the reef.. it was going off! And behind that on the horizon was “The Wave.”

We all watched the horizon move slowly to the peak.. the 10 surfers there had no idea of this monster arriving.  We looked on and hooted with delight! It was going to be David and Goliath! He he! The surfers saw the first wave start to drain off the reef and quickly dug deep and paddled to the horizon, one of them turns, paddles, takes the drop and gets the ride of (to save) his life.  The rest of the pack paddle as fast and as deep as they can. The Monster grows and grows and grows.  In the dusk light, it was hard to see.  It is like a 10-12’ mountain of water steam training to the reef.  As it draws near it sucks up, stands tall and then the big fat lip just throws.  It’s like watching a wave in slow motion on a video.. you can’t believe it takes so long to hit the trough.  Everyone survives for another day!

One Fin, One Board, One Knee and One Foot …

We all wake up to the loud crashing of waves on the close shore.  I had dreamed of being caught inside the big set and kept repeating my dream (or nightmare!) with different ways to duck dive and survive the monster.  I was definitely not going to surf today.

I kissed Michael good bye, wished him good waves and sat up on the roof top balcony in the dark, watching him perform an elephant ballet entering the keyhole! As he paddled along it looked as though he was flying when I realised the swell had swung round a bit and a left-hander was breaking and he was moving up and over the left-hander that spat.  I started my 30 mins of yoga on the roof top with the dawn breaking, roosters crowing!

“Come on, there’s no monsters out there!” Michael interrupted my downward dog.. the first injury of the day. He’d snapped a Future Fin out of his 7’2 Misfit gun.  So we quickly got me ready, him board changed and off we went.

I sat on the shoulder for a set and then got a nice 6’ glassy wave. Sweet take off, bottom and top turn and then eased into more free flowing turns. The next set came in and a 10’ came through.  I scratched for the horizon and thinking I barely made it through, only to see a surfer turn and take off.. 2m next to me.. Big Balls!

Next stop – the Peak! “Let’s get you onto a big one!” said Michael.  So like a scene straight out of Blue Crush, I was up in the line up.  The swell was about 8’ solid.  “You stick next to this guy, you’re up in 5 waves time BWT!” commanded Michael, “When I say paddle, you paddle your heart out.”

Oh dear god. I was going to die! Michael made sure I stayed next to the guy (funny how I kept paddling towards the horizons safety!).  Then with my heart pounding my chest, my hands shaking with fear, I heard the immortal words… PADDLE!

(Oh f*&k!)  I paddled.  I paddled my heart out. I heard the pack start hooting and cheering me.  I looked left and right (not that I wanted to see my death wave coming!) I saw the wave rise up and felt my board lock in. I popped up and made the drop, I was going along the wall..


Oh crap.. something’s not right, my front leg is on the board, but my back foot is replacing my right hand in the wave and stalling me. WTF! I can see the wall.. it’s beautiful.  I can see the pack,. I made it…

Bang! I fall into the wall and am taken up in the lip.  I free fall with the lip for what seems like forever and then the rag dolling begins. If only there was an underwater gymnastics judge.  I would be scoring quadruple 10s for my somersaults! My board then comes to join me and tugs away at my leg.  I finally climb up my leggie and just see the next wave break and head towards me.  I start to paddle to the shoulder.  I knew something was wrong.  My knee felt a bit painful.  I duck dived and it felt ok.  I sat on my board and moved it sideways.. Not a good plan.  I lay down and come into the safety of shore. Luckily I think it’s just soft tissue damage and the very kind German Physio neighbour of ours is keeping an eye on me.  No more surfing for me today 🙁

30 minutes later, in comes Michael with a snapped board and only 1 reef boot. He is followed by the local ding repair man (He must be doing some good business!) who promises to fix it by tomorrow morning.  Michael changes the Future Fins on his 7’2 and is out again.  60 minutes later, he’s back in with a cut foot!

And so our next journey begins..we pack up our stuff and fly to Bali and..  for the next chapter!


Written by:
Ben Horvath

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