Words by Dave Mailman & Jordan Heuer. Photography by Bruno Smith.
Everyone bitten by the surf bug knows the Mentawai Islands in Indonesia are one of those places you have to experience at least once in your life!
Lying about 150 kilometres off the Western coast of Sumatra the 70 islands in the chain are home to some of the best waves on the planet. Although renowned for the heavy barrels and shallow reefs surfed by countless pros in surf magazines and surf videos seen worldwide, many of the spots in the area are surprisingly user-friendly, even great for learning to surf.
There are many surf holiday options in the Mentawai Islands, from boat trips to land camps, but one place truly stands out from the rest. Located directly in front of Kandui Left with dozens of other great waves for all levels easily accessible, the incredible hospitality and an unbeatable level of comfort, accommodation and amenities make Kandui Villas truly one of the most unique surf experiences in the world.
We recently had the pleasure of sitting down with Jordan Heuer, the owner and founder of Kandui Villas to find out what makes the place so special.
The Perfect Wave: “What attracted you to the Mentawai Islands in the first place?”
Jordan Heuer: “The same thing as most surfers, I originally came here because I’d heard about the amazing waves. I’ve spent the past 25 years in Indonesia exploring and searching for the most perfect surf. In 1999 I finally found the best place for surfing on the entire planet, Karamajet Island. When I first came to the Playgrounds area where Kandui Villas is located I couldn’t believe my eyes. It was everything I’d dreamt about, crystal clear water, white sand beaches, palm trees and perfect waves everywhere I looked.”
TPW: “How did that first trip turn into you opening Kandui Villas?”
JH: “I came back from Hawaii in 2000. I never had any intention of starting a resort. I was happy just operating our surf charter boat, Aileoita, but in 2002 the Mentawai government came out with a law that said there could only be 5 companies operating tourism in the Mentawai Islands. One of the conditions to get one of those 5 licenses was to build a surf resort in the islands. Our local partner had one of the 5 licenses and needed help putting the project together, so I found investors to help build our original Kandui Resort located on the east side of Karamajet Island. We had many guests who said they’d like to bring their girlfriends, wives, or families to stay at the resort, but that they would need more facilities such as a swimming pool, gym, etc. That prompted us to build a new more upscale resort, Kandui Villas, on the northwest side of the island. It’s been a long road filled with lots of ups and downs, but the result is that I now live in a little slice of paradise surrounded by fantastic people who’ve helped turn a dream into reality. Along the way, I met and married Raihana and we had two beautiful daughters, Kia and Kana. Unfortunately, Raihana and I have divorced since then, but my daughters still live with me on the island.”
TPW: “What makes Kandui Villas stand out from other surf resorts?”
JH: “First of all, Kandui Villas is a partnership between my team and local Indonesians with years of experience in surf exploration and resort management. We know what works and what doesn’t. We wanted to create a place where travelling surfers would feel confident enough to come and bring along non-surfing friends and family members. Our goal is to cater to guests who want a comfortable, eco-friendly, luxury resort option for themselves and their families with great waves out front or just a short boat ride away. And that’s exactly what we’ve accomplished.”
TPW: “Which is your favourite wave to surf in the area?”
JH: “Although I’m a regular-foot, Kandui Left is directly in front of the resort and is one of the best waves in the world. So, I spend a lot of time in the water out there. I also love Rifles which is a firing right hander.”
TPW: “What are some of the other waves guests can expect to surf?”
JH: “Well, there are over a dozen spots just around Karamajet Island. Obviously, Kandui Left and Rifles are the standouts people looking to get seriously barrelled come here to surf. A-Frames and 4 Bobs are great for intermediates or people looking for something a little less challenging, and waves like Kya’s are great for advanced beginners, and Kanna’s and Reform are perfect for people learning to surf for the first time. We have boats to take guests to surf other waves in the Playgrounds area like Bank Vaults, E-Bay and Hideaways, and even farther out to North Sipora to score Telescopes, Suicides and some other world-class set-ups. Our surf guides are all avid surfers and have a vast knowledge of the waves surrounding Kandui Villas and we’ve got a fleet of boats waiting to make sure that all guests are in the right place at the right time, no matter their skill level.”
TPW: “A trip to the Mentawai Islands is a rite of passage for all surfers, but who are some of the big name pros who’ve visited the resort?”
JH: “There have been too many to count. We were lucky enough to host the 20-year reunion of the Momentum generation with filmmaker Taylor Steele, Shane Dorian, Kalani Robb, Taylor Knox, Ross Williams, Rob Machado, Benji Weatherly, Rizal Tanjung and Kelly Slater, of course. We also had a great time with Alana Blanchard, too.”
TPW: “Kandui Villas has built its reputation on outstanding service. Who are some of the people at the resort who help to make guests’ holidays especially memorable?
JH: “Most of our staff are local Mentawai people who have been working with us since the construction of Kandui Villas. Our boat drivers Pendi, Pusuk, Pester, and Rafael are always ready to take you surfing with a big smile on their faces. Our photographers Def and Pester are there to capture high quality, memorable images of all the special moments during your stay and surfing sessions. The Kandui Villas bartenders Iqbal and Alfredo are prepped to serve up your favourite ice-cold beverages at the bar or poolside. Our chefs Ana, Reta, and Chichi prepare amazing gourmet feasts 3 times daily, and cater to any special dietary needs such as vegetarian, vegan, etc, and will prepare special meals for anyone with a food allergy or special dietary requirements.”
TPW: “The Mentawai island chain is located in a fairly remote part of the world. How hard is it to get there?”
JH: “The city of Padang is departure point for the islands, and can be reached via Jakarta and Kuala Lumpur. Once you arrive you’ll be met by a representative of Kandui Villas who will take you to the hotel where you will spend the night and take care of anything else you may need before catching one of the two boat options out to the resort the next morning. Upon arrival we’ll serve you a welcome drink and something to eat if you’re hungry before we show you to your Uma and give you a run down of everything you need to know for your stay at Kandui Villas. Or you can just drop everything and hit the surf, jump in the pool or get a nice relaxing massage. Whatever you need, we’re there to provide it for you. Also, to make travelling to the island as easy as possible for you we even have a full high performance rental quiver so you don’t have to hassle with bringing a board bag.”
TPW: “You’ve said the idea behind Kandui Villas is to provide a place where surfers can bring their significant other, spouse or family along for a holiday of a lifetime, even if they don’t surf. What is there for non-surfers to do?”
JH: “It may sound a bit cliché, but Kandui Villas is truly a little slice of paradise in the tropics. It’s a great place to just kick back on the beach with a good book, disconnect and enjoy being away from the stress of everyday life. We are only one of two resorts in the Mentawai Islands to have a swimming pool, and it’s a specially designed ocean view infinity pool that overflows into a kiddie pool surrounded by a deck that connects the restaurant, game room, bar and palapa. Everyone loves our traditional Indonesian therapeutic massages at the spa after surfing, but also after a workout in our air-conditioned, state-of-the-art gym or a yoga session. Kids old and young love challenging each other to games of ping pong and smashing balls on the billiard table. There’s also a beach volleyball court and plenty of other indoor and outdoor games. Of course, it’s a fantastic place for kayaking and stand-up paddling. The snorkelling is amazing, too. If you just can’t resist the call of civilization, Kandui Villas has the fastest Internet connection in the Mentawai Islands, satellite television and a huge selection of DVDs. Art lovers and surfers alike enjoy checking out the “Kandui Villas® Collection”, a series of paintings of the surrounding waves and islands by the late Robert Heeley. Also, we have an awesome bar that serves up cold beers, spirits, mixed drinks, as well as wine, and champagne. The out door palapa, under the same roof as the bar is a great place to relax in the shade, right on the edge of the pool deck.”
TPW: “The comfortable surroundings are also a reason Kandui Villas has such an excellent reputation.”
JH: “That’s right. We have 12 luxury rooms, or “umas” as they’re called here, and one triple. Every uma has two king sized beds downstairs, and one upstairs or two single beds in a spacious loft. They are all differently decorated with hand carved local hardwoods featuring a unique Mentawai animal or jungle theme. It’s really the lap of luxury.”
TPW: “You spoke about daily gourmet feasts. Tell us about the food.”
JH: “The Kandui Villas restaurant is located right next to the swimming pool. The menu focuses on local seafood caught by villagers and guests, but also offers variety of Italian, Japanese, Mexican, Thai, Chinese, American, and Indonesian cuisine. We also love to barbecue at Kandui Villas, and all that protein is served alongside organically-grown vegetables from a massive green house on the property.”
TPW: “Guests also come to Kandui Villas for the eco-friendly nature of the resort. What do you do to help protect the environment?”
JH: “From the beginning we’ve used as many locally sourced materials during the construction phase and for continuing renovations. This not only cuts down on the amount of fossil fuels needed to ship goods out to the island, it also helps cut costs and provides more work for the local communities. Our organic garden works on the same philosophy. Organic, means no pesticides to transport and no pollution going into the ground. The produce goes from the garden in back of the restaurant directly onto our guests’ plates. We’ve also recently planted an organic fruit orchard on the hill in the centre of the island with over 25 varieties of tropical fruit trees, and constructed a massive fish pond with over 1,000 tilapia in it. The tilapia are fed with organic vegetable and kitchen scraps, and the water from the fish pond feeds all of the fruit trees through drip irrigation.”
TPW: “You’re very invested in helping improve living conditions for the Mentawai people. How exactly do you do that?”
JH: “Other than locally sourcing as much as we can for the day-to-day running and upkeep of the resort, we have a partnership with Waves For Water and are implementing multiple clean water projects in the Northern Mentawai Islands, specifically on Siberut Island where lack of clean water is a serious problem. It is another way we try to directly give back to the local villagers and improve their quality of life. You can find out more about the project at: http://www.wavesforwater.org/project/kandui
TPW: “Thanks, Jordan. Hope to see you at Kandui Villas very soon!”
JH: “My pleasure. We look forward to having you!”