The heat, confusion and general chaos of Denpasar airport was just as I had remembered it. So too were the gangs of airport porters – seemingly coming out of nowhere on first sight of fresh pale skinned tourists, to relieve of early holiday rupiah. It had been 17 years since my last visit to Indonesia and was intrigued, if not a little apprehensive as to my findings after almost 2 decades. The heady mix of clove cigarettes was now mixed in with i-phones and ATM’s. A modern pinch of spice to the Bali recipe, but these would be my only impressions of the updated version of the ‘Land of the Gods’, as we headed straight to departures and a waiting connection to Lombok.
Lombok, part of the Nusa Tenggara chain of islands, lies to the east of Bali. Famed for the fickle, but perfect left hander of Desert Pt and its brain frying heat of chillies, the islands most renowned crop. With thoughts of perfect backhand tubes on my mind, I mentioned to a family friend about a possible trip. “Mate, don’t come here in August, get here NOW! The winds are at their best and it’s quiet”. With these thoughts of offshores and consistent empty line-ups, a hasty 2 week trip was booked for the end of the February.
Surfing replaces fishing for many of Gerupuk’s boats
The turquoise water lapped the sands on our arrival to Kuta Lombok, on the island’s southern coast. An offshore reef diffused the constant pounding of the Indian Ocean, sending not a ripple into the bay which would be the base for our trip. The main road buzzed with motorbikes that tooted at stray goats, bullocks and mangy dogs, whilst the short row of Bamboo warungs, restaurants and sarong shops nestled neatly on the sands of the bay. This was the place known as ‘The Other Kuta’; as if someone had freeze framed Lombok’s famous neighbour 30 years ago.
Like surfing a pinball machine
With a trusty 125cc scooter come motorbike, and a 2 board quiver jammed into the bike’s boardrack, we ventured some 7km east to the small and ramshackled village of Gerupuk. Brightly coloured fishing boats bobbed on the shores of the bay, waiting to be filled with surfing holiday makers from the 4 corners of the world. Memet, a young Gerupuk family man would be our boat captain and surf guide. With the decline in fish stocks in the bay, Gerupuk, like much of Indonesia has turned to seaweed farming as well as surf tourism for its survival. 4 separate breaks were located within the bay, offering potential for all levels of surfer. Memet’s knowledge of the conditions was invaluable. His powerful round-house cutback on a well sunburnt tri-fin, told me in which direction he was contributing to the Gerupuk economy.
Captain Nasei thought the transition from rocker entry to concave was on the money
The best of the Gerupuk breaks was found toward the harbours’ entrance at Outsides. A fast, consistent 3–5’ with jacking takeoff and great sections to duck, weave and pinball yourself along. A perfect wave to try out a new 5’4” Stumpy twin fin. A few stares were made at the new ‘purple people eater’ (‘wow, that’s a big bodyboard’), but as the days progressed, found that the board loved the transitions in the waves that Outsides gave. Low compressed bottom turns setting the springboard for the hull bottom to swing off. Full, hard torque cutbacks leading to a small coverup section or lip whack. Full bag of moves for this smooth reef peeler, with the speed doing the work for you.
Hull bottom swoop at speed
A hollower, more classic indo reef wave was found at Air Guling beach, a short ride west of Kuta. Again in the 3– 5’ range, the waves were almost overshadowed by the intense trip in. A seemingly, almost undrivable road, wound past rice paddies, small schools and views to die for. Endless white sandy bays and rolling hills guarding untapped wave riding potential. Just reaching the beach in one piece, seemed achievement enough. But this is the price of uncrowded lineup’s as I scored sometime’s empty rights here; powerful, short and workable. Machine like from takeoff to its conclusion in deep water down the line. Here I surfed a short and nuggety, 5’10” proton pill model, tri fin. I haven’t consistently ridden a tri fin in years, but with the grunt of the Indian Ocean beneath me, the board was soon winding into some critical spots; lively and snappy under the lip, and cool in the tube. I’ve always believed that 3 fins work better with power, and the Air Guling sessions seem to reaffirm this.
Outside Gerupuk on another uncrowded,offshore day (yawn).
Eventually there comes that time to wrap it up. When the last of the paddling has to done , the one across the inside of the reef ‚when you’re rooted and it always feels like the tide is dropping . Back at the hotel, the bike engine gets turned off and you check that your boards (and riding rattled body) are in one piece. It’s at this time, the first afternoon Bintang, an almost obligatory post Indo surf experience, greets salty lips with pleasure. The combo of cold beer and afternoon sounds of prayers from the local mosque with their deeply hypnotic tones, provide a perfect, post surf wind down. An odd (and possibly contradictory) moment of longnecks and Islam, but none the less, a moment of reflection.
A fun sized one starts to throw
So the waves have been surfed and the afternoon sky changes colour. Village life goes about its business , and in the sticky late day air, the real moments of travel are remembered. A few things move on, but few things really change. Welcome back to Indo.