Searching Sumatra

by on Friday 10th July, 2009   110956 Views

Pulling into a tube at Jennys ... Samuel Moss Lelenoa © 2014 Carlo Monaghan

COMING from a film background, Carlo Monaghan‘s bread and butter trade as a compositor explains his cinematic approach to photography. His aspirational style really shines through the murk of sponsor-driven glitz and some of his shots are as good as you’ll see anywhere. Jaded by endless perfection and in need of a new angle? We didn’t realise we were until we had a look at these. Check out Carlo’s four week photo journey around Karang Nyimbor, South Sumatra followed by an epic mission to Desert Point, Lombok. 


Just chilling ... Indo airport security © 2014 Carlo Monaghan

However many times you’ve been to the Indonesian Archipelago you’ll always be surprised by the juxtaposition of loath and energy, buzzing streets and frantic policemen one minute, and then sleepy desolation the next says Carlo Monaghan. This is the departure scene at Jakarta heading for Bandar Lampung Airport, Sumatra, the easiest way to access Southern Sumatra.

Still room for one more..

Six hours of getting familiar with Sumatran roads ... Public transport Indo style © 2014 Carlo Monaghan

We were in a cab fortunately, six hours in a truck like the one above, bumping through the mountains on Sumatra’s roads would have been no end of fun.

First stop Karang Nyimbor

Slipping inside Karang Nyimbor ... Gavin Graham surfing and Carlo Monaghan up top © 2014 Carlo Monaghan

Above, the reef in front of Karang Nyimbor is spit into three main sections: the first section’s take-off is hollow and fast with only a few guys properly attempting it. After the barrel section it swings wide and you can pull a few turns. On the really big days it will link up all the way through to the inside. The second section is a fun, fast, wall and barrel section. Between the second and third sections is a nasty dry coral head section which takes a high line and some balls to negotiate. Make it or eat shit. Section three is a lot fatter, no real barrels, just walls. The three take-off zones split everyone up so even with 40 or so in the water there are waves for everyone. But make sure to pack your booties though as urchins cover every underwater surface. For me the good thing about Southern Sumatra was the lack of crowds, which I’m sure will change, so enjoy it for now.

Scooter’s end

Not really a longboard wave ... But Brazillian Guilherme Andrade gave it a shot anyway © 2014 Carlo Monaghan

Pictured, Guilherme, my travelling companion surfing Karang Nyimbor. It isn’t really a longboard wave but he managed to get inside a few good ones. Unfortunately after surfing really well he had a head-on scooter collision with two locals. One guy broke his collarbone and the other was fortuitously unscathed. Escaping with only a few bruises Guilherme was pretty lucky to finish-up with only 500 dollars in bike and medical bills.

In the talent

This guy really ripped it up ... Tongan but resident Aussie Samuel Moff Lelenoa © 2014 Carlo Monaghan

Capturing a classic shot relies totally on the photog having a surfer who not only surfs well but looks good doing it. Samuel’s a charger with a super smooth style, pulling-in and making every wave.

Francisca Pereira dos Santos

This girl ripped ... Roxy's Francisca Pereira dos Santos © 2014 Carlo Monaghan

Out of the whole group of girls at Karang Nyimbor, Francisca, was by far the best, not afraid to pull into the big waves. It’s very easy to capture a great still when someone cuts-up a wave like she does.

Jason Lunn

No fear with the scars to prove it ... Jason Lunn © 2014 Carlo Monaghan

Above is Jason Lunn a pro motocross rider and skateboarder who only took up surfing a couple of months ago. He’s got talent in buckets but zero surfing knowledge and was throwing himself into dry-reef closeouts that no sane surfer would ever attempt. He has the reef scars to prove it too - all over his body.

Smoke gets in your eyes

Typical Southern Sumatra ... If it burns, burn it © 2014 Carlo Monaghan

Municipal rubbish collection isn’t really up to much here, resulting in scenes like this being duplicated across the region. When they start burning in the evenings, they burn everything from coconuts to plastic. Basically you’re surfing the evening glass-off in a soup of acrid smoke.

Karang curtain

Out the front of Karang ... Samuel Moff Lelenoa © 2014 Carlo Monaghan

[You’ve got to look hard at this shot to gather in all the detail. Really it should be seen at a much higher resolution. Samuel’s just exiting the barrel on his backhand - glimpsed through a curtain of water droplets.]


The scooter journey on the way to Jennings ... Not Drew's Right © 2014 Carlo Monaghan

On the way to Jennings not Drew’s Right as it has now been miss-named. Andrew the local guesthouse owner has tried to rename the wave but I don’t really see why, it had a name before he built his losman. Named after the first girl to ride the wave. A lot of people aren’t happy with it. Even Karang Nyimbor used to be called Ujung Bocur but that name is slipping down the cracks of time.


Looking beyound the baord you can see the local indow house on the right and Drew's to the left. © 2014 Carlo Monaghan

Right next to Jennings is a great local house where they will allow you to park up your bike whilst you surf. Afterwards you can just chill out and drink tea there before heading off.


Wipeout from below ... Guilherme © 2014 Carlo Monaghan

Jenning’s looks deep here but actually I was wedged into a channel in the reef to catch this shot of Guilherme eating it. In reality the reef is quite shallow, only 1 to 1.5 metres deep at low tide. I ducked under the wave and into this channel, spun around, saw the wipeout and clicked off a few frames and ended up with this quite vulnerable looking shot.

Inside perspective

Swimming towards the lip ... Jennings © 2014 Carlo Monaghan

Capturing this perspective is a funny one, whilst the wave’s still pretty fat you swim with it then you have to kill your momentum and snap the shot before it pitches you over with it.


Framed present up from Jennings ... Finders keepers © 2014 Carlo Monaghan

We found this little gem an hour and a half north of Jennings. For me this encompasses everything about Sumatra, jump on a bike, hit the road and discover a new spot. New to us at least.

Banana Island

The joy of the mission ... Banana Island © 2014 Carlo Monaghan

Us just cruising back from Banana Island, we went looking for a break, found it but it was too small. Instead we spent the day fishing, snorkelling and enjoying life.

Rusting hulk

Fancy living here for 6 months ... Only if you had a board © 2014 Carlo Monaghan

You’ve probably seen this boat before beached up on the reef near Way Jambu or the Sumatran Pipeline as it’s otherwise known. The story as I heard it was that the crew stayed on here for six months before the owners gave up on salvaging it and it’s now being stripped by the Indonesian Govt. There is actually now a wave which breaks off the rudder on a higher tide, unfortunately the only time I saw someone surfing it I didn’t have my camera. This shot here is actually eight shots I’ve stitched together and you can see every grain of rust.

Lombok, Desert Point

Looking more friendly ... Desert Point © 2014 Carlo Monaghan

After leaving Sumatra we missioned it straight to Desert Point, Lombok, as we’d heard it was going to be all-time. Unfortunately it wasn’t just us that had heard the news and Bruce Irons was there along with a whole bunch of crazy Hawaiians who made catching waves a whole lot more interesting while they were there. Four up on a shallow reef-dredger anyone? The wave itself just gets bigger, wider and more crazy as you storm down the line. For example a 4ft wave will turn into an 8ft monster with no safe end section. You either out-race the tube and kick-out, dive into the wave and hope for the best, or eat it on the reef. This is a beautiful but dangerous wave. The road here is little more than a track, no 4WD and you’re not coming. Until only about 5 years ago people were carrying all their goods around the point at low tide. You had to work out all your food and drink at least 24 hours before you needed them.

Fin focus

Cutting through a Sumatran bowl ... Triple fin © 2014 Carlo Monaghan

This is one of my favourite shots from the whole trip. I was in there, swimming around, just trying to keep myself in the right place shooting with my 50mm lens. Some parts of this reef are only about knee deep and getting dragged over falls is pretty hairy here. I wanted to get a passing shot and snapped this lucky one as the surfer slipped by. I didn’t plan it being this good, getting shots like this is half luck half positioning.

Sunrise at Desert Point

Hanging in the barrel ... Sunrise at Desert Point © 2014 Carlo Monaghan

I had been eyeing up this shot for days watching a blood red sun rise over hill - inspired by Clark Little’s photography and the light flooding down the barrel. This break is really hard to get to and this was a welcome reward, not an easy trek by any means. From Sumatra we flew into Jakarta, then Bali, then a 6 hour drive to the coast, followed by a 3 hour ferry and then another 3 hour drive. We stayed right on the point until it was time to leave. Throughout the trip I only used two lenses with my Nikon: one 50mm and an 18mm fisheye. The camera housing was made by Jay Rabjohn of CMT.

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