In what can only be called a repeat performance, yet another maritime disaster has befallen Bali’s sister island of Nusa Lembongan. But it’s not all bad news. It seems a massive industrial barge carrying supplies to build the new tourist harbour parted from its tug in big surf and washed aground on the island’s notorious northwest reef.
An infamous corner of the barrier reef off the island known for the daunting sneaker sets that march in unexpectedly out of the Bandung Strait. One of the deepest and most challenging crossings in the world. Astonishingly, this barge has settled in the exact same location as another giant cargo ship that previously ran aground here in the late 60’s. The ship that gave the famous surf break its namesake. Shipwrecks.
Or Shippies if you’re Australian.
Spot guide: Bali and Lombok
Not that it’s currently too bad a disaster for the local surfers, who are enjoying the wedge that bounces off the barge in the exact same manner as it did through the 70’ and 80’s before the original ship was devoured by the sea.
“It’s like our own wave pool right now,” says Nusa Lembongan Boardriders club competition director Komo Wilson: “Us young guys have only heard from the old guys what the wave was like when the first ship ran up on the reef. And we were always envious because the wave was supposedly so much better. But now we believe them, because even the old guys are saying the wedge is back!”
Although first surfed by Bob Brown in 1974 and featured in a few Aussie magazines, Shipwrecks was first made internationally famous in the 1982 surf film Band On the Run starring Rabbit Bartholomew. Watching Rabbit thread his way through idyllic tube after tube on a groovy little island far removed from the crowds of Bali created not only a new fantasy destination, but also inspired surfers worldwide to explore Indonesia’s 17,500 other islands for their own slice of paradise. And we all know what has become of that.
When asked about the environmental impact of this recent Maritime incident Komo replied: “Well, the barge isn’t carrying a bunch of fuel and oil,” he says: “Thank the Gods for that. And everyone, even us surfers, are pitching in to get the thing back out to sea. And also you can see that the barge is resting in the same groove that was made by the first ship that ran aground.
"So the reef damage is there, sure, but at least the reef has already proven it can take a beating. So we are all trying to stay positive, help in any way we can and enjoy the waves while we can. It’s like our own Snapper rocks, taking off in that explosion and then going for it. The energy is incredible."
Efforts continue to minimise the damage to the reef and float the barge to safety. But in the meantime, a Balinese ceremony is in the works to bless the rescue efforts and the sacred reef and the waves that attract the surfers that are such a vital part of the tourism industry of the island.
“Obviously we don’t want it to last forever," says Komo. “And our boardriders club is involved in the work. We are advising as surfers who know the reef better than anyone. That reef supplies a lot of food for the island so we need it back, for sure. So the wave situation is just a little dream that will go away and we are ok with that. The priority is saving the reef and keeping the our waters clean."
Want to help? Project Nasi works closely with the Nusa Lembongan Boardriders club. Visit HERE for more.
All Photos and captoins by Surfing Lens