No Talk, No Maps, No Photos: Pioneering Desert Point in the Eighties

Jason Lock

by on

Updated 568d ago

''No talk, no maps, no photos,'' them's the rules for Bill Heick and crew when they stumbled upon Desert Point in the early eighties.

Bill along with a few close buddies dubbed the Golden Beards, had been chasing waves off Lombok when they found what would become one of the world's most sought after barrels.

But finding paradise comes at a price. Sleeping rough on the beach for months at a time and the very real probability of injury, armed robbery and even a few deaths due to life threatening diseases, were a part of life. And now, Bill's story has been captured in new documentary Secrets of Desert Point a film by Ira Opper documenting the uncovering, and eventual exploitation of DP over the 40-years since it was first surfed.

''We basically stumbled upon Desert Point while on a boat trip out of Bali. We had charts and hopes but didn't know about Deserts when we first went to Lombok,'' Bill tells msw.

The Sri Wira Bakti, an Indonesian ex-turtle-fishing boat turned dirtbag surf-exploration vehicle.

The Sri Wira Bakti, an Indonesian ex-turtle-fishing boat turned dirtbag surf-exploration vehicle.

© 2018 - Heick Family Collection.

It was later dubbed Desert Point for its dry forbidding nature. In the years that followed, a pioneer crew of hardcore surfers set up a makeshift beach outpost and kept their spot off the map for almost a decade. Their mission, to surf uncrowded Desert Point at the highest level possible, no matter the cost.

''The locals right around Deserts were always pretty good to us,'' explains Bill. ''It was some guys from further inland that came out and committed armed robbery. I wasn't there for any deaths, although I know of one malaria death and one motorcycle death near Deserts. Two of the more common ways for tourists to get it in Indo.''

Bill Heick (third from left) and his Northern California surf crew (dubbed “The Golden Beards”) aboard the Moana Manu, off Lombok, Indonesia, circa early 1980s.

Bill Heick (third from left) and his Northern California surf crew (dubbed “The Golden Beards”) aboard the Moana Manu, off Lombok, Indonesia, circa early 1980s.

© 2018 - Heick Family Collection.

Embedded within Bill’s story is the grassroots history of early ragtag Indonesian surf exploration of the 1970s. Beginning in Bali in the mid 1970s, we follow Bill’s journey of halcyon days at Kuta Beach and Uluwatu followed by sailing expeditions to neighboring islands in slow, leaking local boats.

''We were so fortunate to have had this once-in-a-lifetime experience at Desert Point during its golden era and this documentary is for all those who have experienced Desert Point in one way or another over the years."

It's a story that filmmaker Ira Opper has wanted to tell for 20-years, after spending some time with Bill on a snowboarding and camping expedition on Vancouver Island.

''We were heli'd in and spent a week out there,'' says Ira. ''During the down time he told me stories of his adventures at Desert Point and about his father who was also filmmaker.

Bill, filming.

Bill, filming.

© 2018 - Heick Family Collection.

''About two years ago Bill showed up at my Solana Beach, CA studio with a hard-drive loaded with hour upon hour of never seen footage and photographs. Heick wanted to make a legacy video, but once I went through the material I realised his trove of footage was bigger than that.

''Fifteen months and 800 editing hours later we finished Secrets of Desert Point, a story 40-years in the making.  It is one of the last great dirt-bag adventures of the 20th Century.''

Bill and William R. Heick, filming traditional Indonesian dance, circa late 1970s.

Bill and William R. Heick, filming traditional Indonesian dance, circa late 1970s.

© 2018 - Heick Family Collection.

For Ira, it's a throwback to what surfing was and a stark look at what it's become: ''Today surfing is all about sponsorship, competition and surf camps. Back in the day it was all about exploration, adventure and exotic travel.

''Secrets celebrates everything that is great about the soul of surfing.  Keep your mouth shut so you can surf a perfect wave with your buddies. That's the ultimate surfing experience. It is so core and honest and pure and has so much stoke in it, what these surfers went through to ride a perfect wave.

''It's a story that I am honoured to tell. My favourite moment is the ending when Bill and his son Andrew return to Deserts. The documentary is dedicated to the memory of Bill's father, William R. Heick.''

Three generations of cameramen: Andrew Heick, William R. Heick, Bill Heick.

Three generations of cameramen: Andrew Heick, William R. Heick, Bill Heick.

© 2018 - Heick Family Collection.

The film will be showing from May 1st HERE.

Cover shot: The lineup at Desert Point in the early eighties. You'll struggle to get it looking this empty, ever again