The XXL Swell That Rumbled Indonesia

Matt George

by on

Updated 26d ago

By dawn, roads on both sides of Bali were being washed out. Sleepy tourists expecting a relaxing day on Kuta Beach woke up to collapsed beachside warungs, river rips, lifeguard whistles and lines of twelve foot whitewater all the way to the horizon.

It was clear very early that this wasn’t just a swell, it was a cosmic event. No one, not one person could remember seeing anything like it. Many are calling it the Andy Irons birthday swell, one of surfing's favourite sons born on July 24 1978 and to dedicate yesterday's swell, the biggest in living memory, after AI seemed more than apt. But the archipelago's been firing for days now. A dream run, 'the best it's ever been'. Throughout, you'll find stills from Big Wednesday and a few other days that were recent stand outs.

Nathan Florence is in there, from Monday's session.

Nathan Florence is in there, from Monday's session.

© 2018 - Daniel Russo

Back to Wednesday's action though and 20-foot waves looking like Cloudbreak were detonating where waves have never broken before. Endless sets of waves approached the airport runway that seemed to match the size of the 747’s stacked up in the western flight pattern.

Chile's Rafael Tapia made the trip over and made the journey to a place he knew would be maxing. He said: “The boat captain says in his life (32-years-old) he'd never seen the channel between the islands closing out.
 
“I've been mapping this stretch of coast for the last 4-years and for some reason it's always really big by Indonesia standards here.
 
“This time we had a great crew, Owner of Puri Asu Resort, Marcleo Noto, Jorge Pacelli and Heraldo Ambrosio Jaws veterans, Mike Rodger from Kauai and myself from Chile.

Haroldo Ambrosio

Haroldo Ambrosio

© 2018 - Chico Muniz @puriasuresort

 
“Wednesday was all time, solid 20 foot Hawaiian waves in Indonesia! Very powerful, sunny and glassy all day. Good job we had some jet skis, it looked really hard to paddle and the inside was terrifying, the power of the ocean was really humbling. A couple of close calls as the wave was faster than the skies but everyone is safe and surf stoked.
 
“We decided to surf a fickle wave that we know gets big. This time was so different all that energy was concentrating in a place I have personally never seen break before. Everyone got bombs and being sunny and just with some friends out was such a unique experience, cant wait for what's coming next.”
 

Rafael Tapia

Rafael Tapia

© 2018 - Chico Muniz @puriasuresort

It was rumored that a brave fisherman loaded his boat up with six Japanese surfers hellbent on somehow making it to G-Land. They got about 200 yards offshore before everyone was over the side on there boards tearing back for shore. Benoa Harbor closed soon after. Sanur had so much spindrift that the waves were obscured, “but they could be heard” said Pete Matthews. Keramas was a disaster zone.

But that didn’t matter to the tow-in team of Andre the Russian and his ski driver Eloy Lorenzo Jr.

Skipping past a few of the brave souls that were attempting to paddle out to the outside corner of Uluwatu, the place where the Indian Ocean first vents its fury against the island of Bali, Andre and Eloy got into position and defied the onslaught.

Eloy Lorenzo Junior at Uluwatu...

Eloy Lorenzo Junior at Uluwatu...

© 2018 - Trevor Murphy

One very experienced observer, who wanted to remain unnamed, was calling the biggest sets 30 foot. And they were. With most breaks on Bali totally awash, Padang Padang crossed up, Impossibles earning its name, boats in Jimbaran bay slamming around like pinballs. It was clear that giant Uluwatu was the main event. It was hard to tell just how big it was until Andre dropped in and gave it scale. It was inhuman in these waters.

Elsewhere in the Archipelago, Federico Vanno, a photographer on a boat up in the Banyak Islands called his wife on sketchy cell phone coverage to say that they were cutting anchor and heading for the horizon at flank speed. She still awaits word.

Undoubtedly, Uluwatu was the star of the show.

Undoubtedly, Uluwatu was the star of the show.

© 2018 - Daniel Grebe.

Over on Nias, everyone was wondering if the reef could handle it. As perfectly shaped as that reef is, enough is enough. The Mentawai could only be described as perfect chaos and Mark Clift’s report came in from Sumbawa that Lakey Peak was 25 foot. He said a big reef up the coast was “Like Waimea…but a left”.

Thousands of little corners that usually lie dormant for years were reported as maxing out. And a cryptic message came in from wave whisperer Nick Chong. He and his super crew had geared up for this. Rumored to be somewhere to the Southeast on a hyper secret mission, only one message was received today. It read: “Hahahahaaaa. We down on secret boat trip with Tai Graham, Jay Davies, Harrison Roach, and big wave Champion Jamie Mitchell……he’s my new hero”.

Photographer Trevor Murphy added: "This was one of, if not, the, largest swells to hit Indonesia and boy did it ever. Now depending on which old salty sea dog you talked to, this was either the fifty year storm or it wasn't.

"Anyway you slice it, very large waves graced the reefs and beaches of the Indonesian archipelago. Uluwatu had faces up to fifty feet and more and the rest of the Bukit was seeing maxed out conditions. Nias also saw maxing conditions. These extremely large swells brought about some epic tow-ins, multiple wave hold downs and large pleasure craft going over the falls.

"Our mother ocean definitely let us know who is the boss. But aside from the peak of the swell where the hell-men ruled the day, the waves have been epic. From the perfectly groomed walls of Desert point, the spitting spinning barrels of Kandui and Padang. Indonesia is a great place to be right now."

And another from Uluwatu.

And another from Uluwatu.

© 2018 - PBdrone

Balinese surf Legend Ketut Menda summed up the day. He was heard saying, “Indonesian surfing is protected by forces beyond human understanding…let’s see how this plays out”. Indeed.

Boats and Barrels going down at Nias. Did they survive?

A post shared by Daniel Russo (@_danielrusso_) on

From the air a few days back, Balangan looks dreamy.

From the air a few days back, Balangan looks dreamy.

© 2018 - XL Swell

Big Wednesday, Laurie Towner wrangling near impossible Nias.

Big Wednesday, Laurie Towner wrangling near impossible Nias.

© 2018 - Ted Grambeau

Mega Semadhi at Padang Padang earlier in the week.

Mega Semadhi at Padang Padang earlier in the week.

© 2018 - Trevor Murphy

"This shot was taken at Ebay," says Dylan Lightfoot. "The swell had turned west and the waves started to fire on a day that had seen a smaller forecast online. The walls were huge with a slight crumble in the lip from the Southerly wind, perfect for the occasional tube or turn off the top."

© 2018 - Armand Perez

Uluwatu...again.

Uluwatu...again.

© 2018 - PBdrone