Vignettes of Nias: Two Decades in the Making Part II

Craig Jarvis

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Updated 9d ago

Ed's note: For part one of a trip that sampled the delights of Nias in 1996 go HERE.

The Indonesian middleman wanted his money. He was livid, screaming at us. We just wanted to have a good look at the boat. It was shoddy. Very, very shoddy.

We just needed to find out if it was going to be able to float us out there, to the deep, to Telos, the Island chain just around the corner from Nias, without going down in the first sign of windchop.

We had heard about some crazy waves down there, and Nias had been small for a while. At that stage, 1996, we had no way to figure out where the next swell was coming from and when it was set to arrive.

We had heard that there were some epic small wave spots in Telos, as well as a great right-hander that looked like it could be a freight-train on a bigger swell. It was rumours and stories swirling around that bar at Nias that got us excited, but the boat wasn't making us pumped.

It was making us pretty anxious. The Indonesian kid, because he was a kid, was baring his teeth in anger. Possibly a descendent of one of the original headhunters from the local village, we started gathering large piles of Rupiah for the little guy.

He was standing on the boat-rail, holding onto the roof of the little cabin, as we gave him his money. He over-amped, probably just too exuberant with so much cash, and slipped on the railing. He landed on it hard, on his chest, and bounced into the sea, clutching onto his wad of notes. “White man’s magic,” someone uttered behind me.

He surfaced, unharmed, wealthy and wet, clutching his hand of notes, and clearly oblivious to the fact that we would never ever do business with him again.

He swam across to his little boat, and we never saw him again, as we prepared for our boat trip. I turned around and stood on Rocket’s brand new, and full tube of, sunblock. It sprayed a thick film of white jizz all over the deck. “High five boat trip,’ said Rocket to me dryly, raising his right hand for me to slap…

As we left Lagundri Bay a set came through at Nias. It was probably six –foot. “That’s the best set we’ve seen all week,” I mumbled, as we puttered out of the bay. We headed out, the sun was pouring down, and we had nary a care in the world. “That’s the best set we’ve seen all week,” I mumbled, as we puttered out of the bay. We headed out, the sun was pouring down, and we had nary a care in the world

Our first stop was Churches, an ultra fun left that peeled forever into the evening sky. It was great to get a few lefts, and we surfed until it was dark before clambering back onto the boat.

By the light of a lantern we made up some noodles, and ate some bananas, (ever heard that it’s bad luck to have bananas on a boat?) before an easy sleep under a tarp on the deck. We were all pretty tired, more from adrenalin fatigue than anything else.

Grainy memoirs.

Grainy memoirs.

The next morning Churches was firing, and some of us jumped straight into it, paddled around from the mooring and hit it for a few lefts before breakfast. Then it was some more noodles and a few more wild bananas, as well as a welcome round of Indonesian kopi, coffee as bitter as the suffering of life.

It was time to continue south. We headed for Sipika, we had heard of a right-hander at the tip, but it was 1996, and knowledge was scarce. The swell was too small anyway, and we couldn’t find the left that was supposed to be nearby. We decided to do the passage between the two main islands of Tanahbala and Tanahmasa. Softly, it started raining.

The skipper wasn't that happy about our route, and we slowed down to a crawl. Travelling in a southerly direction, the landmass of Tanahmasa was to our left and Tanahbala to our right. It was a narrow passage and I felt like we were in Apocalypse Now, heading up the Nung river in the Cambodian jungle like Captain Willard en route to kill a rogue Colonel Kurtz, and corpses were going to wash out from the shorelines at any time.

It was a relief to come through the passage without any of us losing our sense of reality. It was still raining, and we were getting wet under the tarp. As we emerged, we banked west, looking for the mythical Bojo left-hander, another wave that we had heard about back at Nias. Things were starting to chill down a bit with the constant rain, and then we saw the right-hander.

We had no idea what it was called, if it was a known wave, or if we were supposed to surf the section way on the inside instead. This wave had a backwash off the top section, and a flawless but too small barreling inside section. We hit the middle reef.

It was a world of fun. A quick take-off, a short barrel over the reef, and space for a cut-back before the wave would run into the bottom section and close-out, allowing just enough time to kick out. The whisky was rank. We called it Grandpa’s Cough Medicine, which soon enough became Grandpa’s Cock Medicine, as the night progressed. Eventually, the wave that we had ‘discovered’ became known as Grandpa’s Cock.

We surfed for a few hours in the rain, not wanting to be on the boat under the dripping tarp. It was more fun to be in the water at this new spot. We eventually paddled in to the little village, and managed to organise a local to bring some beer and local whisky to us. Once we were all back on the boat we had a few beers and hit the whisky.

It was rank, and became known as Grandpa’s Cough Medicine, which soon enough became Grandpa’s Cock Medicine, as the night progressed. Eventually, over the drinks, the wave that we had ‘discovered’ became known as Grandpa’s Cock.

The next morning the swell had gone.

Cover shot: The Free Surfer