We checked in with our Brazilian brother, Andrew Serrano, on his recent trip to Sumbawa…
It's the start of one more season, and all expectations are full force. Every time I come to Indonesia there's so much excitement and preparation, and this time I had even more reason because last year I had an injury that kept me out of the water for a few weeks so I didn't get to enjoy some of the best swells last season. Coming back this year I was really excited.
When the first big swell was coming a lot of people were headed for Nias and Deserts, but my friend and photographer, Iuri, and I wanted a different trip. Iuri invited me to go to Sumbawa, and we talked about some secret spots there. So a few days before the swell, we left our motorbikes behind and rented a car -- I invited my friend Davio, my girlfriend Alexandra, and a German girl surfer Kati. We got on the road at 5am, full of excitement for the journey ahead. From Bali, it takes about 4-5 hours to cross over to Lombok on the crowded ferry boat. Lombok is the next island east of Bali. We decided to stop for a quick afternoon surf at Desert Point, eat, rest a little, drink some beer and watch the sunset. We got back on the road, drove to the other side of the island to catch one more ferry boat to Sumbawa. It was a long and exhausting trip, about 10 hours of driving and 7 hours on the ferries. I think we finally arrived around 3am to where we would stay for the first night.
Traveling to a new place is always exhilarating -- you're not sure what to expect, but there's a big feeling of adventure that gets you pumped up. Arriving in Sumbawa was an experience like no other. It's a beautiful island, different from anywhere I've been before. I couldn't wait to check out the secret spots, but we were also excited to surf some of the famous spots like Super Sucks and other waves around there. We ended up scoring!
Driving down dirt roads, through mountains, beaches and bays - we got to see a lot of beautiful landscape. When we got to the secret spot that first time, we were a little disappointed because it was super dangerous to surf and the wind wasn't good. We were eager to surf, so we made the decision to go for something a little more consistent and we drove almost 5 hours to Super Sucks. When we arrived it was perfect conditions and everyone around us was really happy about the waves. We had a quick coffee, grabbed our boards and went out. The winds changed pretty quickly, but we still had a really good first surf and we were stoked to be there. We waited around for the winds to change again, and got another session in the afternoon. Even though it was super low tide and almost impossible to surf, we went out and enjoyed anyway.
The next day was a pretty special day because as soon as we drove up to the beach we were greeted by a local guy with a huge smile. He offered us coconuts, and about 10 kids came running over, laughing and playing. The locals really create the vibe of a place and here they were really helpful, telling me the best way to get out to the wave and warning me about the reef. It was really low-tide, and when I walked out on the reef I realized how alive this little micro-world is -- I wasn't wearing booties, so I had to be really careful walking, which made me really stop and appreciate all the incredible sea life. I saw so many different creatures and these giant starfish with psychedelic colors red, purple, blue, white. It took about 20 minutes to get to the lineup, and it's so far out that you can't really see from the shore.
I couldn't believe when I got there, this perfect left only had 4 people in the lineup. It started raining a little, and a crazy rainbow came out over the mountain and onto the water. When I caught the wave it felt like I was surfing inside the rainbow. Pretty epic feeling! Me, Davio, and Iuri were having a blast. The sunset pretty much topped it off, and just when it started getting dark, the biggest set of the day came in; 20-30 6ft+ waves came breaking in front of me and I couldn't go out through the channel so I had to go out the other way - it took me about 30 minutes in the dark and ended up with some spikes in my feet. Afterwards, we stopped in a warung on the beach for dinner. The local food was really good, we drank some beers and one more day finished. There's one slab that's short, compact, fast, and dangerous. Not many people know about it. The bay there is amazing, with perfect rights and lefts. Incredible views. Only land, ocean, jungle -- no structures or buildings in sight. We kept checking for 3 days for this particular wave to break the right way. Needed the right wind, the right swell. It almost seemed like we weren't going to catch the right moment at this little spot, but right before we were almost ready to pack everything up to go to other spots, we ended up catching its perfect moment. Davio and I surfed for 4 hours alone, smiling the whole time. That was the best feeling. And isn't that how it always is? When you're almost ready to give up, the most incredible things happen. I think you just have to trust and have faith! The left slab was breaking alone. Looking at it was really like a dream, like something I used to draw in my notebooks when I was a kid in a classroom.
Sumbawa is amazing because it's far from the crowds and it has special waves around the island that nobody knows about. The feeling of this island is special and a kind of different energy, it's quiet and very rural, with so much wildlife walking along side the roads: cows, goats, chickens, buffaloes, wild horses, monkeys. I was really curious to learn more about Sumbawa, and I found out about, Mount Tambora. This active volcano actually has a pretty crazy history involving the whole world. When it erupted in the 19th century the explosion and its aftermath killed more than 70,000 people and caused a serious climate change for Europe and North America, which was called the "Year without a summer." It's interesting because despite this horrific event in the history of the island, the energy and the people are really special.
The Muslim culture in Sumbawa is like most of the other islands in Indonesia. The religion is a huge part of their daily life and laws. In one of the bungalows we stayed in, there was a sign on the door that read: "Please respect local culture. You are in a Muslim country. When going to the village, must put on a shirt. No alcohol." Sumbawa and other Muslim parts do not separate their religion and their daily life. In Sumbawa, alcohol is only available in certain areas, and sometimes not at all. Girls are expected to cover up, and men must wear shirts. Compared to Bali, the only Hindu island and most touristic destination in Indonesia, girls walk around in their bikinis, you can buy beer in every mini-mart, and there's always a party happening somewhere. It was kind of nice to get away from the western influences that are now so common in Bali, and see a different, more quiet way of life.
After a lot of lefts and exploring a lot of the island, Davio really wanted to get some waves for rights. We spent the last few days of the trip in a cool place that had good waves, amazing views, and big rocky mountains, different from what we'd seen in other parts of the island. The waves here were really soft and easy to surf, providing perfect blue lines for a variety of airs, turns, and other tricks. The wave is really consistent, so you don't need too much swell for the waves to work. A lot of people go to this spot for training and to make movies, and we actually got to see some of the WSL girls team surfing with us. It was nice to stay here the last days of the trip in a cheap place on the beach, enjoying the local culture, watching cows drinking in the river in the quiet mornings, and catching some fun, easy waves. It was the perfect way to end the trip.
Sumbawa left me with a good feeling and even better memories. It was a completely unique experience for me. It's the kind of place you just kind of have to go with your feeling. The villages on the island have some paved roads, but pretty much any place we went to was dirt roads, no signs, no internet, and it's that moment when you're looking at these untouched hills and waves, you feel like an explorer, and you realize there aren't many sacred places like this in the world anymore. I remember standing up on top of a big hill, checking the waves, and being able to see the entire ocean, perfect waves breaking left and right and nobody there. It was kind of surreal. It's a feeling we can hardly imagine these days, but I guess that even with all of the technology we have today, it is still possible to go out and find new waves and feel a sense of discovery.
Photos: Iuri Borba