Bye Bali, Hi Sumbawa! Through the Lens of Austin Mullen
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From Bali to Sumbawa. One year later, Austin Mullen is back with his camera gear, two mates and nine surfboards, ready for his second surf-trip throughout Indonesia.
On the menu: Sumbawa, Nias, Northern Sumatra, Banyak islands and finally the Mentawai islands with some surprises along the way. Here is the first episode of a 3-months Indo surf-trip just starting now.
Although rightfully renowned as being the surf mecca of the world, Bali is a bit overwhelming for me. The hustle and bustle of the city have slowly made its way down the Bukit Peninsula, an area I once remembered as being an idyllic paradise when I first travelled there many years ago. Although it is still an area that should be on all surfers bucket lists, don’t expect to find empty lineups anymore. That era is long gone.
Being the surf junkie I am, I have known since I was a grom that there is more to Indonesia than just Bali. As the largest archipelago in the world with more than 17,000 islands, it doesn’t take an expert to realize the surf potential this country holds. Although it can seem like a huge hassle taking more planes and boats to stray from Bali when it already takes many people over a day or two of travel to get there, this is exactly why you should do it. Many people are content with staying in Bali to surf waves like Uluwatu and Padang Padang, but just a stone’s throw away lies surf that makes this area look like child’s play.
After receiving an invitation to stay at the most premier surf resort in West Sumbawa, I couldn’t resist. I did some research on the surrounding area and waves that I would be encountering and pulled the trigger. Travelling with two surf buddies, we left our accommodation in Bali and made our way to Whales and Waves.
A short flight from the Denpasar airport brought us to Lombok, an island with heaps of good surf yet primarily only known for Desert Point, recognized by many as the best wave in the world. With not enough swell in the forecast for Deserts, we continued on our way to the east coast of the island where we hopped on a ferry taking us to Sumbawa.
Anybody familiar with taking ferries throughout Indo knows that it will very likely be the most miserable part of your adventure. Overcrowded cabins, no ventilation, and no air conditioning make it feel like you are stuck in a floating oven. Luckily for us, some local kids came up to us during the crossing and hung out with us, helping us brush up on our Bahasa while we kept each other distracted by the harsh conditions onboard.
Most of the tourists in West Sumbawa are wandering surfers, as this region is still fairly unknown by all but the most seasoned travellers. We had heard from many people that the surf around this zone is fickle, with most spots being extremely tide and wind dependent.
In addition to this, we also soon discovered that this area was almost entirely devoid of any cell service, internet connection, and consistent sources of electricity, which truly left us to our own devices. We left these thoughts behind us as we trekked onwards in search of pumping surf, as we know all too well that this is part of the allure of travelling to such unfamiliar places. Due to these variables, many people decide to stay in the comforts of Bali, and because of this, It wasn’t uncommon for us to pull up to flawless waves day after day without another soul in sight. This is an experience that likely won’t be possible once the masses find out about this regions true potential. We stumbled upon waves that made us question why we hadn’t travelled here sooner, and we refuse to drop any names or specific locations in order to keep the spirit of adventure alive, if even just for one more day.