Cool upcoming events, apart from the surf: Launch of “Bali: Heaven And Hell” by Phil Jarratt

I can stop writing this blog now. Journalist Phil Jarratt has dug deep and wide. Plus a photo exhibition by Dick Hoole.


Deus Gallery_Poster_Phil Jarratt & Dick Hoole_FINAL

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Too much surf, lay day

My aching back…a lay day for laying down. Plus power has been out all morning.

Being of advanced middle age and of retreated physical body, your blog correspondent has for some time been practicing the rule of three. That is, “three waves is enough to keep me happy.” Then my body held a referendum with my mind and an amendment was proposed and accepted: getting to my feet on three waves with a successful ride on one. Then that changed too, for if I rode a really good wave right off the bat, then that counted for the three, and I could go in before I hurt myself.

That’s prone. SUPing, you don’t have to jump up to your feet, and it’s helped me get fit. But these past couple swells, the prone stuff has been too good to pass up.

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Interlude: Bali’s early surf prognastication tool

In the late 80s and early 90s, before the Internet era and NOAA wave models, some of us in Bali had access to the Australian’s Bureau of Meteorology’s Indian Ocean mean sea level pressure analysis. This chart, hand-drawn by a BOM meteorologist from satellite data, was faxed to ships’ and yachts’ weather faxes, including boats in Benoa. Copies of the fax would make the rounds, but only amongst a few, and jealously guarded.

This is the current BOM chart for today, and I am playing Surfline here with the red arrow. Days and days of swell are coming. You don’t even need the modern surf forecast. Just a glance at the MSLP chart tells you that. From the H’s and the L’s marked on the chart, the more expert prognosticator can even say what the prevailing winds will be, in this case trades.

next swell

One time in the early days, Brett B. pranked us by expertly re-drawing the new chart, showing a big-ass low spiraling across the Indian Ocean. Word spread that the biggest swell of the year was on its way in a few days. Guns were dusted off and repaired. And on the appointed day, the faithful gathered early at dawn at Nusa Dua, their guns at the ready, and lo, it was only two foot.

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The No Fear and Unloathing Trip: At Savu Island.

So where were we.

Ah, yes, chasing the Mystical Wave of Savu Island. The only person I know personally who claimed to have surfed it epic is the late great Dave Wiley, of Sumba Fame, but Dave could sure spin a tale.

But there is a wave at Savu when everything is flat. A small limestone cliff projects out into the sea, and any minor swell in the water will roll in and bounce off the cliff and stack itself into a peaky little left, a mini version of the Wedge. As far as I know it was first surfed by Marty Hoffman and Tim Watts, along with Flippy and Walter Hoffman, a quarter century ago when we were cruising East Indonesia on the tall ship The Golden Hawk. A couple fishing boats from Flores were also anchored in this little bay, and they watched the frolickings with great interest. Then one of the younger guys on the boat, a kid basically, paddled out on a piece of wood and surfed the damn thing! He told me he’d never seen surfers or board surfing before, but in his village, the kids all surfed the beach break on whatever floating thing they had around.

Anyways, your blog correspondent is beat and battered by two back-to-back swells, and will sign off for now.

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No Fear and Unloathing trip, Part 5: Ashmore Reef to Savu Island

(Part 1 here)

(Part 2 here)

(Part 3 here)

(Part 4 here)

Before we get to the travelogue, I’d like to spotlight a recent Surfline feature, Gerry Lopez commenting on his most favorite wave in the world, G’Land. You know, I was in the same general area as Lopez in 70s but I never set eyes upon the Lord of The Bukit, probably because I wasn’t surfing the same waves he was. He was the prince of heavy water, and me, having not even seen a surfboard until I was in my teens, I was still mastering the beach breaks, venturing out to Kuta Reef (where I did get to know Mike Boyem). But Lopez’s aura was everywhere. Anyway, pictures of G’land have been printed and posted in their tens of thousands, and millions of words printed and pixelated, but listening to Lopez narrate on how it was and how it is today, you (or at least, surfers of certain age) realize something. It’s partly Old People Nostalgia For How It Was syndrome, but there’s also a fundamental difference. And that is, the adventuring into the unknown only comes around once, can only come around once, for those who want to seize the opportunity. Lopez and other surfers of the era were the fortunate sons to be at the right place at the right time. Most surfers under thirty don’t know what that feeling is like: even if you are surfing a remote spot to yourself (and thanks to surf resorts, where is there even a remote spot anymore?) you just don’t know when a charter boat will come up over the horizon or a convoy appear over the hills. The unknown is known and charted, the creature is comforted, the adventuring is booked in advance.

ashmore to savu

So. From Ashmore we motored the 120 or so nautical miles to Savu, to see what we could see. The pictures below are taken from other times but gives a general idea of some of what small Indo boat motoring is like. Bedding drying after evening rainstorms, butterflied bottom fish salted and drying.

bedding on deck

drying fish

Remember that sailfish we sort of accidentally caught at Ashmore? It was a waste to throw the carcass away, so the crew fileted it into strips, which they sundried. No matter where they hung those strips, upwind or down or on top, we sailed along in our own little bubble of fish stink. The trip to Savu will forever be associated with the scent of drying fish.

We already knew about breaks in Savu, because we’d been there before. We were chasing the Mystical Wave and I will say this: It is both a hoax and not a hoax. The Wave of The Legend – and we’d seen it big several times – looks mighty and awesome – and is unsurfable, with sections bound to catch you like a hopeless prey and toss you onto the teeth of the reef. At least the times we’ve seen it. Maybe it does get good when all things are in alignment. After all, the rumor was that Micky Dora was living on the island, surfing the Mystical Wave (a jesting rumor, but who knew for sure, for this was Da Cat).

The not hoax bit? Well, there are waves in the area, and I’m not giving anything away, because this is an Indonesian island exposed to the Indian Ocean, how could there not be waves?


Note from your blog correspondent as author: Many thanks to reader Stella for her review on Amazon of Bones of the Dark Moon. Thanks, Stella, the stoke is like getting a good set wave. If you have an Amazon account, it’d be very much appreciated if you could take a minute to write a brief review of the book and post it. You can post your review here: scroll down and look for the click button that says “write a customer review”.

The 50th anniversary of the 1965 mass murders is coming up next year, and reviews greatly help in getting the novel noticed in western countries. )

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Merdeka! Happy Independence Day, Indonesia

By the time you are reading this, that was yesterday, the 17th of August.

pix 4

This is young Sukarno reading the Declaration of Independence from the Dutch on 17th of August, 1945. In the background on right (his left) is Mohammad Hatta, who was one of the signers and Sukarno’s vice-president. Foreigners mostly know him as the second half of the Soekarno-Hatta International Airport in Jakarta.

Your blog correspondent has been around for well over fifty Hari Raya Merdeka – from the days of Sukarno, to today, when we still don’t know for sure who is officially president. There are a lot of problems in this country, but Indonesia somehow always muddles through.

Not to mention, the best and most surf rich country in the world, and foreign surfers have been welcomed to all of it.

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The no fear and unloathing surf trip, Part 4: Still At Ashmore Reef

(Part 1 here)

(Part 2 here)

(Part 3 here)

ashmore reef good
(the red x marks the allowed anchorage for vessels)

First, we have to talk about the fishing. I mentioned at the end of this post (part 3) that a shark took all of a giant trevally, leaving us only with a fish head (but big enough to feed the five thousand with fish head soup). We kept fishing around the reef, getting multiple strikes, losing some to the sharks moments after hook up. We hooked up a sailfish and had to get in the dinghy to fight it. Mike was on the rod, me for the encouragement (“you can do this, Mike, you can do this” because I didn’t want to), Bambang our deckhand on the outboard throttle. We were only 200 meters off the reef, where lines of swell were hitting straight, with blow-back on a moderate trade wind. The water was a deep indigo blue shafted by light lines. Somewhere down there were the sharks. I kept expecting the line to go slack, but after a half-hour Mike got the sailfish next to the dinghy.

“We should let it go,” he said.

Now, this is the bule tradition on the boat. The first time our buddy Jim Allison hooked a sailfish and fought it up the boat some years previously, the crew were all excited. Dried sailfish jerky is a big delicacy. You could hear them salivating. They were bugged eyed with disbelief when he released it. Crazy bules, they were thinking.

So we were looking for the hook detacher thing (I’m not a fisherman and lack terminology) when Bambang, loyal and faithful Bambang who looked just like James Brown and could play a mean guitar, loaded up the spear gun that was in the dinghy and bang! Speared it right behind the gills.

So what do you do then? You drag it back to the boat and hoist it aboard by the tail.

We continue on. Ahead of us now we could see a wave reeling off, the blow-back a perfect zipper of spray curtain. About a hundred meters from the channel, we hook up another big fish, the reel just screaming off line, the rod bent hard, then just like that, line goes slack. We pull up another huge GT fish head.

That was it for the fishing. We pulled into the channel, where the skipper threw out an anchor (Captain Steve of the coast watch vessel there had given us permission to sail around the reef but not to anchor, but hey, you know). Mike and I were watching this big thick freight-train coming up out of the deep and lunging onto the reef in eruptions of white water — and this was just a moderate swell.

“What do you reckon?” Mike said.

“I reckon it’s pretty sharky around here,” I said.

“It’s spooky all right,” he said. We looked at the wave for about an hour, set after set. I was not interested in the least. I didn’t mind the wave itself — we’d surfed heavy and alone before — but there were two GT heads up front on the bow, bitten off nice and clean.

Now Mike is an adrenaline junky, but as restless as he got watching those waves, he stayed on the boat too. The place was just too damn sharky. You get the feeling, you know?

Anyway, when we get back to the anchorage, some of the scientists on the sea-snake research vessel spotted the sailfish draped over the cabin top. Two zoom over in a dinghy. I thought for sure we were going to get a scolding, but one of the scientists asked if he could have the bill as a souvenir.

Next post — another day of Ashmore surf and then on to Sumba!



(Note from your blog correspondent as author: If you’ve read Bones of the Dark Moon (see the new cover I put up for the Amazon Kindle edition on the sidebar to this blog) and have an Amazon account, it’d be very much appreciated if you could take a minute to write a brief review of the book and post it. You can post your review here: scroll down and look for the click button that says “write a customer review”.

The 50th anniversary of the 1965 mass murders is coming up next year, and reviews greatly help in getting the novel noticed in western countries. )

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