Drained at Deserts

Looking back on a trip to Desert Point with staff photographer Ryan "Chachi" Craig

On a recent stint in Bali, staff photographer Ryan “Chachi” Craig linked up with Floridian Robbie Merrell, Puerto Ricans Mauro Diaz and Rolando Montes, and others to jump on a swell that was making its way through the Indian Ocean, with the crew eventually deciding to continue on through Desert Point.

“Between car breakdowns and a long, sleepless ferry ride, it wasn’t as smooth of a journey as it typically is,” says Chachi. Thankfully, the swell materialized like they had hoped, and the voyaging mishaps were worth the effort, based on the photographic evidence of their trip.

“Desert Point is a beautiful surf destination,” says Chachi. “With crystal-clear water, healthy reef and a small village of accommodating locals, Deserts provides surfers with a world completely removed from Bali.” Above, Rolando Montes capitalizes on his decision to escape the Balinese hustle. All photos by Ryan “Chachi” Craig.


“By all accounts, Desert Point is a pretty fickle wave and no two swells produce the same conditions,” says Chachi. “Our swell was really fun, but not every wave had those really hollow, shallow sections. This was probably the most top-to-bottom wave I saw from the water, and Rolando Montes was right in the thick of it.”


“An unidentified surfer with a casual approach to surfing low-tide Desert Point,” says Chachi. “There are a lot of local and traveling surfers who spend months of the year waiting for every swell that graces Lombok, and it shows in their approach to surfing the break.”

“The lineup at Deserts stretches the length of a least two or three football fields, so lining up in the water is definitely not a guarantee,” says Chachi. “This was one of the closer link-ups with Oliver Kurtz during the first day of swell.”


Oliver Kurtz, maximizing his tube time.

“Micky Clark traveled in this tube a couple seconds before we linked up and a few more after he passed by,” says Chachi. “Unfortunately for him, he tried to doggy-door the end section of The Grower and went head first into near-dry reef. Micky sustained a concussion and had to sit out for the remainder of the swell, but he was surfing his brains out up until that point.”

Robbie Merrell.

“There are no major hotels or developments at Deserts and no real way to even book your lodging in advance,” says Chachi. “The little surf homestays are all family-run, so you're staying in simple accommodations like the locals do. Here, Oliver Kurtz preps for a surf while a local grom checks him out on his porch.”

Mauro Diaz

“‘The Grower’ has to be one of the most mind-surfed waves on the planet,” says Chachi. “It has a notorious reputation for being dangerous, so most of the time, no one is surfing there while seemingly perfect waves are rolling in.”


“Othmane ‘Hot-Man’ Choufani is a hilarious, extroverted goofyfooter from Morocco who’s been living in Bali for the past few months, and is one of the many surfers who lives for the tube,” says Chachi. “He's constantly traveling to Lombok or Sumbawa for swells and is definitely a standout in fast, long, shallow reef breaks.”

“This was my travel crew resting up in-between surfs, from left to right: Rolando Montes, Mauro Diaz, and Robbie Merrell,” says Chachi. “These guys feed off each other and are always having a good time in and out of the water.”

“I remember on this specific wave, Rolando was screaming in excitement as he passed me on a double-up at the Grower,” says Chachi. “The wave was a square as it comes.”

Oliver Kurtz

“Brad Flora is an East Coast globetrotter who has an affinity for tube riding, cigarettes and beer,” says Chachi. “He ended up cruising with us for a few days, and he was a riot. I referred to him as the 'wildcard' because he had that look in his eyes like he was ready for anything at any given time. He managed to pick off this wave at the beginning of the swell and set a pretty radical and aggressive line through the barrel.”

“Everything looks mellow from a drone, but I assure you that the end sections of The Grower are anything but,” says Chachi. “This is Rolando Montes, threading the shallow end-section during a morning surf.”

“On this trip to Deserts, I met Kayu Vianna, a good friend of Arpad Leclere's [check out his surfing here], but I didn't put two and two together until after this evening session,” says Chachi. “All I knew about Kayu at the time of this shot was that he had a casual approach to a not-so-casual inside section of The Grower.”


“Blackie is from Bali and a pretty talented backside tube-rider,” says Chachi. “This was one of the better waves that rolled in at sunset as the swell was slowing fading.”