Photo: Curley
Photo: Curley

In The Hot Seat: Mega Semadhi

Catching up with last year's Rip Curl Padang Cup champion on the eve of the 2017 waiting period

July 10th marks the first day of the month-long waiting period for the 2017 Rip Curl Padang Padang Cup, an event that pits eight invited international pros against eight of the top Padang specialists. The event has been around since 2004, but in that timeframe, only two non-Indonesians have scratched out a win: Chris Ward and Jamie O'Brien, despite heavy competition year after year from names like Bruce Irons, Mason Ho, Damien Hobgood, and plenty more. Instead, Balinese surfers like Bol Adi Putra, Lee Wilson, and Mega Semadhi continue to repeat as Padang champs. This year’s event is stacked yet again, and with an active Indian Ocean as of late, we will hopefully see another strong swell light up Indonesia in the next 30 days. In the meantime, we caught up with Mega to get his thoughts on trying to become the first three-time champ of the Padang Cup.

Since the Padang Cup's inception, only two non-Indonesians have won it: Chris Ward and Jamie O'Brien, two of the best backside tuberiders in the world. What makes this event so hard for the best international surfers in the world to win, and what does that say about the local talent?

The event is great. It's at one of the best waves in Indo and it’s a really prestigious event, especially for us Indonesians. For myself, I grew up here, so winning it was a dream come true. But all the local guys are so talented and know the wave so well, that any one of them can win it any year.

How long have you been surfing Padang?

Since I was really little. I started at Bingin, and then my uncle started taking me to Padang when I got better. It's really close to my house, so I started surfing it every time it broke after that.

How much has it changed?

The wave is still the same. The area has changed a lot since the ’90s and 2000s, but that's the same for everywhere. More crowds. More development. We can still control it, but we have to watch out, for sure. Nowadays the swell forecasting is quite accurate, not like back in the day, so now you can predict a week in advance that Padang is for sure going to be breaking. 3-meter swells with 18-second periods are pretty much a guarantee.

How does it feel to beat some of the best barrel riders in the world?

I get really stoked. But for myself, I'm competing against the wave. Damien [Hobgood] and all those guys are really good, but if you can pick up the best waves, you can get the score and win it, guarantee. But to be able to surf against guys like Damien, Mason…it's special. Everyone has a great time, and four guys out at Padang for 30 minutes is epic. It's always good vibes. It's not like a normal WSL event.

Is there a specific type of wave you're looking for when it's on?

Yep! But I can't tell you much more [Laughs]. A lot of people say it's luck. But luck is 20 percent at Padang. The other 80 percent is you.

Who do you think is the toughest local in the draw?

They are all fantastic surfers, especially in the barrel. But I think you should watch out for the backsiders this year. Backside at Padang, you can ride the barrel longer. You can butt-drag all the way from the start, just like Bruce [Irons] did out there last year. Frontside, you have to double-drag and come in and out of the barrel. Watch out for all the regularfoots.

What would it mean to be the first three-time champ? And to hold it down again for the local crew?

I really want that, for sure. You have to work hard and surf a lot at Padang to know the wave, and it would be really special to win it three times. If that happens, I'll give up my spot in the main event next year. I'll still surf in the trials, but I want to give others a chance. The point is to give more opportunity for the up-and-coming kids, and make sure they get the same chances that I have.

Well, I guess that means hopefully we'll see you in the trials next year.

[Laughs] Thank you. We’ll see what happens. Right now, I just hope there's some more big swells coming to Bali.

[Featured Image: Mega Semadhi, 2016 Padang Cup Final. Photo by Ridenour]

Mega Semadhi, 2016 Padang Cup. Photo: Ridenour