MENTAWAIS: Swell of the Decade

Since my new baby Kanna was born last October, I haven’t been going on many trips. I’ve been perfectly content to spend most of my time as a new dad watching my little princess grow. However, on May 10, after checking the swell forecast for the upcoming trip and realizing it was going to be as big and good as I’ve ever seen it, I had to put my fatherly duties on hold and charge out there. We had two massive swells, triple-overhead, steamrolling their way in our direction and optimal weather conditions for the duration — a great combo. Obviously, I made the decision to guide the trip on my boat, the Aileoita, and let my replacement surf guide “All Day Ray” hang out on the island.

— Day 1: We arrived at dawn in the Playgrounds area. The first big swell was due to hit the following day, so this was the perfect day for everyone to get warmed up in some smaller surf, and try to get physically and mentally prepared for what we had in store for the following nine days of the trip. We started off with an early morning session at Nipussi and Bankvaults. The surf was 2 to 4 feet with light, clean, offshore conditions. All of the guests had some fun waves that session. That afternoon we moved to Burgerworld for the afternoon session; it was also 2 to 4 feet, with long rippable sections. A really good first day.

— Day 2: I checked the swell and wind at dawn. The anticipated swell had definitely picked up from the previous day, and the wind was blowing hard offshore at Nipussi and Bankvaults, so naturally that is where we went. Most of us paddled straight out to Bankvaults as soon as we dropped the anchor. It was absolutely on fire with 6- to 8-foot sets, and pin-perfect conditions. That morning I got the single best photo in the tube that I have ever had, thanks to our staff photographer Sebastian Imizcoz. We surfed until we were too tired to surf any longer and came in for lunch and a much needed break. Later that morning, the wind changed direction, so we went chasing the next good spot. Unfortunately it seemed that the rest of that day the wind couldn’t make up its mind to blow one direction long enough to make anywhere super good.

Eventually we opted to surf some fun waves around the Playground, which could handle the tricky conditions. After that epic morning at Bankvaults, we all had smiles on our faces for the rest of the day, no matter where we ended up surfing.

— Day 3: Overnight, the swell went from big to huge. Dawn brought us offshore winds at Bankvaults once again. It was an amazing sight to see … absolutely enormous, and the conditions couldn’t have been any better. My instinct was to ask, “Where is my gun?” Then the seriousness of the situation suddenly hit me and I got a lump in my throat just looking at the 15-foot sets coming in. There was one other boat there with us looking at it, but they said, “After you!” I grabbed my new 7′ 0", 3 1/8" thick Akila Aipa gun, and charged it. It was just Stuart Taylor (one of my guests and a hell-charger from the Outer Banks of North Carolina) and I. The rest of the guests went over to Nipussi, which was pumping in its own right.

That was the biggest and most perfect that I have ever seen Bankvaults. Stuart charged like a hero. After about an hour and a half into the session, I noticed the wind had died down and switched directions … Kandui Right is on fire! Let’s go!

We arrived at Kandui Right a half an hour later, and it was the best I had ever seen it! So, so good, beyond description. The winds turned light onshore after a few hours, but it was still the best waves you could ever imagine … 600-yard-long rights screaming down the reef and offering up barrels so immense you had no choice but to pull in. Ridiculous.

My friend Johnny eventually came out in his dinghy to tell me to go over to Kandui Left because it was even better than the right. It was hard to pull the plug on the best Kandui Right ever, but if there is one wave in the world that I like more than the right, it is the left … so we charged over there. Sure enough, the left was perfect, groomed by a light offshore wind and even better than the right, if that’s possible. Anyone that caught a wave that afternoon all the way through to the end section would paddle back claiming it to be the best wave of their life. We stayed out until the sun set and we couldn’t see the sets coming anymore.

— Day 4: Dawn brought good conditions for Kandui Right. It was still big, but this morning, we were the only ones out. The best right-hander in the world, perfect conditions, and all by ourselves! That session, one of the guests, Rob, caught the best wave of his life, a 10-second backhand tube ride at Mach speed. Later that day, the wind turned offshore at the left again, and we scored it absolutely perfect by ourselves once again!

Mentawai Photo Gallery

To check out the complete photo gallery from this boat trip CLICK HERE

— Day 5: The swell was still holding, with no sign of dropping. The wind was a bit stronger, and coming out of a direction that was good for only one spot … a secret spot … a left-hander close by that is relatively obscure and sometimes referred to as the “Mentawai Pipeline.” We snuck over there undetected by the other boats, and surfed it all day by ourselves. Perfect left-hand tube rides one after another, all day long.

— Day 6: Looking out the window at dawn, I saw the swell was still there, and showed no sign of dying … god, when can we rest?! The wind was straight south, which is not good for any spot around there, except … Baby Kandui Left, a wave that I have only witnessed breaking two times before this day. It is on a totally different section of the reef than Kandui Left, and takes the south wind perfectly. Around mid-morning it became apparent that there was a new swell beginning to hit, and it just kept getting bigger and bigger. At noon, Baby Kandui was head-high, but I could tell that when the tide got high in the afternoon it would bring the swell in bigger … so I waited. At 2:30 p.m. my waiting paid off. Sure enough, the swell started hitting the reef bigger and bigger. It was at least double-overhead on the sets as soon as we paddled out, perfect offshore winds, and two or three long tube sections per wave!

— Day 7: We need to rest! It was still pumping, and perfect conditions! How many good waves can we surf before we collapse?! We went to E-Bay because of the wind direction in the morning. It was pretty good, but we were really waiting for the tide so we could sneak away to the “Mentawai Pipeline” again for an epic session by ourselves. The tide started changing, we put on the boat's cloaking device and slipped away undetected and unseen by the other boats. It was the best I have ever seen it, times two! We surfed it by ourselves for the rest of the day. As tired as we were it was so good that we forced ourselves to paddle out over and over again until the sun set. Just to make sure our little secret stayed a secret, we waited to leave until after dark, and when we did leave, we did so with all of the lights off until we were well away from the spot.

— Day 8: The waves were still going off, but most of us needed a break. What we really wanted was another chance at Kandui Left, which wasn’t going to be the right tide until the late afternoon. Sure enough, it was epic at the left that afternoon at the high tide. We all took turns getting 300- to 400-yard-long tube rides. In my opinion it is easily the most perfect left in the world, hands down!

— Day 9: The swell was still pumping, but the wind was kind of strong, and a funky direction for most spots, so we went over to an obscure shadowed spot to just play around on some mellow clean surf. Later that afternoon, the wind slowed down, and changed direction for Kandui Left again. I hate when that happens! Perfect tubes all afternoon with only a few other heads in the lineup.

— Day 10: Finally the swell dropped a bit. The winds were offshore for Nipussi, so we went there. This was the smallest day of the trip (double-overhead on the sets) besides that first warm-up day. Later, the wind changed and we went back to Playgrounds for one last shot at Kandui Right or Left, but it never happened, so we just sat there with dumb looks on our faces thinking about all the sick waves we had caught, and we enjoyed a nice cold Bintang to celebrate our good fortune. That was the end of the trip, and what a trip it had been! I hope you enjoy the pics!