The Indian Ocean Journals – Part 1: Bali

Packing for his trip (everything but the big screen and the dog went with him)
I have to confess something straight away: I'm an inland surfer. Not just your run-of-the-mill inland surfer who probably lives within an hour of the beach. My nearest beach is almost a 6 hour drive each way for me. That wasn't a type-o. I grew up surfing in Satellite Beach, FL but have lived in Atlanta, GA over the last 9 years due to my job; a job which now gives me a generous six weeks of vacation each year and has rewarded me with a once in blue moon opportunity to take an 8-week paid sabbatical.

Since I use all my vacation time to go on surf trips every year it was a no-brainer to go to Indonesia and enjoy nearly 2 months of non-stop surfing in arguably the best country in the world for surf. As a guy who works a "desk job" this was a chance in a lifetime to transform myself from a 32-year old with responsibilities back to that 15-year old kid who surfed every day growing up and didn't have a care in the world. Bags and three boards packed (6'4" rounded squash, 6'6" pintail, 7'0" pintail), my flights took me from Atlanta to LAX, then a layover in Taipei, Taiwan, and finally arriving on in Bali. I'm guessing it was around 21 hours of total flying time.

My base for the first few days was Kuta. Every block seemed to have an internet caf, several restaurants/bars, a surf shop, an ATM, and a place to rent a moped. All the locals are trying to sell you anything and everything…"{{{Transport}}}?", "Sunglasses boss?" "T-Shirt?", "Marijuana?", "Jiggy Jig boss?". It was a bit comical but desperate too. Driving on the main roads can be a hectic at first but eventually I was honking at everyone and anything with my small motorbike.

Ahhhh, Bali.
I needed to escape south to the tranquility and slow-pace of the Bukit and eventually found – purely by chance and circumstance – upon "Suara Ombak" clifftop bungalows near Bingin run by a California ex-pat named Rob. The incredible view allowed me to check the waves from Balangan to Uluwatu and everything in between with direct access to the beach {{{100}}} meters below via a steep path carved into the side of the cliffs. The cook made all dinners from scratch often hand grinding the spices and ingredients resulting in the best meals I had in all of Indonesia. At night all I could hear was the sound of the waves crashing far below and I could see the lights of fishing boats drifting in the distance.

Rob was a friendly host and as a surfer he knew exactly where I should go and when. I surfed all the immediate breaks (4ft to 12ft faces) and caught a massive swell that even took me a little out of my comfort zone. But that's why I came here; to push myself physically and mentally. One day when it got too big (15ft faces) I grabbed my swim fins, helmet, and water housing and scored some fantastic water shots – for a beginner photographer – down at Padang Padang. To see some of those guys so comfortable in that environment was beyond words.

Being in the right place at the right time was a major theme during my entire trip. Being so close to the Mentawai Islands was too tempting and I was determined to get there one way or another. An Aussie named Damien I met that week agreed with me but we didn't want to break our bank accounts.

Would YOU leave this? Don would
What happened next seemed to be taken directly out of the travel journals of Kevin Naughton and Craig Peterson; another surfer I stumbled into gave me a hand drawn map with full details of how to get to the Mentawais on a fraction of what a boat charter would cost. Turns out this guy had seen me in another part of Bali weeks earlier. Saving money meant going overland, roughing it, and not having any of the modern amenities that come standard on any boat. Over Bintangs that night I pitched my plan to Damien.

Before I could finish my sentence he asked me with a crazed look in his eyes and a grin on his face, "When do we leave?"

Stay tuned as our correspondent checks in from his next destination;
The Mentawai Islands