DEDE SURYANA: Notes from a Seven Days Profile

By Nathan Myers
Photos by Nate Lawrence

Swell Lines. Photo: Lawrence
I'm checking in at the airport in Denpasar when Dede calls to cancel.
"I missed my connection in Paris," he says. "I won't be back to Indo for a few more days."

Shit! We were rushing to catch a swell, the find time in Dede's busy travel schedule, to hit our print deadlines…now it's all ruined. Disaster.

"It's okay," I say. "Don't panic, Dede. We can figure something out."

I hear two Dede's laughing, both through the phone and standing right behind me. That's how we first met.

Actually, the first time we met was in Hawaii. I was just starting as editor for Surfing Mag and Dede was visiting the North Shore the first time.

Tracking him down was hard. Then I realized he barely spoke English.

The interview was for "Wipeout." Dede had gotten pitched with the lip at Pipeline. Pretty brutal stuff. He could barely describe the experience.

We were all just learning the ropes.

Dede's home life.

So much great material gets edited out when you write a profile feature. Side characters. Little moments. Interesting footnotes. Random flashbacks.

But magazines have word counts. Articles need to stay on topic. We can only run so many photos. Space is always a concern.

But a website it different. Feel free to move about the cabin.

Dede Suryana. PHOTO: Lawrence.

In the article I call Dede's sponsor package Quik-a-Cola. Man, I crack myself up sometimes. And then later I get an angry phone call for some corporate bigwig.

I think there's actually a price on my head right now. Funny what gets people upset.

Hurley didn't "drop" Dede's sponsorship, by the way. They asked me to tell you that. I think it was one of those things where they agreed to see other people and then just never called.

But they're not going out anymore. Dede told me to tell them that. He thought it was clear when he changed his status on Facebook.

But anyway.

Yes, Coca Cola.

Did you know Dede's the only individual athlete in the world sponsored by Coca-Cola? They sponsor racecars, volleyball teams and international golf tours, but only Dede as an individual.

That's pretty amazing.

The Suryanas.

Especially considering he comes from a tiny village in western Java, an island famous for unchecked pollution, rampant deforestation and severe over-population. His family is the first generation of local surfers. He's largely unknown outside of Indonesia. And he's one of the most naturally talented surfers I've ever seen.

If you look closely, he's built like an athlete. Compact. Muscular. Short, strong legs and long, lean arms. A gymnast. A jockey. A human-cannonball.

Dede Suryana. PHOTO: Lawrence

On top of that, he's sober, ambitious, clever, friendly and very generous. He's the type of athlete who starts charity foundations and adopts orphans. The type of guy a major multi-national high-fructose sponsor should have repping their beverage.

I never saw Dede drinking Coca-Cola, but I couldn't get him to admit that he doesn't.

Nathan Myers logging working hours.

Ever notice how our profile stories generally coincide with superfun waves?
We editors don't get paid much, but we try to enjoy our work.

Golden morning light.

You can hear Dede's brothers even before you reach the beach.
It's not even dawn yet, and they're already out there hooting from the barrel, singing to themselves and just yelling at the ocean.

Dede Suryana. PHOTO: Lawrence

These guys love surfing. I think it's all they do.

I ask Dede's brother Jerry what he did for work and he didn't even know how to answer me. Confused by the question. He was this area's first local surfer — the kid the Aussie travelers first pushed into whitewater on a broken board. Now he's fixing dings, giving tours, booking rooms, blocking waves for Japanese tourists and generally dominating the lineups.

Jerry Suryana

If Jerry gives you the nod, you go.

Rice Paddies.

Dede grew up right next to the Desa Resort. In fact, his family sold the resort their land.

Such an epic spot. You wake up, roll out of bed, and you're surfing. There's really no reason to leave…except to go searching for more private waves.

Dede in the barrel.

This wave, it's pretty well known, but it's very very fun. If you want to surf here, you must stay at Desa. Their in-house bar is called Cek Ombak, which means, "Check the waves." This is a Muslim country, so for touring foreigners, Cek Ombak is really the only place to cut loose…or buy a beer after 8:30 pm.

Great pool. Great food. Great staff. Cheap rates. And a perfect launching point for your next Indonesian adventure. Lotta undiscovered country around here…but this place is no big secret.

That's why I'm even telling you about it.

Dede Suryana. PHOTO: Lawrence

Would someone please tell me what the heck are they saying in those Muslim prayer calls? Every night and every morning, bouncing around in night air with the mosquitoes…it's both beautiful and haunting. But I feel totally out of the loop.

As long as I'm not being brainwashed, right?


My last day in town, I kick the reef and scrap my foot up a bit. No big deal. But later, as I'm climbing off the boat, I swear my foot is broken. I can barely walk.

We eat dinner with Dede's family, which is an experience in itself. His family home is so rootsy, so real — an amazing window into the simple country life that Dede grew up in.

While we're eating dinner the power goes out. No one even flinches. It's as if this happens every night — maybe it does. We just keep eating in the dark. Someone lights a candle. I have no idea what I'm eating, but it's good.

Dede's mom give me some slices of lime and I start to squeeze them on my food. She stops me and points to my foot. Ah, now I get it.

I squeeze the limes onto my reef cuts and the pain is gone in 15 minutes. Crazy. Moments earlier I was making X-Ray appointments back in Bali.

Amazing how fast infection can spread in the tropics. Gotta watch that shit.

Nap time. Dede Suryana.

After I filed my profile on Dede, I worried about him a lot. I followed him on Facebook. On the ASP ratings. I wrote him little pep-talks emails.

Here I was claiming him as Indo's next big thing, and he's out on tour losing every contest in the first heat.
But I knew the call was justified one way or another. Win or lose.

I've seen Dede surf a lot. He's got more talent in his little finger than half the guys on tour, yet he can't quite put it together in cold-water, on-shore, four-man heats. He needs to be relaxed. It'll happen…hopefully before he loses hope.

Just the fact that Dede's out there trying is a big deal. It's really hard for Indonesian surfers to leave their country. The paperwork and expense alone is more than most can deal with. What he's doing is proving to his fellow Indo surfers that this is possible.

Barely possible…but possible.

Still, he'd prove it better by winning some damn heats.

Dede Suryana bottom turn. PHOTO: Lawrence

Dede comes to Bali between tour events frustrated and tired. You wouldn't tell by talking to him. All he will say is how cool everyone treated him and thanks to all the people who helped him out on the road and hopefully he'll do better next time.

But knowing Dede a bit better now, I can see he's a bit worn out from the road. He's wishing he was back home surfing his favorite waves out front. He's wondering why he needs to pursue this international fame and glory.
His visit coincides with a local ISC contest at Canggu, so Dede enters and makes the final. The level of surfing in these events is world class. Two airs on one wave. Long barrels. Combos. Everything above the lip or inside it. You don't make heats doing three to the beach in the ISC. Gotta go big.

Dede is a former ISC champ.

The result boosts his confidence. In his next WQS (or whatever we call that tour now), Dede makes four rounds and posts a decent result. He's getting excited about the tour now. Re-charged.

He returns home to Java after the event and there's another ISC contest in his hometown. His home break.

Dede wins the event.

Now he's really confused.

Dede Suryana