Welcome to Strange Paradise

Starring Alex Smith, Mikala Jones, and Luke Davis, from filmmaker Gabriel Novis

After the film you see above makes its victory lap around the internet, and once you float down from the empty-wave rapture at the sight of these three setups in North Indo, filmmaker Gabriel Novis — the creative brawn behind 2016’s Brazil-centric Sorria, as well as the cinematic muscle for South American talents like Yago Dora, Jesse Mendes, Ian Gouveia, Mateus Herdy, and more — is going surfing. He told us that watching Mikala Jones, Alex Smith, and Luke Davis park deep into racetrack barrels with nobody around for miles, while he was tyrannically roasted in the hot sun to document the score, reminded him of why he loves surfing in the first place. Hence why he’s zipping up the camera bag for a bit to secure some of his own tube time. Completely reasonable, too, based on what you’ll watch. It’s idyllic envy to the nth degree.

So what was the backstory behind the trip (and the hiatus) for Novis?

“I was in Bali for a while, where I met up with Alex Smith, and we got to work together for a few days in really fun Keramas,” he told us. “It was my first time working with Alex, and it went so well. I like to work with surfers who don't just surf, but who are creative human beings, and Alex is one of those guys. You can see that he really likes to create different artistic emotions through filmmaking by exploring new places and lifestyles. Every time I came out with a crazy idea, he'd be down. After the second day shooting in Keramas, we said to each other, "We have to go somewhere. Let's explore. We're both here, we've got equipment."

It turned out that Alex's friend from Hawaii was a captain of a boat in North Sumatra. He knew of some waves there that weren't so crowded. Would Gabriel be interested in going?  A "F–k yeah” later, and the two had arranged the trip. Just a few hours after they talked, Alex called Gabriel back: Mikala Jones and Luke Davis were both on board.

Once the pair arrived at the island in the middle of the night, they connected with Luke and Mikala. The crew then jumped on the boat right away and took off, with, in Novis’ words, no idea where they were or where they were going, or how long it would take. Only the boat captain and Mikala, a tenured Indo explorer in his own class, knew some semblance of the target zone.

But an unexpected storm blasted the area, and the combination of strong gusts, horizontal rain, and seasick lineups prevented the group from setting out just yet.

“Because the weather was picking up, and because we had to cross from island to island to get to this particular wave, the captain told us that we needed to wait, so we stayed in this little bay for the night,” says Novis. “But the storm hit us so bad that it actually got us stuck there. We couldn't even ship out. Everyone was starting to wonder what we were doing here. We were supposed to leave at 4:00 AM to go to the waves, but we were still stuck there almost eight hours later, waiting for the weather to die down.”

Finally, the furious Indian Ocean calmed for a clear path out of the bay, so the crew set off by boat and eventually anchored at the setups you see above. Novis says it was like finding their own treasure: hidden, empty lineups, all to themselves. A paradise, strangely found, with a divine reward at the detour’s end.