Friday, August 26, 2016

2016 second Indo trip report n.3

I'm back in Maui and before I start the morning calls again in September, here's the report of last part of my Indo trip, which was spent entirely at my favorite spot.
16 days of excellent waves. The light offshore made all the difference and the size didn't really matter.

But I'll start with a collection of sunsets.






I got there on August 1st and a new swell hit the day after. The usual 5-6f 15s which over there translates into head a half to DOH perfection. Unfortunately, towards the end of the swell, a unlike duck dive heavily buckled my board. I brought it to the local ding repair man, but with the waves on the way down I needed another shortboard and bought a used 6.3 Merrick Semi Pro, which did a decent job at temporary replacing the Payzel.

Now I got three boards in the spot, two in Bali and if I count also another one that I left to be sold on consignment, the total number of boards I own in Indonesia is six.
That feels like having built hotels in the most valuable properties of Monopoly (what is it in English, Park Place and Boardwalk?).



Not too much to say about my stay, which was made of the classic surf, eat and sleep routine. The biggest decision I had to take in those days was what time to go surf. So I'll let the gopro shots and videos speak.
This first clip and the photos below show a collection of waves of the first two days of the swell. After that, I partially broke the housing of the GoPro, and didn't use it anymore.



















Towards the end of the stay, I figured that I could still use the camera with the mouth mount, and this clip below shows a well overhead wave (close to double on the take off) on my last day. It's glassy as it gets and consequently the shoulder was pretty soft.
My favorite sessions were the head high ones with the light offshore instead.


16 days of excellent surfing went pretty quick and all of a sudden the last day came and I had to leave. Didn't go straight back to Maui though.
When I booked this trip, in fact, the cheapest Bali-HNL ticket was through Melbourne and offered a 9h stop over. I tried to break it down in two separate tickets and if I added a two nights stop over, it would cost 100 bucks left. I had just watched the contest at Bells, and I embraced the idea of exploring the area with excitement.
At the time, I didn't even know that I had a friend (a maui resident a few years back) that lived in Torquay. Visiting him was the best part of the stay.


That's how Winki Pop looked in the morning of the first day. Pretty awesome, but a bit crowded because there was a local contest at Bells.


We decided to check if later the crowd would go down and since it was windy, my friend went for a quick sail in a spot with side shore wind down the coast. I graciously passed on the offer: I was not gonna wear a wet wetsuit later on... plus I'm too spoiled from the Maui windsurfing.


When we got back to Winki Pop, a bit of westerly wind was on it. Not as clean as before, but a bit less people. Reluctantly, I got into my 4/3 sealed seams wetsuit, put my rented booties on and entered the frigid water. I believe the temperature was around 11 degrees centigrade (52F).
My hands were the only fully exposed body part and they hurt for the cold.
To tell you the truth, the conditions made the waves look like an average day at Tavares, but even if it would have been as perfect as it was earlier (photo below), I would have not enjoyed it.
I was uncomfortably cold.


The day after the waves looked still pretty good (this is Bells), but I decided that I wasn't tough enough for it and returned the booties, had a drive around and went to the airport happy to have done the experience. Never say never, but that might have been the last time I put myself into a 4/3 wetsuit. At least I hope so!


Once again, the morning calls will be back in September. Pray for waves.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

2016 second Indo trip report n.2

"Chasing waves in a dedicated way was both profoundly egocentric and selfless, dynamic and ascetic, radical in its rejection of the values of duty and conventional achievement".

Chasing waves is what I'm doing here in Indo, so I thought about starting this post with that quote out of the book Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life, written by William Finnegan.
As far as surfing books written by surfers go, I don't think it can get any better than this. Finnegan is in fact an excellent writer with a degree in English and I absolutely loved the words he chose to describe things and feelings I very much identified myself with. For me the book was a clear 10 and I recommend it strongly.

Here I'm reading it while sipping a tea and resting between session.


And after an unusual non chronological post start, let me go back to where I left you guys at.
As you might remember from the last post, I was about to go to my favorite spot based on a really good forecast.

This warning on the screen at the airport threw some water (almost literally) on the fire of my excitement. The translator app on my phone, in fact, offered an alarming outcome to my nervous query: "EARTHQUAKE AND TSUNAMI"
Fortunately the final words Tidak Berpotensi (no potential) were more reassuring, but I did get online to research about it. Yes to the earthquake, no to the tsunami was the result, so off I went.

Love the flashiness of the local Bemos.


This time of the year the place usually has a particular dry weather and the light is hence outstanding. Check the beautiful color of the cloudless sky.

That's a classic low tide sunset. One of the few I didn't watch from the water.


I found a nice Australian surf magazine called White Horses at the camp and I knew right away this photo was from my friend Ben Thouard.


But let's get down to business and let me claim that the forecast analysis on which I based my travel planning was spot on. The swell arrived when I thought, got as big as I thought and lasted as long as I thought. The winds were favorable (offshore and not too strong) and overall the quality of the rides were excellent for at least 5 days in a row.
I'm gonna throw down a first gopro shot here to substantiate the above pronouncement. Good thing I didn't know the lip behind me looked like that.


Unfortunately, once again, after three days of intense action, I got a cold that kept me at bay for a couple of days. This is something that happens to me regularly in Indonesia. It's not any kind of tropical disease. It's just that I surf too much and become overly tired, my immune system goes low and I catch a cold or a caugh or a sore throat or a fever or whatever of the many bugs that obviously circulate in a tropical surf camp.

The weird thing is that I don't surf more than what I do in Maui. I know my limits and I'm usually good at sticking to them. Two sessions a day for a maximum of 4 hours total (ok, 5 if really epic) and plenty rest in between.
But it's now evident that surfing in Indonesia drains and weakens me more than in Maui. The two things I can blame that to are: environment and food. I can't really change either one (specially when not in Bali, I have to eat what's available), so the only way to try to stay healthy would be to surf less.
I can do that of course, but that's so hard when I'm on my favorite wave in the world, the conditions are pristine and I'm surfing the same amount of time that I'm mentally and physically used to.
Let's see how I do next time, which, as you guys are about to learn, is coming up shortly.

But before we get to that, let me first finish the photo report of the amazing waves of this section of the trip. This place is really hard to photograph from the beach because the wave is too far out. I could have got on a boat, but I was either resting between sessions or recovering from the cold, so - sorry - but I didn't feel like and you'll have to live with the following three shots.

A nice set breaks on the reef while a typical local boat leaves the shore. There's a guy on the wave out the back. Click on the photo to see him.

Same guy preparing a cutback, now you can see him better because the wave in front got smaller. The wave he's on is double overhead, but the size is another thing that gets lost with the distance.

Maybe this one shows the size a little better at least. The surfer is on the first wave and that is already overhead. The one out the back is a serious bomb.
 
Other things that the long distance shots don't show are the perfect shape of the waves and the pristineness of the conditions. I hope that the following gopro shots will help instead.

Sorry about the repetitiveness of the framing, but I really like how dramatic the wave (particularly the lip) looks behind me, plus each single shot below is taken from a different wave... it was a really epic session.


I was riding my bigger board (a 6.10 designed by Matt Kinoshita) and the size was a solid double overhead (which means with occasional bigger sets). I got caught inside a few times, had to ditch the board, got worked a bit, but never got really scared. I was actually pleased by how well I managed not to panic while being tumbled under water. Once again, even though at that size it gets much heavier than it normally is, the place is no Pipeline.

I picked this frame below because the horizon is leveled.
I'm doing a wide bottom turn without going too much in the flats in front of the wave and I will ride the rest of it with a fast and cruisy high line. No ambition of doing sharp turns on a 6.10, and at that size I was just happy to stick the drop and make the wave which was unrolling very quickly in front of me.
Amazing adrenaline rush for my skills, as you can tell from the last steep wave of the video I posted a little below.

My favorite shot. In loving memory of my surfing hat that was taken out by a heavy lip in a duck dive later on. I thought I was gonna lose the whole head on that one, really.

Hat is gone, but I already bought a new one here in Bali. The afternoon sun and related glare are ferocious.

This is a smaller day, I'm riding the Pyzel 6.1 with which I can try to push some turns here and there. I love that wave at any size, really.
 
 
And these are a few clips from the session with the 6.10. The hum from the fins in the drop suggests a fair amount of speed (and the need for a shim).
 
 
I stayed over there only a week (that's how long the good waves lasted) and then I went back to Bali to spend a week with a friend. This photo is taken from inside the rental operation at Old Mens and I admit it was pretty hard to go back and surf Canggu after having surfed so much perfection.
 

 
But I'm not going to complain, because as soon as my friend leaves the forecast looks pretty good again and I'm going straight back to my spot, taking advantage of the two boards that I left there.
Flight is booked for Monday August 1st and this is the very promising weather map of July 28 that shows a fairly big fetch. The related swell is forecasted to peak at 6f 16s (pretty much same size as the last swell, so a couple of days of DOH+) on Wednesday the 3rd. Let's see if I manage to stay healthy.


In the meantime, I'm enjoying sunsets at the beach with good company and a cold beer.

Lastly, I'm happy to share this video about a GPS tracking device that some friends of mine are trying to push.
Let me also point out that out of a session in which he spent 3h paddling, the total amount of time a really good surfer like Keith Taboul spent actually surfing was "only" 4:49 minutes. And he caught a lot of waves!
And that's why surfing has, IMO, the slowest learning curve I have ever experienced in a sport. Sure, you get stronger muscles when you paddle and you exercise your wave reading skills while waiting, but the actual skill of putting the board on the rail and having the board go where you want it to, gets very little chance to improve per session. Yet, it's my favorite thing in the world.

Really cool device, btw. Check out the animation on the right bottom corner that simulates what the board does. The filming from shore, of course and unfortunately, doesn't come with it.
 


Xensr Wave Replay from Xensr on Vimeo.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

2016 second Indo trip report n.1

I've been in Bali for more than 3 weeks now and, believe it or not, I don't have anything particularly epic to blog about.

As a matter of fact, I wouldn't be blogging at all, if it wasn't for the fact that I'm staying dry for a few days trying to heal some reef scratches before I embark on a trip to my favorite spot in the world. Even though the scratches are not bad, I really want to make sure I'm gonna have no problems over there, because the forecast looks pretty hot... but we'll get to that later in this post.

First I'm gonna keep my last post's promise and illustrate some photos from the only photoshoot (with the regular camera) I did so far.
I've been surfing Canggu a lot (15 minutes from where I'm staying), but this particular day (Monday July 10) I had to go to the new immigration office in Jimbaran for the photo/fingerprints for the extension of my visa. Since I was already halfway there, I then went to Uluwatu and took the following photos while having lunch at my favorite warung.

This was the wave of the day at the Race Tracks.

Same wave, couple of turns later.

This guy also deserves a mention for going for this pretty massive closeout barrel at Temples.

Despite the look of the above waves, the conditions at Ulu's weren't particularly clean and, seen the size, I wisely chose to go check other less exposed spots.
The deceiving beauty of Balangan from the cliff. It always looks perfect from there.


The smaller inside ones were actually peeling nicely.

But the price you had to pay for that inside position was the occasional big closeout set on the head. I used to love that place, but after I hit my head on the reef last year, I'm quite spooked out by it.


I so decided to head back towards Kuta with no expectations of a decent surf anymore and I ended up finding a little left on the beach break on which I had a lot of fun! Waist to chest high fast peelers (the bigger ones were closeouts) and a lovely sandy bottom.

Canggu surfing.

I've been surfing Canggu a lot, I was saying. It's a place with quite a nice variety of breaks in a relatively small area. The ones in the Echo beach area, for example, are all high performance and pretty crowded by some high level surfers.
 
Below is my favorite river mouth which, truth to be told, is not as consistently good as the other breaks, but it's usually a lot less crowded.
Pretty challenging wave that changes its steepness from "non catchable with my poor paddling" to "too steep to stick the drop with my poor skill" in a remarkably small amount of time (and space). 


The inside lagoon this particular day looked gorgeous.

So did the wave and you can see some excitement/happiness on my face.

There's other breaks in Canggu that instead are good for all levels. One of them is Old Mens, that I've been surfing quite a bit in this trip. In the end, that's what I am, at least compared to the average surfer's age...
As the photo below shows, if there is some size it can be actually fun! But here's a definition of it I recently came up with during a non particularly exciting session: unless it's double overhead, this is the least high performance wave in the world that you can actually still surf on a short board...


360 degrees of unawareness.

Another characteristic of Old Men's is the overwhelming crowd. Tons of lessons are given there at any time of the day and all kind of beginners are thrown down the face of the waves, no matter the size and no matter who's in front.
By saying this, I am NOT criticizing the local instructors. They are all extremely nice and they just try to deal with the lack of beginner waves in Bali. I totally understand them and I would probably teach beginners on those waves myself if I were born there and if I had never seen a real beginner wave in my life and wanted to make a living out of surfing.
I'm just reporting facts and warning the readers.

This was an intermediate student who was told to go by his instructor and was completely unaware of me. The important thing is that I was aware of him and managed to bottom turn around him. In other words, don't expect the others to be aware of what's going on at Old Men's. If you want to surf there, you're on your own.

 Board shopping.

My favorite spot in the world is not an easy one to reach. It's getting easier though, specially if you travel without boards.
Since I plan on going there at least once a year until I die, I finally decided to take a couple of boards with me this time and leave them there.
I already have a Maui designed/Bali built big wave 6.10. I don't use it much in Bali, because even when it's really big I always find a less exposed place where to surf.
I also have a small wave 6.0 and a stepup 6.6, but I need those to stay in Bali.

I so needed to buy another shortboard and cruised over a few surf shops hunting for it. Everything is cheaper in Bali, but that does not apply to the Hayden Shapes Cobra built Hypto Cryptos. That price tag translates into $840.
Mr. Cox, you're a genius.


That was a little out of my budget, so I ended up scoring this gem of a Payzel "the Grunt" 6.1x19.25x2.4 in Kuta instead. The nose was reattached 3 inches from the tip, but who cares about that for $150!


I immediately tested it at Uluwatu on a small day (the one below was shoulder high) and the board is great. Gonna struggle a bit when it's overhead, but you can't have everything in a board with a tail width of 14.75. Overall, I'm pretty stoked on it.
 
An epic forecast.

Below are the weather maps of the Indian Ocean of the last four days (July 10 through 13).




The position of the fech, the intensity and direction of the wind are pretty much perfect for a solid, long lasting swell at the UNS (Un Nameable Spot, sorry that's how I call my favorite spot on Earth).
As a matter of fact, Surfline is calling for 4 straight days of 6-7f 15s and I really hope it will actually be a bit less than that.

I surfed the place three times overhead in 2014 (with the above mentioned 6.10) and even though it was THE most memorable surfing day of my life, it was a hell lot of work for 5-6 rides and quite a few scary moments. I don't remember the swell forecast back then (beginner mistake!) so I can't make comparisons, but I know that those numbers above will make for some fairly big waves, which I am notoriously not a fan of. We'll see.

Below another impressive map forecasted for Saturday morning (I'll be there Friday afternoon): pretty much the whole Indian Ocean will have waves of period between 14 and 18 seconds. That is just plain ridiculous.

The 2014 epic swell.

Since I mentioned that big day in 2014, I made the effort of retrieving some photos that a photographer took from the boat. That year I wasn't posting on this blog, but only on Facebook and it took me forever to find them. But that also made me realize that I've never posted them here, so here we go... about time!

None of them is me, but I was out that day. The first one is triple overhead and I did everything I could to dodge those ones and to only go for the double overhead ones. I did take a couple of big sets on the head though and those were not fun. I also feel like clarifying that I would never surf such size anywhere else in the world, let alone in Maui. Honolua, Hookipa, Dumps, outer reefs... forget it. Double overhead is my limit (and not my favorite!). But the UNS is so perfect that I felt like pushing it. Glad to be still here to blog about it!














This concludes this report. I'll post more when back from the trip (which of course will depend on the forecast). Wish me luck.


PS. Just saw this this morning. Might be interesting to check out...