When I envisioned being in Indonesia, I saw scenes of line after line of surf wrapping around a beautiful point break. I saw clear blue water, sandy beaches, and palm trees swaying on the horizon. I saw myself surfing every morning, and some afternoons, I saw quiet, rustic villages populated by a mix of surfers and local rice farmers or fishermen. Things haven’t exactly turned out the way I expected. For starters, the waves have been far less consistent than I thought they would be. Even on the good days the swells are often mixed up or confused, and break inconsistently. We’ve gone, at times, for days without any waves at all. The prime spot in Cimaja is a point break that is truly epic on larger swells, but the ride is short, and when it’s big, it’s scary big. On small days, on the other hand, it tends to be unsurfable, especially at low tide when there are boulders sticking out of the break. Other spots in the area are mostly beach breaks, and are usually either closed out or too weak to surf. And that’s not to mention the dirty river water washing out to sea near the break, or all the trash littering the beach. Indonesia doesn’t exactly have the kind of garbage collection or sewage treatment infrastructure that the United States has, in fact they seem to have none outside of large cities. Our best surf so far was in Sawarna, which actually is a quiet rustic village, where the left hand coral reef break seemed to fire perfectly every morning. Staying there has been the highlight of the trip, and it was an excellent opportunity to practice surfing a super consistent leftward breaking wave. But now we’re staying at Ocean Queen, a very pleasant resort west of Cimaja, and after a week in Cimaja not paddling out because the waves were too big and the break too crowded, we’ve been greeted every morning to total calm. Unfulfilled expectations can be frustrating, and it would be easy to hang my head and say “why did I ever come half way around the world for this?” But if I did that I would be totally missing the point of all the experiences that this trip has been about. A trip like this isn’t really about the things you expect to happen, but the unexpected things that do. Sure the surf hasn’t been perfect, and the town wasn’t what I thought it would be, but we’ve met interesting people, eaten in a food stall with goat meat hanging from the ceiling, we’ve learned a bit of the local language, we’ve helped students practice their English, we’ve seen every imaginable stage of rice production, we’ve seen wild monkeys and discovered bat caves, we’ve watched beautiful sunsets, and taken long walks on empty beaches. Even our dealings with customs will be an experience I won’t soon forget, and I value it as a learning experience. Who knows, maybe there will be good surf tomorrow.
About 4 hours after I wrote this post a new swell filled in. I had my best session since Sawarna surfing Karang Haji, the right hand point/reef break that is 50 feet from my front door. Pictures are worth a thousand words, so I’ll leave it at that.