JOHN BARTON // PHOTOGRAPHER

Isla De Todos Santos//May 23, 2016

It’s no secret that this Northern Hemisphere Winter just passed was one for the record books. Back-to-back El nino swells were slamming in the coastlines of Hawaii, California and Baja and it seemed like every single bit of it was being documented. Social media had become a feeding frenzy as the world-wide audience tried to satisfy their insatiable appetite for mind boggling imagery and footage. So much emphasis was being placed on chasing the biggest swell, capturing the craziest ride and witnessing ground breaking moments in big wave surfing as athletes pushed beyond the realms of what was considered possible.

After numerous successful strike missions and countless hours and miles frantically running up and down the coast chasing those definitive moments, we were already content and fast becoming weary and surfed out. Then, as if with perfect timing, a priceless opportunity came our way to slow it all down. We were invited by some Mexican friends to spend three nights in the lighthouse on the remote and baron Isla Todos Santos – home of the renown big wave spot ‘Killers’.
Knowing that this was a once in a life time opportunity to experience a side to Mexico that few surfers will ever get to see, we jumped at it. The old adage that life is not about the destination, rather the journey, has never felt so true and it’s with pleasure that I get to share with you some of the moments behind the moments that made up our winter.

 

 

After the kind of delays you learn to expect on surf travels in foreign countries, we finally headed of into the sunset towards the distant blink of the Isla Todos Santos lighthouse.

 

Pulling up to the island in the pitch black and with little to no visibility, our boat can’t navigate it’s way close to the cliff so Skeet Derham and local lad Vincente rig up their boards to tow all the supplies.

 

The new digs underneath a crisp winter sky.

 

Skeet Derham – First morning, first light and first out.

 

Just like the lighthouse keepers. The Lighthouses have been here for generations The first built in the 1930’s and the second built by convicts in the 1960’s.

 

Whether it’s fiberglass, concrete or waves, things out there have a way of making you look very small. Pictured: Skeet Derham

 

Perfect reelers running the reef as the awaited swell starts to show.

 

Crowded skies, empty lineup.

 

Spectating from the nosebleed section. The view from the top of the lighthouse. From this angle it’s hard to gauge size but if you look really closely, you can see a couple of dots scratching for the shoulder.

 

 

 

Skeet Derham getting the birds eye view.

 

It’s hard to hold the camera when your palms are this sweaty.

 

Skeet Derham – a black silhouette against the trade mark Todos blue.

 

A couple of local heavies cursing the lineup out the back. I don’t think i’ve ever seen the amount of whale activity that I did over the few days down here.

 

No trip away is complete without a selfie right?!

 

Everywhere you go on this Island, the sky is crowded with seagulls. Every walk outside for a surf check became a game of seagull poo roulette.

 

When it’s big, it becomes impossible to paddle out at the rocks. Here Skeet Derham and Mike Seible take the long walk around a few bays to jump in the water.

 

A comfortable rocky office chair and some Mexican winter sun. Honestly, I don’t know how I work under these conditions.

 

Mike Seible on a backlit bomb.

 

Even when the swell was dropping, you had to be on guard. Sneaker set catching the pack out of position.

 

One of the best seats in the house. Theres not many more enjoyable places to go about your daily business than this.

 

 

Skeet Durham all smiles on the last day of the trip.

 

Andreas. The third generation in his family of lighthouse keepers. None of this would’ve been possible without his hospitality. Such personality and spirit, Andreas kept us laugh the whole time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Dark to Light – Paul Clark and the long way back.//March 23, 2015

 

A flash of burning pain and then nothing. As he plunges into the suffocating darkness, the searing heat of his nervous system screaming signals of trauma is quickly extinguished by the numbness of shock. The urge to yell is suppressed only by the struggle to hold onto the remaining air in his lungs. Synapses that a moment ago fired messages of distress now carry the thought through his mind – ‘Oh shit, this is not happening’.

Watery fists frantically push, punch and grab at his limbs as they attempt to rag-doll him over the shallow reef. Muffled sounds of the water tear past his ears while deeper, the fluid of his inner ears spin in a whirlpool of disorientated turbulence as he somersaults beneath the surface. Then finally – light.

The next wave was a blur. There was barely time to compute what was happening but he managed to call for help before he had to go down as it landed on his head. Luckily it wasn’t one of the 8-10ft sets that had thundered and lurched as it freight-trained through the lineup only 10 minutes before. He surfaced again and had time to look to the channel for assistance. He could see blue smoke splutter from the outboards as they roared to life and splashes from his friends jumping off the b!oat. ’Thank God, they’ve seen me’ he thought as he went down for a third time.

This time when he came up, he had time to reach for his board. In a panic to get out of the impact zone before a wave came that he couldn’t swim through, he yanked on his leash, pulling it toward his left arm. The board hit his hand much quicker than his spatial awareness had anticipated and it was then he realised his arm was not where it was supposed to be.

“Ok buddy, you’re going to need to go to your happy place” a voice said in a stereotypical American drawl. However, with the potentially dangerous amount of Oxcycontin that he’d chewed on in the chaos, it was his happy place that was coming to him…. quickly. An hour earlier he’d been taken to a nearby surf resort and dragged up the beach on a mattress – in too much pain to be carried and far too nauseous to walk. Two medics now grappled with his body, tugging his torso and kneading his arm to coax the shoulder into entering its socket to no avail. Little did they know, too many tendons had torn and retracted, some even winning the tug of war with the Humerus, dislodging shards of bone as they recoiled. It was staying out.

From the Mentawai Islands, it’s a long and bumpy journey to mainland Sumatra. Inhibited by the dark and a lack of available transport options, he’d spent the night on a mattress on the floor while he waited for morning light. Now, almost 24 hours after the incident and with his shoulder still homeless, he came through the doors of a Padang hospital. For most, this would bring a sense of relief but for someone who had already called this part of the world home for 7 years, and sat at the bedside of his Fiancee in a snake bite emergency in the same hospital a few years before, comfort was quickly smothered with the unnerving knowledge of the kind of ‘help’ he was about to receive. Still, he had no choice.

He awoke from anaesthesia in a druggy haze in his hospital bed, his arm bound so tightly to his chest he felt like Tutankhamen in his tomb – and just about as alive. The doctor had already gone home but he was greeted by the nurse – or maybe she was the receptionist or even the cleaner – hard to tell when everyone is so eager to dispense their extensive medical opinions so readily. Either way, she said he was good to go and all he needed to do was to keep it bound to his chest for 6 weeks. It doesn’t take an MD to figure out that doesn’t sound right. So he kept moving; A flight to KL for a proper x-ray – one not performed by pimple faced teenagers – and to seek the advice of surgeons before heading back to his home town of Perth to get on the waiting list for the operation.
A long month later, Paul Clark was finally under the knife undergoing a repair to what the docs had said was one of the worse shoulder injuries they had seen. No one wants to hear the surgeons tell you they need to research how to fix you due to the severity of the injury, especially when it comes with the news of an expected 12 month recovery time until you can surf again. The whole ordeal that led to this point felt like a flash in the pan in comparison to what was to come. For a man who has carved out his chunk of paradise atop a jungle covered hill and makes a living putting himself, along with 250+ guests a year into the waves of their lives, this was going to be a long, dry and torturous road ahead.


The next 18 months crawled along. So for the sake of a yarn, we’ll skip a few chapters. It’s early 2014 and after a year and a half of agonising rehabilitation and the pain and frustration of having perfect barrels dangled in front of him quite literally out of arms reach, Paul is stroking into a set at his home break Bank Vaults. Hooted in by his mates, he drives off the bottom, scoops under the lip and sets his line like he’s done hundreds of times before. Once again he finds himself back in the darkness. This time though, he’s led by his left arm that for so long has held him back as he navigates his way through the perfect cylinder. Then finally – light. He’s spat out and skims out into the bright Mentawai sun, the churning whitewater and chaos slowly calming behind him in a symbolic ending to what can only be described as one hell of a ride.

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Tall Tales – Pitstop Hill End Of Season Report//December 2, 2013

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This is a tale of brave men. Men of the sea who chased giant beasts far across a wild and ferocious ocean to the distant shores of a foggy, jungle covered, volcanic island chain fraught with danger.
Sounds like the beginning to King Kong but then again so too do most of the far fetched stories of surfing exploits we recount to our mates over the wood of the bar. Weʼre all guilty of it – every time we tell tales of sessions that stretched our leg ropes, we also tend to stretch the truth. So as October started we werenʼt sure how much truth was in the stories we were reading on the pages of swell forecasting websites.

The numbers were looking great however the moderate swell direction threatened to wash off some of its power as nowhere would cop the full energy head on. Passed along the world wide grapevine, there were claims starting to emerge that this was going to be the biggest swell to hit Indonesia in several years. While some had played it down, others had gone ahead and coined it the ʻIndonesian Mega-swellʼ. 8ft, 10ft, 12ft+, we didnʼt know what to think. Judging size can be hard enough when trying to get your head around Metric vs Imperial let alone adding the Hawaiian scale into the equation. So when crew started dropping words like mega-swell, it began to get uber-confusing.

Just like Peter Jacksonʼs film, we had to wait for what felt like an eternity before we were going to get the chance to glimpse some of these monsters. Mind you, Iʼd much rather spend 10 days waiting out the impending arrival at the Mentawai fun-parks of Burgerworld, Pistols, Bank Vaults and Nipussi than watching Jack Black for an hour and a half.

Sure enough, in time, the ground began to shake and we could hear the roaring from the other side of the island. It was here. Bank Vaults was the first to shows its teeth. North Westerly winds and massive tides had just about ruled out all other options. Only a handful of foolhardy men were bold enough to risk their lives by throwing themselves inside the spitting mouths of these hefty leviathans. The next morning as the swell continued to rise, the winds swung South East, the haze lifted and the clouds parted. We had to swim out through the emerald green lines closing out the bay at Pitstops to get to the boats. It was big and we knew where we had to go… straight to Kandui.

That morning, I saw the ocean doing things that Iʼd never seen in my 3 years in the Islands. Plumes of spray ripped off the back of giant Cortes Bank-esque bombies that normally lay dormant. Strange waves wrapped and bent before clashing into one another in the channels between the Islands. Despite the obvious power in the swell, our assumption was right that the swell direction wasnʼt. Almost unheard of, both Rifles and Kandui (situated on opposite sides of Karangmajat) had lit up with a swell that was splitting the island as much as it was splitting the opinions of those arguing on how to categorize it.

Kandui was macking but it wasnʼt really any bigger than the swell that hit in July. With huge tidal movements, there was really only a few hours a day where the risk was worth the reward and this was evident in the slim number of takers in the water. However, if you could hold onto your rail for as long as you could hold onto your nerve, you could still get some barrels that for lack of a better superlative, could only be described as ʻmegaʼ.

After a couple of days and only a few surfable tide windows, the swell quickly faded and the ocean was left exhausted. The crowds had vanished along with the waves and we were back to surfing the super fun swell magnets as the season wound up. There was no one around; all the other resorts had shut down and the majority of the boats had thrown down anchor in Padang. In my opinion, this had been the best season Iʼve been lucky enough to bare witness to. As 2013 drew to a close, the waves were small but perfect and on the very odd occasion we had to share a session with another group of surfers, at least we had some pretty tall stories to tell… and a yearʼs worth of photos to prove it.

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Only A Surfer Knows The Feeling – Pitstop Hill September Report//October 17, 2013

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Youʼre way out of your comfort zone. You thought you caught a glimpse of a big lump out the back but now the wave in front is obscuring it and youʼre starting to wish youʼd stayed in the boat. The surfers in front of you rise back into view and youʼre watching for any sign of your impending fate as they paddle over the feathering crest of the first wave. Their heads collectively jerk to the side and they explode into a frantic paddle to the channel at the sight of whatʼs to come. Even though you canʼt see it yet, your fingers tear at the surface of the water, your heart sinks, your stomach tightens and you realize your mettle is about to get seriously tested.

Iʼm pretty sure fear is not what they had in mind when they penned the slogan ʻOnly a surfer knows the feelingʼ but itʼs a feeling that we as surfers know all too well.

The first time I paddled into a 3 footer as a grommet really felt no less terrifying as the first time I paddled into a 6 footer at BankVaults. Itʼs all relative. So whoʼs the more courageous surfer? The charger comfortably taking the sets, the person whoʼs gathered up all their grit just to be paddling around in the line-up or the surfer at the more sheltered spot around the corner pushing his/her limits? Either way, as this month started, all surfers in the Mentawai Islands had cause to feel anxious. The charts showed giant areas of colour marching north through the Indian Ocean and while the faces of some intrepid hell-men lit up, the faces of others reflected the hue of the green blobs that were staring back at them on the screen.

The south swell hit us with predicted force. The coastlines came to life but so too did the storm fronts that blew strong northwest and dashed any hopes of Rifles being all-time. So it was left up to BankVaults and Nipussi to provide surfers with their adrenaline fix.

The winds were howling. Normally taking a back seat to BankVaults, Nipussi was clean and stepped it up a notch giving a few valourous men an opportunity to throw caution to the wind and throw themselves (and their generously proportioned gonads) over the edge of some steep, dark, stormy walls.

As the month rolled on, the swell became more manageable. Although the chargers in the area were now cruising, some of our new guests were boldly stroking into some the biggest waves of their lives at smaller sized BankVaults, Candies, Rifles, Pitstops and Burgerworld.

By monthʼs end, the swell rose again, along with the fortitude of the new wave of surfers. BankVaults seriously tested both surfers and water photogs alike (not mentioning any names) and Rifles finally sprung to life as sizey hollow pipes coiled down the reef.

Depending on who you ask, every day in September pumped. After watching surfer upon surfer push their limits and triumph over their fears, I felt that old tag-line needed some revisions because ʻOnly a surfer knows the feeling of overcoming that feelingʼ.

 

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Contrasts – Pitstop Hill August Report//September 16, 2013

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I was startled by a toothless man holding a machete. He’d been harvesting coconuts behind me and with my earphones in, I hadn’t noticed him until he was right there. It happens quite a bit out here but there’s something about being approached by a stranger with a giant rusty blade that I still can’t get used to. We exchanged greetings, a hand shake and he sat down with me for a chat as I continued shooting the surfers in front of me. After I answered all the usual questions like why I didn’t smoke, why I wasn’t married and why he couldn’t have the shorts I was currently wearing, we got to talking about what he does for work. He recounted the duties of a Mentawai coconut farmer and how he couldn’t afford to clothe his kids on his measly 25cents per kilo of cured coconut. How he’d love to learn to surf but can’t fathom the concept of having time to play. As he spoke, I couldn’t help but feel guilty about the cost of the camera gear in my hand or the tens of thousands of dollars worth of collective surf holiday that was going on right in front of us. In that moment, the true contrasts of this place were glaringly obvious.

As our calendars back home were flipping over to August, here in the islands our Muslim friends were still in Ramadan and getting down to the pointy end of a month of fasting. It’s a time when the devoted abstain from food, water, smoking and impure thoughts from sunrise to sunset to encourage a feeling of nearness to their deity. A time when they express their gratitude for and dependence on him, atone for their past sins, and think of the needy… well, of the needier. After July, I was feeling like an honorary Muslim because whether we’d liked it or not, we’d just fasted as well. Mind you, the only things we were craving were good waves and after the chat with that man on the beach, my thoughts were definitely with the needy.

The first swell hit in early August but Pitstop Hill had close it doors for 10 days while our crew went home to be with their families and feast. Bank Vaults thundered with meaty tubes (Halal of course) and you could almost here it from the camp. Reports were filtering back to us about people towing into barrels of a lifetime. I knew I was missing out on some photo gold but while the hoards were getting thoroughly shacked with their new quivers, GoPros and expensive diamond dobby boardies, I’d taken some time out to visit the village of a local friend of mine. Even after 3 years out here, I always leave with a refreshed perspective on life. The hospitality of those with so little and the smiles of the kids when you hand out the lollies and colouring books stays with you long after you return.

By mid August, the doors to the ‘Hill were open again but the swell had faded along with the hunger pains of the Muslim fasters. We were back to the swell magnets again. Burgerworld, Nipussi and Bank Vaults were the staple diet for the new wave of hungry surfers. It was fun – long walls, easy tubes and good weather.

As the end of August approached so too did another surge of swell. Ebay, Kandui, Hideaways, Pitstops and Beng Bengs all lit up with the help of SE winds and the waves were outstanding. While the locals were feeling a new found closeness to God, we too couldn’t deny the feeling that someone was close behind every sunset, glass off and empty session. After a month of contrasts and reality checks, we were all grateful and stoked on our surroundings. Even the atheists amongst us had to have been feeling truly blessed to be out here.

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The Hangover – Pitstop Hill July Report//August 31, 2013

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5:45am. My iPhone dragged me out of slumber with that damn Marimba tune and I could already feel June’s hangover. It was July 1st and as I peeled open my sunburnt, bloodshot eyes, I half expected to find myself fully clothed with a half eaten kebab in my bed and a cleverly crafted permanent marker depiction of male genitalia on my forehead. What I found instead was a broken and worn out lens, a cracked underwater housing and a back-log of editing to do. Man… what a bender June had been.

I jumped online to assess the damage. Not the standard bank balance check to see how much remained in your account after the $150 cab ride or the 20 cheeseburgers you so magnanimously bought for all the randoms in Maccas on the way home. This time it was to check how much swell was left on the charts. It was a seriously sobering state of affairs.

“Urgh.. I’m never surfing again” I thought to myself. Besides, how could you after a month like that? June had shown us some of the most perfect waves we’d seen this year and now it was flat – as flat as we were feeling. But anyone who’s been out here before know’s that there is no such thing as ‘flat’ in the Mentawais. If the winds are kind, even on the smallest days you can find a shoulder to head high wave somewhere. We must’ve been looking pretty pitiful because luckily, the winds took it very easy on us.

No hangover is complete without a fast-food binge and a bit of grease so that is exactly where we went. Turns out that the 200m long ‘oil slick’ walls at Burgerworld did us the world of good. Well, a much better option than hair of the flea-bitten indonesian dog anyway. BankVaults and Nipussi were also surprisingly good fun and despite the charter boats slowly filling into the area and the crowds growing, a well timed morning or lunch-time shift or a bit of pioneering could get you a fun empty session.
By mid-month, the sun was shining, the swell was rising and the options were opening up. 4 Bobs, Candys, Kandui and Hideaways, while not huge, were definitely big enough to have everyone fizzing like a freshly dropped Berocca. We were starting to feel really good again… But then that’s bound to happen when you’re getting thoroughly re-hydrated in some of the clearest water conditions I can remember seeing.

Late July saw the swell come up even more and we were back to surfing chunky BankVaults and some personal favourites further afield. Pitstops also lit up and with the big tubes around the corner, ridiculously playful waves right out the front and sunsets turning on the party lights, it was all beginning to feel like a bit of a celebration again. Mind you, it’s pretty easy to feel festive when you can kick out of a wave and be at the bar, Bintang in hand, in 2 minutes flat. Cheers to that.

 

 


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Art Class – Pitstop Hill June Report//July 12, 2013

Leonardo Da Vinci would be proud of us this month. Tickled pink even. Sure, itʼs pretty egotistical to think that one of the most diversely talented and inspirational artists ever to have walked the earth wouldʼve been smiling down at us but if you bare with me, Iʼll do my best to try paint you a little picture.
You see, Leo subscribed to the notion that simplicity is the ultimate sophistication. Sounds a bit wanky for a surf report so it might be better translated in modern day terms as ʻLess is moreʼ… more or less.

Keeping it simple is exactly what surfers in the Mentawai Islands were doing this month. Quit throwing buckets, ease up on the finners and shove the punts back into the bag of tricks – It was time to invoke Da Vinciʼs spirit and draw some simple, clean lines of our own through some of the most perfect tubes weʼve seen this season.
June started slowly. Not that is was small, itʼs just that in comparison to the climactic ending it was a relative cruise. Bank Vaults gave us an early taste of its power before the swell backed off a notch to allow us to enjoy some of the more fun waves in the area at BurgerWorld, Pitstops and Nipussi.

By mid month, it was really starting to wind up. Bank Vaults, Rifles, Pistols were doing what they do best while surfers were trying to do their best just to keep up. The extra swell gifted us some off the chart waves at places that were exactly that; off the chart.
However, despite all the fun and perfection, we were still yet to seen Juneʼs true masterpiece. The colours showing on the swell chart matched that of any great painterʼs pallet and we knew we were in for a treat.

Bank Vaults was the first to light up. A chunky southwest swell and north winds had the place on fire but unfortunately it also limited options. This meant that if you wanted a potential ʻwave of your lifeʼ you had to wait your turn for it, or in the worst cases, unwillingly share it. But time your session right and you could get a shift pretty much to yourself. Thankfully by the second pulse of the swell, it seemed the novelty had worn off and the crowds had dissipated.

The third and final pulse of the swell hit with force. This time, with the help of easterly winds, it focused its power on the west coast at the big name lefts. Ebay and Hideaways were unbelievable – Big, clean and relatively empty. However it was Kandui that was the true work of art and people were lining up to get a glimpse. Tubes so perfectly round that even Da Vinci would have a hard time drawing them funneled down the reef with a smoothness and texture that could have only been painted with a brush. Those brave enough to throw themselves over the edge and lock in were given a private tutorial to his school of thought and an insight into the true art of surfing; Keep it simple and just stand there.

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Spoilt Brats – Pitstop Hill May Report//July 7, 2013

Living in a tropical, wave-rich paradise can be really tiresome. Day in, day out trudging through the island chain in search of crystal clear, warm water reef breaks set to a backdrop of coconut palms and the sounds of the jungle. Surf, eat, sleep, surf, eat, sleep…every day is the same. Yawn.
ʻOh cry me a riverʼ I hear you say and I donʼt blame you, I sound like a spoilt brat. Well thats exactly what I am. But before I get you all too offside, let me explain.
You see, the problem with living in a place like this is you DO get spoilt. Weʼre blessed with a ridiculous amount of world class waves and some of the most breath taking scenery you could imagine. We receive perfect waves so often that when we have to go without them for a week, or the place gets too “crowded” and we have to share with 10 or 15 others (horrific I know), itʼs hard to keep the stoke up and resist the urge to throw your toys on the floor and chuck a tanty. After the big swells of April had left us that is exactly how the first week of May had us feeling. I didnʼt want to play anymore.
So it was good timing that we had our May break. The doors to the house on the ʻHill closed for 10 days.The crew went to their villages to see their families and we had our yearly does of wintery perspective back in Australia. And it did us a world of good.
When we got back the weather was as good as it gets. The winds were light, the swell was solid and from the perfect angle to wrap up both coasts and we were frothing again. You could pretty much throw a dart at the map and be assured to get good uncrowded waves where ever it landed. Bank Vaults, Nipussi, Piggie Banks, Pitstops, Burgerworld, Beng Bengs, Candys, 4 Bobs, Pitstols, Kandui and some breaks that weʼd have to blind fold you to take you to were all doing what they do best – Putting smiles on the dials (and occasionally wiping them off) of intrepid surfers.
It must be true what they say about absence making the heart grow fonder because the second half of May had us absolutely smitten again. And it felt like the islands were glad to see us too because they threw us one hell of a warm welcome.

 

 

 

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Cabin Fever – Pitstop Hill April Report//May 22, 2013

Itʼs pretty standard procedure for surfers to get vaccinated before venturing beyond the frontiers of the first world. And itʼs a smart move. The threats of Typhoid, Dengue, Malaria and enough strange bitey jungle things to keep David Attenborough busy for another 60 years can send even the most seasoned traveler into a fit of hypochondria. However, there is one horrific affliction that the the Doc wont tell you about and you canʼt prepare for. One that will strike down every surfer at least once in their life – Cabin Fever.
At the start of April tropical lows lashed the island chain. The ocean had been whipped up into such a state that charter boats were forced to hide in the lee of the islands, surfers were stranded on the mainland and we had had no choice but to lock the place down and wait it out.

At first we didnʼt notice the symptoms. Coffee, guitars and a hard drive full of pirated goodies were enough to mask it. But by day three, the pacing had begun. The surf movies werenʼt enough to keep the cravings at bay and over the howling winds Iʼm sure I heard someone scream out WILSON! Delirium had set in and we were in the grips of a Cabin Fever epidemic.
Then after 5 days and just as we felt we werenʼt going to make it out alive, the clouds parted, the winds abated and the symptoms disappeared. We had a new lease on life and a series of strong, healthy groundswells were upon us.
Bank Vaults was the standout in April. Long period swells pumped into the area but made it lully causing punters to stay on their toes. Every 20 or 30 mins, a 6 wave bomb set would thunder through, clean up the less vigilant who had drifted out of position and have them wishing they were still on the safety of the couch. While they were getting the flogging of a lifetime, others were lucking into the tubes of a lifetime.
Those who werenʼt up to the ʻVault scored solid walls and pushed their boundaries on the hefty drops at big Nipussi. The goofies were looked after as Hideaways and some our ʻoff the mapʼ spots turned it on giving our guests a curative dose of the uncrowded perfection that this place is renown for.
By the end of the month, weʼd said goodbye to a whole lot of happy surfers and sent them home safe and sound. Well, providing they could sneak the last remaining traces of Cabin Fever through Customs.

 

 

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OLD ADAGES – PITSTOP HILL MARCH REPORT//April 24, 2013

Itʼs months like these where a good upbringing can come in handy. And Iʼm not talking about table manners, eating your veggies or refraining from swearing (because there was definitely plenty of surfers letting rip on the expletives when confronted with the outlook on the swell charts). Iʼm talking about the old adages that get drummed into you by your parents over a lifetime and somehow spring up right when you need them most. As cliche as it sounds, we had no choice but to cling to the motto; good things come to those who wait. Because as March began, it was as small as it gets.

The swell charts were devoid of colourful blobs and even the ever-faithfuls were betraying us. BankVaults was dead flat and with Nipussi and Burgerworld barely hanging in there, we were left scratching our heads. So in the spirit of adventure (but mostly out of desperation) we took to the boats in search of seldom surfed bits of exposed reef and it payed off. Super light winds helped as we surfed our way through the worst of the flat spell on head-high tropical walls.

By mid-month, things were picking up… and thankfully it wasnʼt the crowds. BankVaults, Nipussi, Burgerworld and the Playgrounds were springing to life and the early season was treating our guests to some of the funnest waves on the planet. With a few of the other camps in the area yet to open their doors for the season, we pretty much had it all to ourselves.
A solid south swell loomed at months end, and everyone in the area was talking about Rifles. People mustʼve heard the chatter because as the swell hit, so too did the masses.
Strong tides ripped through the line-up and even the charter boats were straining on their anchors trying to stay in position. The wind blew with a little too much north and angry bombs thundered, drained and lurched down the reef causing all but the seasoned chargers and the overly ambitious to seek the shelter of the other waves in the area.
But they werenʼt the only ones to search for other waves. After tackling Rifles, we were off, heading out on our own and making the most of the swell and scoring as it hit all the lesser known nooks and crannies in the region.

After a dismal start, March really surprised us by coming through with the goods and somewhere in the back of my mind, I can hear my parents saying ʻI told you soʼ.

 

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Starting Lineups – Pitstop Hill February Report//March 20, 2013

The media spotlights have been switched off, the fans were lured away by the Hawaiian winter’s battle for the world title and the Mentawai stadium has been practically empty for months.

But there’s still a buzz here. Despite difficult low pressure systems pounding the region  with rain and persistent NW winds, reports from friends who stayed behind over the December and January period say it was empty and pumping. As it turns out, some of the Mentawai’s key players have been training hard in the shadows all off-season.

Rifles has been practicing its sprints and easily outrunning most of its opponents. Bankvaults is beefing up and has been laying down some big hits, already sidelining victims and breaking boards. Even Ebay has been throwing some punches. 
The ever consistent Nipussi has been working hard day in day out and Burger World has been testing peoples endurance with its long distance runs. And it’s not just the big names –  we’ve been scouting and some of the lesser known waves have also been showing talent.

If February’s pre-season form is anything to go by, players wanting to run onto the field in 2013 had better bring their ‘A’ game because as you’re about to see, the starting line-ups for the Mentawai 2013 season are already looking the goods.

 

 

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Pitstop Hill End of Season Report//January 24, 2013

Last call for drinks. The party is almost over. And boy what shindig 2012 has been.
Amped, freshly waxed, feeling good and ready to bust out some moves, groups of partygoers rocked on through the Pitstop Hill doors week after week. Some looking to relax, others looking to rage but whether they say it or not, all were looking to pick up and ride some beauties (and donʼt even get me started on the protection puns).

In October and November, the odds were outstanding. The crowds had gone and every one was scoring. With light winds, empty line ups and mind blowing tubes almost every day, Bankvaults was unstoppable. Sure it wasnʼt macking but true to its name, even the 4-5fters were keeping guys (and myself) in check. And it wasnʼt just BVs turning it up and pumping; shapely numbers at Rifles, Hideaways and the super rippable walls of low season Burgerworld were coming to the party.

We mustʼve been having one hell of a time because before we knew it, the season had wound up. The volume had been turned down, the lights were on and it was time to go home. Someone call the Air Asia taxi.
So here I am sitting poolside in Bali writing this on my way home. The Mentawai Islands are now empty and echoing from the hoots of ecstatic surfers but all I seem to be hearing are the echoes of Gangnam Style and the screams of drunk Aussie school leavers. Itʼs only been a week but I already canʼt wait for next season to start.
Now if you donʼt mind, Iʼve got to go… This lovely gentleman in a Sarong is trying to hand me my club sandwich and banana smoothie.
Terima Kasih from all the crew at Pitstop Hill. Thanks for watching, have a great Christmas and see you all next year!

 

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