Like the waves we ride, we as surfers are travelers.
We will search the vast ends of the Earth to find our version of the perfect wave. Whether our dream destination consist of no crowds, a left or right, long barrels or sandbars, the journey of getting to the waves keeps us hungry for more year after year.
This is no exception as a surf photographer.
Knowing there are firing waves somewhere in the world, the lighting opportunities, the surfing action, lifestyle moments, all of this tends to wear on the creative mind. The flood of social media photos and video invades my feed and makes me feel that as every day passes, I’m losing out on something that I could have been there for. I previously had the opportunity to make a move but I let it slip through, and I couldn’t let it happen again: this would be my third trip to Indonesia.
Understanding how to travel in Indonesia (places to stay, what’s safe to eat, how to get around), I knew I could be more adventurous on this trip. While having my morning coffee and watching crowded 3-4 foot Uluwatu, a photo caught my eye across the warung (restaurant). It was a photo of Mikala Jones in a gaping barrel resembling the looks of my favorite winter playground: Off the Wall.
My palms started to sweat and I was itching to get in the know. Hanging out while waiting for the tide to change, I started to talk with local rippers. Over a few Bintangs, I luckily got some knowledge out of them on how to get to this wave. First light the next day, I was on it.
I rolled up on my motor bike after winding through Indonesian morning traffic to the spot where I saw the photo of Mikala the previous day. Knowing the location of the wave is only a small part of the recipe, not to mention every spot takes a certain concoction of tide, wind and swell to make the wave work at its best.
I saw some lines marching in, eyeing the potential of the wave. Winds were sheet glass, the tide just right, but no swell. Skunked. This trend continued the next day and at that point, I was having doubts on this wave and wondered how often it works. But third time was a charm.
A south-southwest swell rolled in overnight, and the tide was looking prime but the winds were questionable. On a whim, I geared up and made the journey.
What was a total roll of the dice turned out to be one of the best decisions of the trip. Waves were unloading 4-6 feet with two guys out and not a waterdrop out of place. It was on!
Later on in the trip, Desert Point was on my mind. It’s a wave Later on in the trip, Desert Point was on my mind. It’s a wave everybody seems to score but me. I’ve seen countless hours of footage and heard a million stories about the place, but had yet to score it for myself. I’ve done the mission to the arid dream wave twice before, but no gold. The first time the waves were too small and the second time it was too big with bad winds. On this trip, I had a small window to catch the rising part of a fresh southwest swell. I linked up with Kaimana Henry and close friend Keli Everett to make the journey. Knowing the winds could be funky and the tides would play the deciding factor of the “dreamwave recipe”, we went for it anyway.
The first morning we got up, climbed out of our mosquito nets and walked straight to the wave. It was 1-2 feet on the sets, the tide was way too high and the feeling of being skunked was all over my face.
“Be positive, it will turn on”, said Kai Henry. I glanced over at him to see the same ‘what were we thinking’ face. We decided to be patient and wait for the tide to drop. After walking the beach for two hours looking for shells, an hour nap, and drinking countless coconuts because the humidity sucked moisture from your body like a dehydrator, the tide dropped and we saw waves coming to life.
The winds, for some reason, turned offshore after what the forecasts called to be sideshore. The waves started to rise with the dropping tide and it came together and turned on.
Switching off with the barrel hungry crowd, we scored our share of waves and views and then called it day. The waves fired until the night, and we ended our day with a traditional Indo farewell, ice cold Bintangs.
Through the night, the waves got bigger and it felt as if the ocean was rising with every set. We were so excited for what the next day brought.
The next morning, the rituals of brushing your teeth, washing your face, and getting ready for the day were non-existent. We awoke, climbed out of our mosquito nets and walked directly to the beach. Much to our surprise, it was flat. The tide was too high.
What was a barreling dream wave was now a small, reverse version of Malibu. That was my last chance to score Desert Point on this trip.
While packing and making a plan to head to the airport, the tide slowly dropped and I saw two surfers paddle out. Knowing what would happen if the tide dropped enough, I tried not to look at the ocean when I left the camp. As we drove away, I couldn’t help look at what I was about to miss. I saw a five-foot, top to bottom wave lining up all the way through.
That last image has been in my mind ever since, and I can’t wait to go back for more.