Saturday, 22 June 2013

Nicaragua 2013

Nicaragua June 2013

ISA World Junior Surfing Games

Winter in Australia and a call up from a young Russian surfer named Nikita Avdeev to accompany him to Nicaragua as his coach. Nikita is a good little surfer living in the city of  Yekaterinbug situated in the Russian Urals.  He gets to surf Bali around four times a year. He has been selected by the a russian Surfing federation to represent his country. Pretty cool and at 12 years old a big call but great experience.

I fly through Los Angeles, Miami and then on to Nicaragua. 20 plus air time hours in total so a long haul. I decided to break the trip at LA. Huntington Beach is only a 45 minute drive from LAX. Taxis and shuttle buses don't really offer much of an option. You can get a car to pick you up for $150 or most hire a car at the airport because you need one to get around anyway. Pretty cheap but make sure you get one with GPS . I am staying at the Hilton on Pacific Highway about 500 metres south of the famous Huntington Pier. Pretty good value?

First night PT, the very first Pro World Champion picks me up for dinner. He has his non surfing brother with him. PT has been living here for 30 odd years after moving from the Gold Coast. We eat right in front of the pier at Dukes. I have eaten at Dukes in Honolulu and here was the same. Great seafood and cool memorabilia. 

Huntington Beach is surf town, maybe a big version of Torquay in Victoria. Plenty of cheap eats and bars. Hard to get a real coffee though. There are a million versions of coffee drinks here but I could do with a decent espresso.

The surf? Onshore 2-3 ft slop. Cool water so will wait for boardies and warm central American temperatures. So instead of hunting surf I hunt all the old surf spots that I used to dream about back in the sixties. You can go north along pacific coast highway up to Malibu and Zuma beach or south down past Trestles and Oceanside. While you are at it you may as well check the skate boys and weirdos at Venice Beach. 

Wednesday 5
Up at 5.30 to LAX. Need to catch a four hour flight to Miami and then two and a half flight to Managua in Nicaragua. I meet Nikita and his father Andre in the transit lounge for the last leg. Andre has been here for work and Nikita does a solo flight from Moscow through Rome to Miami. Gutsy effort!!
We arrive at Managua airport around 7pm local time our driver Martine is waiting for us for the three hour drive to the Tola area. Wet season has just started and it is bucketing down with rain. The last 40 kilometres of the trip is just mud and slow going. Arriving at night anywhere is strange but when you are in the middle of a central American jungle it is even stranger. The road is over grown with vines and trees. We pull up at a big gate made of cane. It takes a while before the security guy will let us in. The owner arrives and while we expect to drive to a hotel of some sort he explains they have 6 rooms spread over a 15 acre organic farm. This is normally a yoga retreat (Equilibrio) run by James and Gabriela, We grab our gear and head off on a muddy track through the jungle by torch light. After 10 minutes of dodging vines, branches etc we get to a small room made of local timber. There is a separate bath room dwelling up the track. All fairly different. We are tired and crash out with the rain hammering down with thunder and lightning thrown in. The room is open with big fly wired windows. 

June 6th
Nikita is up at dawn (5am) we try to ignore him and eventually wander through another jungle path to the kitchen hangout area. The Argentinian team are also staying here which is cool because I know a few of the coaches from a level two course I presented in Mar Del Plata. They are super friendly. Our host Gabriela is very hospitable, she drives us to check the surf. There is a hurricane in the gulf and the swell is huge with no quality surf.  We decide to check the contest site and register for the event. The beach is covered with drift wood washed down the river from last nights storm. The water is soupy brown with the surf exploding on a shallow bank. Only a few guys try to get out but not much surfing going on. They reckon the swell will peak tomorrow. The ISA organisation team are concerned the peak swell may crash through the podiums and grand stand set up on the beach. Nikita is keen to surf but we opt for resting up back at the hacienda. There is a deep bricked up well near our room. In the afternoon we join the Argentinian team and take turns jumping down the 7 metre drop. Everyone has a lot of fun. Meals are in the main room, food is good and Gabriela and James are great hosts.

June 7
We take off early with at an Argentina. The swell is still massive and about the only place to surf is "magnificent rock". Pretty cool spot but with the swell size a nightmare to surf. We rename it "duck dive point" We have a couple of goes and get pretty cooked on the beach. The Hawaiian and French teams are trading there as well.  We all head back to the hotel packed in the Argentine team bus like Sardines. The Argentinians are super cool and very helpful.
Steak for lunch and a well earned rest in the arvo.
We have an early evening meal and head to Rancho Santana for the managers meeting. Plenty of talking of  rules and regulations.

June 8
We head off early for another surf at Magnificent Rock. The swell is smaller but still plenty of wash throughs. Nikita tries his small board and gets his confidence up with a couple if good waves.
Back for lunch and then the opening ceremony. Major operation. Everyone congregates at the contest site and we bused in to San Juan Del Sur. Pretty cool marching through the streets while the locals cheer us on. Every country has a name banner and flags. Drums,  horns, everything is going on. The ISA president Fernando Aguerre shakes Nikita's hand and makes a big deal of him being the first Russian junior competitor. 

The whole ceremony mimics a small Olympic Games opening. Athlete pledge, entertainment etc. the cool difference is the mixing of the sands. This tradition requires each nation (30 in all) to bring sand from there country and a designated surfer from each nation is called by name, country and beach and then invited to pour the sand I to a glass tank. Very symbolic and super cool. Nikita is stoked by the privilege. During the whole ceremony we manage to get rained on but no one is that bothered.
We make a quick getaway with Gabriela but still don't make it home until 8.30pm. We quickly eat our dinner and are about to head off to sleep when a few of Andries friends turn up. I think is glad to have a good Russian conversation. Nikita and I sneak off to bed.

June 9
We are up early for the start of the contest, the swell gas dropped on the beach break but still majority closing out. Tough conditions. Nikita goes out in the first heat and has a red hot go. Half way through he is in second place but by the end just gets pushed down to fourth. He has down really well. We have been joined by a couple of Andre's friends. We move up the contest site a little and kick back in a beach side Restaurant while Nikita free surfs with the other competitors who are warming up.

June 10
Nikita is surfing in the rep round today. We have a surf in the morning to warm up them cruise back to the farm for lunch and a rest up. Back down to the contest at 1.30pm. The Argentinian boys take Nikita for a quick warm up surf and then we wait for the action to start. The surf is pretty good offshore but a little tricky picking the right waves. Both surfers in the water start with good waves but Nikita's is better. He surfs well and wins the heat. Everybody is really happy. Nikita advances to the next round. He has reached further into the contest than anyone thought. Super Kruto.
We move hotels tonight. It is further away from the contest site but Andre has some friends there and i am pretty sure they will be celebrating tonight. 

June 11
Another tough heat today and Nikita just misses out on advancing placing third. He has finished above surfers from Argentina, Ecuador, Uruguay, Nicaragua, Germany, Chile, Panama, El Salvador, and Puerto Rico Everyone is very proud of his effort. 

June 12
So the surf, you will see plenty of smoking' barrels in all the photos but all the beaches are similar, shifting left and right beach breaks with plenty of duck diving. the wind is almost always offshore and living is pretty cheap. It is a long haul from Australia so a quick holiday it ain't but if you have at least six weeks up your sleeve and want to do the Central American trip Mexico, Costa Rica etc then put Nicaragua on the list.

The contest finishes with the Hawaiians taking out the Under 16 and 18 girls titles and the Aussies the Under 16 boys. The blue ribbon under 18 boys is so tight with Hawaii getting the nod over Australia by point one of a point. The Australians hit back by winning the overall team points gold medal.
Japan takes out the Aloha Cup for the very first time and everyone is stoked for them.

Almost 300 competitors and thirty countries are represented in these ISA World Junior Surfing Games. this event is a real stepping stone for the Pro surfers of the future.

Friday, 10 May 2013

Tavarua Fiji

Tavarua Fiji

24th November 2012

Tavarua, first time and am pretty excited. Although this time of year is not the best surf window it looks like we may have some shoulder high waves when we arrive. I am travelling with a couple of buddies and it is first time for all of us.

Flight time from Melbourne is only a short five hours jaunt.

Hot weather in Fiji and after a forty minute bouncing ride in a battered Hi Ace van we stop in front of a mangrove swamp.

We wade out to a small boat and cruise over to Tavarua Island. The trip lasts about twenty minutes and the smart move is to pack a water proof spray jacket and sit in the middle seat.

The staff greet you on the sand and with a minimum of check in procedure you will be in your Bure or bungalow in no time. 

The island resort is pretty spectacular and if there is some swell and offshore wind Woo Hoo!!! 

We are in for a week and the surf varies from waist to shoulder high to just over head. The wind is sort of offshore but the wave faces are clean. For a few hours of the day it glasses off.

The water quality is brilliant. Racing down the line at cloud break you can clearly see the coral bottom and fish as you you surf.

Cloud Break and Restraunt's are the two classic left handers  here and were exclusive to Tavarua. That has all changed but the upside is you can boat to all the other breaks close by. Namotu is only a stones throw away and has three waves around it. The surf here is fast breaking hollow waves over coral.

If you are fifty fifty on deciding whether to pack reef booties throw them in your bag along with your rash vest, Board shorts and sun screen. 

As for your quiver! The small fat beach break model can stay at home, you need a good paddler that goes good down the line, preferably at warp speed. Extra concave always helps.

If eight feet plus thundering cloud break or five feet super hollow restaraunts is out your league don't despair it ain't always like that and even if those are conditions when arrive on your trip Nomotu lefts and swimming pools can be great fun. 

All the surf spots bar Restaraunts have to accessed by boat. The surf guides are cool and know there stuff. Boats start leaving at 5am and then  all through the day. It isn't an on demand service but with a little planning and cooperation from other guests the boys will look after you. There will always be a guide/life guard on a boat or in the water with you. You will not get dropped off in the lineup by yourself and the boat leave.  

snorkelling, fishing, kayaking, Stand paddling, tennis, table tennis and a massage are all on the to do list. 

Breakfast, lunch and dinner are served from the buffet at set times during the day. If you hear the conch shell being blown, tucker is on. The bar stocks are pretty cool and everything is on the room bill to be settled as you leave. Plenty of people get a bit of a shock at there bar tab. ( did I drink that much? Answer - Sure did) 

Cava Night is usually on a Thursday and comprises of an official welcome by the chief, a ceremonial drink of Cava and some entertainment.

The Fijians love it. Laughing, singing, traditional dress  and dancing.

I didn't pick up too much of the language but Bula is welcome and Vinaka means thank you. 
Never been to Fiji ? put it on your bucket list because you won't be disappointed.  Looking to take the family and are frothing on Restaraunts and cloud breakTavarua works a treat. Prefer the late night bar life try Nomotu.






Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Banda Aceh 2013

Banda Aceh

January 2013

So where do I start, and please cut me some slack on my writing coz I only just passed fifth form English back in 1970 and only because the one novel we had to review at exam time was fortunately for me also a movie. The extra study I did was to ask a few A grade students the difference between the book and the movie. Bingo! Question one right there. I winged the rest and Voila, pass mark at 52%. The missing 48% was or were ?? transitive verbs, correct tense and the like.  

So back to Aceh, there is good news and sadly bad news, but I will get to that later, just to set the scene which is quite different from any other surf destination you may end up in.

Sitting in the line up with a fiery red Sumatran sunset in twenty eight degree water, small hollow lefts running down the coral reef and an A frame across the channel.  A ramshackle warung sits on the beach in front of a golf course. Hard to tell it’s a golf course, not your average garden variety manicured greens and pro shop deal but it is green and there where people with golf clubs walking around on it along with the odd cow and a family of goats. There is clear view of a cement factory across the river that looks like the Helms Deep fortress from Lord of the Rings. It is eerily quiet with the only noise from the imam on the loud speaker from the local mosque conducting evening prayer. I am not big on any formalised religion but an imam can sound pretty cool as it drifts over the water. Mind you sometimes the noise from those loud speakers is not dissimilar to raucous sound a cat makes with its tail caught under a rocking chair.
Biggest wave of the trip

After travelling around Indo since the mid seventies I found Banda Aceh pretty mellow and damn interesting. Sharia law is part of life here and to foreigners that means no bikinis for the girls and under the counter beer. Definitely no spirits. Don't get too upset if there are limited supplies, one shopkeeper got sent to the big house for eight years just having eight cartons for sale on his premises. That’s one year per carton, case, box or slab depending where you come from. There are also rumours this will become law throughout Indo. Another one is women should only ride side saddle on a motor bike. Given women are often on the back of a scooter holding two kids, five live chickens and the weeks groceries I reckon these laws are a tad impractical and will struggle get through parliament. Mind you Indonesian law can change daily. 

You may be wondering why I am blabbing about a secret surf destination in Indo. Two reasons, last time I checked my Google analysis blog Info I only had about a hundred hits. Twenty five of those were from me and apart from you the rest were from my dear 87 year old Mum's senior citizens 'how to use a computer class'. Second is Aceh ain't no secret. The bad news is Lhoknga can hold around 20 -25 guys. There were fifty odd tourists including Aussies, Euros, Seth Efricans and Americans and 20 odd locals when I was there squabbling over 2-3 ft short waves. Granted they where hollow fun little runners but if you a surf nazi the frustration factor will kick in big time before the end of day one. If you like to spend time absorbing the Indonesian culture and can handle doing two or three airports there is plenty to do and see cruising around checking the markets, snorkelling and scoping a different area you will enjoy the experience.  

Speaking of culture and the values of sharia law, tourism etc I did see the proud Aussie exhibition at 10.30 am on Australia Day here. One really pissed unit dive bombing a plastic toddler’s pool half full of water without spilling his beer. 'Way to Go'. Pretty sure some of the locals where starting to think eight years in the big house for selling grog was light on. 

The waves are not heavy and only turn on in a short two month season around January. The rest of the time is onshore. Anything over head high is considered an epic swell. Waist high is the norm and be prepared to hang for a swell. Locals are super friendly although a few of the surfing variety don't share waves all that well.  

We stayed at Udi's place, awesome hospitality, only basic rooms with a fan and a trickling version of a shower but a five minute walk to the beach, great food (try the BBQ fish) and coffee. Speaking of coffee, Aceh coffee rules. If you want to ante up you can splurge of coffee lewak. A lewak is a small cat like animal that seeks out the best coffee beans in the wild and eats them and only digests the beans outer skin before crapping them out. You give them a wash and roast them up as per normal and it is a great drop. It is expensive and unfortunately the latest trend is to capture a lewak and feed them as many beans as possible. The poor animal doesn't have a chance to select the best beans as it would in the wild but that's progress for you!! 

Masakan Padang food is a treat and you gotta try the Rendang. It is beef curry slow cooked by mama for a week or two but Woo hoo taste bud sensation. I should add it may take a few days for those taste buds to regrow after the Rendang chilly hit has killed them. You can even score a Magnum or Cornetto at the local super market. 

Easy place to travel around, plenty of buses and scooters or Yudi will organise a car for you. The roads are great. There has been a massive rebuild here after the horrific tsunami in 2004. They stared with roads and mosques, although I suspect the other way round. There are tsunami evacuation signs everywhere but the nearest hills that surround the area look at least a half marathon away, if another one came I couldn't tell you where to head because it is flat as a shit carters  hat in between those hills.  Maybe a mask and snorkel while sitting on your board ready to kiss your arse good bye might work. 

Two hundred and fifty thousand people lost the lives due to the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami. 
Tsunami damaged hills

That is almost the ammount of supporters at three AFL grand final days at the MCG. Another perspective is more people tragically perished from this Tsunami than all the US soldier fatalities in The American revolutionary war, World War One, Korean, Vietnam, Afgan and Iraq wars combined. !!! 

I don't want to end this little story on a downer though, the place is up and running and a credit to the Acehnese.  I visited here with my Russian buddies, old and new. A big Spicey Bar (thanks) to Alena. I learnt six more Russian words and forgot twenty three other ones. It's a complex rich language. I did learn Russians don't have green with envy in the vocabulary rather white and black envy. Pretty handy to know these sorts of things. 

So I probably won't be back in hurry but we had a blast soaking up the culture despite the fickle crowded waves. Hope you have a better perspective of the place now when you are considering how to spend you surf travel dollar and if you ever decide to check it out remember to decline any business offer to start a lewak coffee venture or more importantly a bottle shop.


Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Mentawai 2012

Mentawai October 2012
Thankfully not our charter boat

Another boat charter trip to the Mentawais with my Russian buddies Alena and the Endless Summer Surf School crew from Bali on the charter boat Addiction.

Take off from Tullamarine on AFL grand final eve. Have decided to spend a couple of days in Singapore on the way through. It is not the quickest way to go but I enjoy spending time in Asia and Singapore is a cool city. 

If you are coming from Australia there are a couple of tips if you are on a mission to get straight through to Padang. Air Asia does the final KL - Padang leg. If you get a real airline to KL and then Air Asia into Padang you will have to change airports in KL. AA flies out of the low cost terminal. It takes around 40 minutes to get there. It should cost a few bucks but if you are travelling with all the team on the trip they will try and slug you extra.

Garuda always look a little expensive but they fly through Jakarta and then straight to Padang. You may have to wait for the connection but you won't have to drag your boards around to different airports. Grab a VIP lounge in Jakarta for $10 and chill out with free food and drink. This info maybe outdated soon. The mail is Tiger Airlines are reopening their Singapore - Padang flights with Garuda to follow. Given how user friendly Singapore Airport is this would be good news.
 I am staying at a small guest house style hotel called Lloyd's inn recommended to me by Mr Ajill of the Singapore Surfing Association. Pretty sure it doesn't have any star ratings and it could do with a facelift but it is just behind Orchard road and costs only $90. Great spot with super friendly service. Another cool spot is Rucksack Inn in Clarke Quay. This one has dorms as well as rooms. If you want something more upmarket try Albert Court in little India, another good location. If you are a five star traveller take your pick, they are all here.

The Taxis into the city are pretty cheap. I had some time to kill so I jumped on the train which is easy to use. I went straight to little India for breakfast. Masala Dosai (a spicy potato pancake) and sweet Indian tea.

After that and the hotel check in I am off to find a bar with the footy. I ended up at Clarke Quay and managed to find a big screen one minute before the bounce. Sitting in 28 degree temp watching the footy with a bunch of expats and tourists was surreal. Great afternoon and a good match to boot.

One of my mates was flying in to Singapore as well and we had planned to meet at an Indian Restaurant that night. Tom and I ate at the same place 37 years ago. If you like Indian, Komala Vilas or Banana Leaf Apolla are institutions.

I met Tom and his Wife Lisa at the new Gardens by the Bay the next day. Lisa had a bunch of her family as well. Not that keen on the tourist thing but these new gardens are really awesome. A totally self sustaining complex with huge rain water catchments in the guise of massive plants and a bio steam furnace that is fuelled by pruned plant material within the park. Well worth a visit. It is right in front of the massive hotel with the boat on top. 56 floors and takes 15 seconds by lift to get the top.

An Indian lunch at Zam Zam's another food institution on the corner of Arab street and Beach road. Great food and laughs with all the crew.  We had Murtabah and Byriani. ( Enak Sekali) If you are a keen fisherman you can get all the latest gear in this area way cheaper than home. Could come in handy on your boat.


October 3

I have to do the bun fight through KL to get to Padang, not too bad but am keen to get to Padang and on our boat. I am the first of our guys in Padang. Nothing to do but walk around town all afternoon. Apart from the Tsunami threat Padang is fun. Andre, Anastasia and Dimma from Endless Summer surf school arrive with their two guests Alex and Froddo (not really the correct spelling and pronunciation but that is what I am calling him). We head to the port and board the Addiction. Alena, Artem and Tanya are coming in from Europe and arrive at Midnight. Really super Kruto to see everyone again.

The crossing to the Ments is about 75 miles, it is a bit rough and we arrive at Telescopes about 8am. Everybody is tired but by lunch everyone except Anna and Sleeping beauty (Tanya) have surfed. 20 guys in the line up with shoulder high waves. An OK first surf.

The wind picks up a bit and a couple of bigger sets, we head around the corner and try a left by ourselves. It looks OK from the boat but hard work in a strong current. We anchor near Aloita Surf Camp for the night.

After dinner we all watch Geni photo's from the days surfing.


October 4

Captain Eric has the boat back at Telescopes by 6am. Just a puff of wind and 6 ft sets. Some of the guys head out on the high tide. The girls and I wait for the tide to drop a bit so we can catch a few inside waves. It gets pretty crowed. Some of the boats have 12 to 13 guys on them. Way too many.

The surf is solid and the wind is across shore putting a few ridges on the wave face. There are some good ones but it is tough conditions for most of us. Tanya and Anna go for a paddle on the two SUP's that are on the Addiction.

We are eating really well with great food. Our chefs Andy and Tony are doing a great job. Azman is the boats engineer and Yudi the boat boy.

We surf till dark then back around to the same anchorage as last night. Uno, drinks, dinner, slide show and a movie before bed.
October 5

We are back at Telescopes at 6am. Glassy conditions and although the swell has dropped a bit there are still head high sets. Not as many guys but testing conditions. Burritos for second breakfast today then a snooze. After our snooze the blue sky has gone and it is raining. The across shore southerly has come in but as we watch the wind tends more offshore and strengthens. More rain and squalls. Alena and I sneak out as the last squall finishes. It has glassed off, we paddle up the line and end up having a great surf. Best of the trip so far. Fish Burgers for lunch.

Everyone is tired, by 3.30 with heaps of waves under our belts and a strengthening Southerly wind we decide to head south to find some different waves for tomorrow.

The girls have a wake surf at our anchorage as night falls. We have dinner and watch Carl's video of the days surf. After that Captain Eric drives the boat further south to Maccas.

Ouch!!! Didn't hit the reef but was asked by a Taiwanese surfer today if I was coaching my granddaughter. Alena has been mistaken for my daughter before but granddaughter? Alena must be younger. 

October 6

We are up at 6 again and the girls and I have a fun surf on a small shallow left before we take the boat around to Maccas. All the girls get some waves while Alena gets a bomb set.

At Maccas the wind is almost onshore but there are four foot plus sets and fun waves. All the boys surf and when the crowd thins so do Alena and I.

Carl has been videoing from shore and after lunch we watch the video and talk about technique. Some in English and then a flurry of Russian.

We anchor inside Maccas, the skipper tells us he has a quick release system for the anchor in case of a Tsunami. Maccas camp was wiped out in 2010 along with a couple of boats cannoning into each other. Everything is OK but I grabbed the life vest from under my bed and put it next to me before I went to sleep.

October 7

We are up before dawn, the swell has dropped so we are out in the lineup. It is only small with the occasional head high set. There is a boat with about 13 or 14 surfers on it. Why you would charter a holiday with that many guys amazes me. They are cool guys but they like to surf together. Another thing that always amazes me is why you don't surf in some sort of shifts to minimise the crowd. Anyway we have a bit of fun. After breakfast the last boat leaves and Alena, Tanya and I surf waist high Maccas by ourselves. It ain't epic by a long shot but fun. There have been the customary coral scrapes. Alex has a pretty cool fin chop across his back.

The swell is dropping so we head down to Thunders. The boys are out and surf till late. Anna and Tanya explore the beach returning with a pile of shells.

There is always a snack with drinks before dinner. Smoked salmon and Bruschetta have been the favourites. Lasagne is on tonight's menu. 

October 8
Swell has dropped, the girls and I take the rubber ducky over to Budhas, a small wedge left that is just a take off. Not much happening but we surf for a couple of hours. Back on the Addiction a group meeting decides while there is no swell we will do the customary harbour master check in at Sikikap and prepare for tonight's beach BBQ. Tanya, a DJ in Moscow is busy designing the play list from her massive music library. We steam up towards Rags Left and hook a mackerel on the way. Alex and Andrey take turns landing the fish. Not long after Dimma reels in a dog tooth tuna. That will take care of the sashimi for the next couple of days.

Rags Left is one of the waves that the Tsunami ruined. The reef lifted and while there still are waves the quality is not even close to its former glory.

The crew have some hard work ahead taking all the food and drink including a BBQ over to a beautiful stretch of beach just inside the left to set up the night’s festivities. Sate Squid, BBQ chicken, salad and potatoes.

Yudi is the pyromaniac and has three bonfires raging on the sand. It's party night and the drinks cabinet takes a hammering. Not quite sure when it all finished because I sneak back. To the boat but I am pretty sure there will be no early morning start.

Oct 9

6.30 And no one has woken. I give the crew a hand to clean up and have a quiet breakfast. The swell still looks small but no one is going anywhere in a hurry.

Alena and Dimma are up but not for long and need another nap. At 8.30 Alena resurfaces and the two of us leave Thunders in the rubber ducky and surf Budhas. Carl surfs with us with a water proof video camera. Plenty of fun lefts, we surf for nearly three hours. When we return Andrey and Artem are out at Thunders, everyone else is trying to blow away the cobwebs. Pumpkin soup and toasted sandwiches for lunch.
The girls and I take a trip back to Budhas for an uncrowded surf. Tanya has been using a Bourton Silver Bullet. She is having a great time. Anna gets a couple of good ones as well while Alena is having great success working on her cutbacks.
 Meanwhile the boys are snagging some barrels at Thunders. Froddo who has been suffering from last night’s BBQ snaps his legroom and busts the fin out of his board. The Addictions engineer, Azman is a Mr Fixit and gets to work repairing the damaged board.

One of my favourites Rendang, a spicy beef curry is part of the menu tonight.

October 10

My neck and shoulder muscles are starting to ache after the long surfs yesterday. Time to hit the Voltaren tablets. I am up at 6 but struggling a bit, lucky for me the rest of the guys are a bit stiff and sore and tired as well.

Will be giving the Addictions massage chair plenty of time today.

Everyone sleeps in a bit so we take the big boat over to Budhas. The swell is starting to kick and while the wave is just a takeoff it has plenty of power. Alena gets a couple of good ones. Tanya gets slammed by a big one and loses her board. Froddo has a crack as well, he is a powerful unit and could paddle an icy pole stick over broken glass. He goes over the edge regularly and makes a couple.
For a change of scenery we head north to Roxy's. There are two boats there but really small. We decide to return to Thunders. A couple of the boys head out while Artem rigs up his kite surfing gear. He leaves here for Mauritius where he works as a Kite board instructor.  After the boys had a good crack at Thunders we head to Roxy's and managed to reel in a good sized Spanish mackerel on the way. Roxy's is crowded but Alena gets a few good ones, waist to shoulder high.

October 11

We hit Roxy's by 6am. Another boat comes around the corner so everyone gets in to scare them off. That works but 4 other guys turn up and spoil our party. After a two hour surf another boat turns up. They have 11 guys on board. I still find it strange that you would do a charter with that many guys. 11 guests plus a surf guide, maybe a surfing photographer and or cook and you have a massive crowd before you start.

There is a massive tropical storm brewing with lightening and ear splitting Thunder. I love these storms but the boat of French surfers don't like it one bit and head back to their boat really fast.

There are plenty of boats this year and more land camps. With the predominantly southerly wind which is normal for this time of year the surf-able breaks are limited. We surf small inconsistent waves at Roxy's all day. We anchor around the corner but with a sniff of swell our plan is for the boat to head to Maccas around 4am so we can be there at dawn.  
October 12

The wind is right at Maccas but yesterday's storm produced a sloppy wind swell. There is the odd one but disappointing seeing it is our last day. We try searching out more spots heading back north but the weather deteriorates. Wind and rain. Everything is junk. Our last stop is HT's. The captain and crew have a same day turn around so they are keen to pull the pin and keep going to Padang. Obviously we want at least one more surf no matter how bad. After another massive down pour the wind eases and the are some reasonably clean head high waves at HT's. Andre creases his board on his last surf. The same happened to him last trip. (Grrrrr!!!) The sun even comes out so Anna and Tanya head to the beach for a few fashion promo shots.

The last guy gets out of the water and the boat guns it to Padang. Captain Eric has hit the gas, we are running with the wind and the crossing only takes 4 hours. The not so fun part is packing up boards etc with the boat rocketing back to port. There is still video and photo's to buy from Carl and Geni. The video package is really cool and Geni with hasn't missed a wave with his camera. The Indo crew are a really good bunch of hard working guys and deserve their tip. 

October 13

The party is certainly over now. The boat is being cleaned and restocked while we do our last minute packing and get ready to head to the airport. I have to find my thongs, haven't seen them since we first boarded the boat. The Indies Trader 3and 4 are in port. Doris Elthrington's new boat and the Rip Curl boat are in port as well. From the reports Scuzz from Sumatran Surfariis is scoring some fun waves out in the Ments in a sneaky spot.
It is a bit strange being back on land but the drive to airport in the rain with the car horn blaring and the occasional passing in between trucks, cars and motorbikes wakes your senses up.

I am international through to KL while Alena and all the guys are domestic through to Jakarta where they split and go their separate ways.

Was it a good trip? ......  

Over all the surf was average by Mentawai standards but a trip to this region is always special. We will be back!!

Saturday, 2 June 2012

The Maldives 2012

Maldives Surf Coaching Trip. Pasta Point / Surf Charter 

The Maldives
May 14th
Only 14degrees and a howling South West onshore wind on Phillip Island so really happy to be leaving. I have setup a coaching surf trip with my Russian friends through the guru of surf travel Ian at Atoll Travel.
I am meeting two surfers Alena and Artem who are flying in from Europe at Pasta Point (Dhonavelli Resort at Chaaya Atoll) we have planned five days surfing the famous left before six more friends meet up with us for a Charter boat cruise of the central Atolls on a boat called Thei. The normal trip from Melbourne is an eight hour flight to Singapore then a transfer for a four hour trip to the Maldives. A really simple and easy trip. Alena and Artem have their boards stored at Villa Casa in Bali so after flying to Singapore I jump on a plane to Bali and pick up their equipment, shoot the breeze with their friends Anastasia and Andre at the Villa till midnight then back on the morning flight to Singapore. I am only in transit but I have half a day to kill so a quick trip into the city for Indian Masala Dosai (my favourite snack) and a cruise around Little India. There is a department store called Mustafas and provided you don't get lost in side it has everything you could possibly need and the best price in town.
Singapore is a great town, well worth the stop. The airport has to be the most user friendly in the world and Singapore Airlines is my favourite airline.To be honest everything in Singapore is user friendly, train travel is a piece of cake and cabs are reasonably cheap. $20 will get you into the city from the airport.
I am on the 8.45 pm flight to Mali. The Atoll Travel boys meet me when I arrive and with minimum of fuss we walk out of the airport doors across to the dock and jump on a 20 minute fast speed boat that will has me at Pasta Point around 10.30 pm local time. 
I take my 6'3'' Simon XFC for the bigger more serious waves and a Bourton 6'0'' Little Zappa for the smaller fun softer waves.
Pasta Point

16th May
Sleep in till 7.30 this morning, Breakfast at the main dining room. You certainly won't go hungry here. There is an amazing buffet with a choice of excellent quality food. Feeling a bit more human I catch the 9am boat over to Sultans. The right is a bit inconsistent but every now and again nice long four foot sets roll through. Missed the early crowd and surf for an hour or so before the second shift gets there. Back to Pasta and the swell has built with inconsistent but fun sets. Pasta is off limits to all the charter boats so crowds here are usually a dozen or so guys. The air and water temperature are similar, the sun is baking hot and water is around 28 degrees Celsius. Crystal clear aqua marine ocean, post card stuff. I get a lift on the fast boat over to Male to pick up Alena and Artem who have arrived from London. The trip is only 20 minutes so we are back in time to sort out the rooms and enjoy a sunset surf. Dinner starts at 7.30 the biggest buffet you could imagine. Everything from Indonesian, European and Indian are spread out in a massive dining area just in front of the wave. Early to bed to ease the jet lag.

Maldivian word for the day is Keine' (How are you) response is rangalhu (Well Thanks) 

17th May
 We are up before day break for a surf, another good session with shoulder high sets. There is a massage service here but it is pretty expensive. Surf before a 5 course lunch. The wind has swung more offshore and we should go back in but need to rest up a bit.
Finish off the day with our third surf. There is a beach party tonight. $15 all the fancy cocktails you can drink. We buy tickets but are asleep before it starts. 

Maldivian word today is Shukuriya (Thankyou ) response is Maruhabaru (well thanks) 

18th May
Alena in the slot at Pasta Point
Up at dawn and Alena and I have a cracking session. Waist to shoulder high, clean as a whistle. Heaps of fun.  We are using Atoll Adventures video service and spend a couple of hours going over technique with Alena. Sea life here is amazing, sail fish and dolphins jumping. Fish are everywhere. We watched a Giant Trevally surf along in a wave today, looked amazing. Surfed again mid afternoon but the current was so strong the wave was unsurfable, if you could get one. We paddled in and 40 minutes later the current stopped and we surfed till sunset. The currents here are really hard to read, at a certain time of tides the water flow between the atolls raging like the strongest rip you have ever seen, then in a blink of an eye the current stops, the wave cleans up and conditions are perfect.

Maldivian word of the day today is a cracker. Whatafukar (excellent) 

19th May
Pretty windy early this morning, only two guys out. We take a Dhoni, traditional boat over to Sultans which is the right hander on the next atoll, it has better wind protection but not good enough to surf so we return and snorkel in the lagoon. Heaps of fish. Spear fishing and line fishing are banned around the atolls. The Maldivians worked out pretty early on that tourism depended on the coral and fish which was a great move.Fishing zones have been setup to maintain the fishery stocks.
A traditional Maldivian Dhoni

Maldivian word for the day Gadha kaley (you are great guy)  

20th May
Still windy and almost no swell. Still have a couple surfs but it is really lame. I do a refresher course of surf lessons with Madey and shadow. I have been doing the ISA level one coaching course theory with surf guide Shadow at night. The Atoll Adventure team at Pasta have been doing surf lessons for the resort's non surfing clients since I trained them in 2010. They use an area inside the coral fringe on the back side of the point. I was really impressed with their act. They deliver great surf lessons with a Maldivian flavour which is cool. The head of operations are Ashley and Dara, Dara takes a great photo and has employed a video guy called Charlie, we check out his edited video packages after dinner (which included Sushi and sashimi). Charlie, a professional from India and has done a great job. 

May 21
Our last morning and no surf. We decide to head over to Mali to pick up the Charter boat Theia. Theia is the Greek word for Sea Goddess. All the other guys are on board. Andre and Anna, Penza and Ira, Tanya and two more Ira's.
The Thei
The Thei is a big charter boat over thirty meters in length it has massive sized cabins and ensuites. Another smaller boat comes with us, even that is fifteen metres, we tow a rubber Ducky as well. Unfortunately the wind and swell are not cooperating so we travel further than first planned. We anchor around 5.30 and the guys wake surf behind the rubber Ducky until dark.

No more Maldivian words as I have switched to Russian so words for the day are Kryto and Klass meaning cool.

May 22
The charter boats in the Maldives don't do much night travelling so we are off again early morning and arrive at Meemu around 10.30am. Everyone is keen for a surf. We find a small right and everyone is out, not very serious but everyone has fun, we call this place Pumpkin Point after one of our Ira's nicknames. She catches about 25 waves. When one of the girls gets back from her surf she grabs a mask and snorkel and before we can say anything she jumps off the back off the big boat. The current going out to sea is so so strong, within 15 seconds she is 50 meters away. I throw a board off the boat and by now she is 150 meters away. By the time the board reaches her she is 250 meters from the big boat. We telephone the Ducky which is out with the guys still surfing. They pick her up on the way back. Pretty good lesson on how different the currents work between atolls.
Atoll, by the way is a Maldivian word. They are proud it is has been accepted worldwide.
A lot of the Atolls are privately owned with resort setups. It is cool to check out a village island and see how the locals live.
The girls and I surf for an hour or so until Mikey the surf guide says a storm is coming. The big boat has moved to a sheltered anchorage around the back of the atoll. By the time we are all in the smaller Dhoni a massive tropical storm hits, torrential rain, lightning and ear piercing claps of thunder. The girls are all huddled together trying not to look scared.The rain is so heavy the Dhoni slows to a crawl trying to navigate through the reef and find the big boat. We have a depth finder and GPS on board but the second captain is really cautious. We get to the big boat and in another ten minutes the storm has passed.
We have setup up whiteboard with English/Russian/Maldivian translations. Everyone including the Maldivian crew are having fun with it. Sashimi for dinner is really good.

May 23rd
We steam further south to Laamu. The swell is still dormant with no waves anywhere. We end up surfing a place called mashinas at knee to thigh high. It is a magnificent reef and I am hoping to see some swell on it. Lazy afternoon with a few guys wake surfing and a few checking out the island. We are in the change of seasons and there is some rain around at night. It is really hot and humid. A fresh hand of bananas has made it onto the back deck. We crossed the Equator today. No one gets too excited but always like it. 
May 24th
#%?%*¥ !!!!! Still no swell this morning. Up at 6am but super low tide and tiny waves. When the reef gets covered the girls have a surf. Small inconsistent waist high sets. I swim with the Go Pro camera and get a couple of good shots. Artem and Andre join us after an hour and a half. Tanya goes snorkelling with Hussan and sees a lot of sea life. Turtles, Sting Ray, Barracuda and heaps of reef fish.  
Penza - Boosting over me on an Endless Summer wake surfboard
25th May
Because it is super low tide we steam three hours south to Yin Yan. The swell is still lame but it is worth a gamble given Mashinas won't be surfable to mid afternoon. After a three hour cruise we arrive, and the wind is up. (again!!) This reef is a big curved reef with three sections. Supposedly all lining up on a big swell. It is onshore on the first section, cross shore on the second and nearly offshore on the last. Today is really messy and after the girls have snorkel we give it a try.  

May 26th
Still no sign of any rise in the swell so around 6.30 we head back up to Mashinas. It only takes two hours because we are travelling with the wind and current. It is pretty clean by the time the tide covers the reef. We get a few guys out while I swim with the Go Pro camera. The girls and I decided to surf but the current is really tricky and hard to find the line up spot in the inconsistent conditions.

One of our three Ira's
May 27th
We are up at 6am trying to take advantage of the earlier high tide. A storm comes through as we are travelling to the break by Dhoni. The wind is strong but the high light is seeing a pod of dolphins spinning out of the water. We only surf for 45 minutes, the wind is blowing up the face of the wave and the water is rushing off the reef. Not much reward for the risk of getting scraped over the coral. The wind changes a lot here with no massive land mass around. It tends more offshore and we are out. With cleaner conditions, fuller tide and a slight increase in the swell, Mashinas starts to show herself. A local guy from the island paddles out for a surf with us. Everything is great until one of the girl’s gets hit in the forearm with her longboard. She goes back to the big boat but after an hour she realizes the pain is really bad. Hussan the boat manager calls us in and she heads to the hospital about seven miles away. We are all hoping it is not a fractured wrist. She returns around 10.30pm. She has dislocated her wrist. The doctors have strapped it and given her some good pain killing tablets. 

May 28th
Up at 6am for another go at Mashinas. The swell has risen slightly and we get some good waves before the wind strengthens and the tide drops. We check out the left around the island but nothing doing. We wait until the afternoon and surf mashinas again, there a few solid sets coming through and it turns on for about 40 minutes. There seems to be only a small window for good waves when the swell direction and wind aren't right. Ira gets a smack in the mouth with her board and with a bit of blood we around we are worried she has damaged her teeth but all is good. Keeping safe on a charter boat is really important. 

The team watching the surf photo slideshow
May 29th
Up at 5.30 hoping for a last surf before any wind but it is really strong we wait and take the Dhoni out but it is really bad. We head back for breakfast instead and some of the guys have a wake surf session while we pack. When they return we head for the Kadhdoo airport. We take a small flight south and then continue north to Male. We still have eight hours to wait for our international flights. We store our luggage and take an express speed boat over to the capital. It only takes three minutes. We find a good coffee shop with WiFi and try and catch up with the world.
It has been a tough trip surf wise, certainly not the picture post card stuff like some of the days we had at Pasta but still a great experience. Surf charters can be tricky when conditions are average. You need to keep your sense of humour and be aware of everones needs and expectations along with a close eye on safety. Being badly injured miles from nowhere is not a good thing. There are always positives when searching out and surfing new destinations, wave conditions vary so much. There more different wave types and locations you experience the better surfer you become. 
Pasta Point is a super fun long left
May 30-31
Arrive in Singapore early, find a hotel and sleep. I really enjoy Little India in Singapore, great food and bargains. I contact Ajill from the Surfing Singapore Association. We cruise over to Newton's Circus for an awesome meal of jumbo size prawns and stingray. Makan Enak!! Ajill runs the association here in Singapore, it is pretty much a one or two man band. Everyone here is busy making a buck working long hours so it is hard to get volunteer help. The boys are doing a great job promoting our sport of surf and skate. I really enjoy supporting them.
I spend time cruising different areas, Arab Street and Beach Road during the day and Orchard road at night.
Had a great trip but always good to head home to Phillip Island.  

Translations: English Russian Maldivian

Thankyou.        Spasiba       Shukaria

Great guy.         Klassniy.     Ghada Kaley

Hello.                 Privet.          Kihine'

Let's go.             Davai.          Dhanvi

Good.                Harasho.       Baraabaru

Great.                 Klass.           Watafaka

Cool.                   Kryto.           Salhi

Wind.                  Ve'ne            Vai

Goodbye.           Paka.            Dani