Lance's Rights Mentawai Islands
A real pretty photo of the wave called Lance's Rights, the most sought after, or at least most highly populated, wave in the Mentawai Islands. | Photo: Uge/Aquabumps

10 Crazy Things You Didn’t Know About the Mentawais!

Waves that disappear, salt-water crocs and an upcoming apocalypse! Come to the Mentawais before it all goes to hell!

It’s a surf-photo studio, these pretty little islands halfway along the Sumatran coast, neither west nor east. Their proximity to the equator, one-and-half degrees off it in most places, means y’get, mostly, desultory winds and, in season, roaring south swells, coming all the way from the tip of South Africa.

But I wonder, how much do you know about these islands that fill our magazines, that decorate our websites and provide the promotional material for every surf co and colour all performance surf films?

Did you know, for instance…

1. Doomsday approaches!

Geologists believe we have 150-year earthquake cycles. And the Mentawais are at the epicentre of the Pacific Ring of Fire where tectonic plates meet. It’s an even chance there’ll be a monster rumble within 30 years; something that’ll make the quake of 2009 look like a kid’s  party. Plenty of villagers got the message when the Boxing Day and Nias tsunamis went down a decade ago and moved shop into the hills thus surviving 2009’s quake.

2. But not the village at Greenbush

You know Greenbush? Craig Ando, Damo Hobgood, etc, riding the most picturesque of lefthand barrels? There used to be a village of 200 people right there. They got… swatted in the 2009 tsunami. The village evaporated. An entire community wiped out. Go there now and it looks like a steamroller drove through the jungle.

3. Boat SOP for surviving a tsunami

When the Boxing Day tsunami in 2004 killed quarter of a million people in 14 countries and sunk hundreds of boats, an English sailor-surveyor was in Aceh, got his boat off anchor and climbed … just… over the tsunamis. What did he learn? That you need to anchor in a minimum of seven metres of water to have a chance of survival and you need to have some kinda quick-release on your anchor. Good boats will anchor… deep. Fifteen metres or more .

4. Salt-water crocs and orcas too!

Rare in the open ocean, but it happens. They live in the estuaries that meander up the islands. If you wanna buy one, and who doesn’t, go to the right village and they’ll get you a baby for a couple of hundred thousand rupiah. Keep him on chain. Feed chicken. Little pods of orcas come by every season too (impossible to catch or buy).

5. The waves disappear!

Every time the tectonic plates shift, reefs move upwards, in feet, not inches. Back in ’91 Martin Daly took Pottz and Tom Carroll to a monster lefthander. When a quake a decade later hit, the reef moved five feet. Gone. Happens all over the chain. It’s called “uplift.” Waves appear; waves disappear.

6. Illegal logging is mostly over

Illegal logging was rife forever in the Mentawais. Who didn’t want some of that gorgeous Sumatran lumber? Then, two years ago, the governor of the Mentawais got sprung with $17 million in his account and was slapped in chains. Since he split, the logging has stopped.

7. Jamie O’Brien keeps a container at Lance’s Left

It contains SUPs, a jet-ski and a mother lode of surfboards. He visits a lot with his guy pals.

8. Locals won’t stay at the Bumi Minang Hotel in Padang

In the 2009 earthquake, it was pancaked. Hundreds of westerners died. Locals say it is haunted by the ghosts of all those poor souls and refuse to go there. One skipper I spoke to said he saw dozens of bodies being stacked like cord wood.

9. Overcrowding is hitting a critical mass

At least it is around the Playgrounds area, home to the well-known waves Rifles, Bank Vaults, E-Bay, Nokanduis etc. There’s at least seven resorts, various boats and innumerable home stays. Thirty people in the water? It ain’t rare. Who wants to fly, drive, fly, sail, and squat in a crowd?

10. It’s mostly Christian

Did you know that in this vast archipelago, the greatest and most wonderful concentration of muslims in the world, that the Mentawais is… Christian? Gorgeous little infidels right here in Allah’s paw! Turns out the missionaries were the only ones who could give enough of a damn to trek through the jungles and build and pay for infrastructure. The biggest structure, therefore, in this chain is a church. The payback is the Mentawais don’t receive the kind of government funding as, say, the nearby Telo islands where Islam dominates.

stephanie gilmore
The mysterious charms (but fierce eyes) of Stephanie Gilmore. Second at Snapper, second at Bells, second in the world. But, still, such order and beauty, richness and pleasure.

Stephanie Gilmore voted Waterman of the Year!

SIMA speaks!

The puppetmasters over at the Surf Industry Manufacturers Association announced today that they would be honoring our favorite salacious siren, Stephanie Gilmore, as Waterman of the Year.

Most of the time SIMA are the worst. Self-congratulatory. Self-important. Irrelevant. But they can’t be that bad if they love Stephanie as much as we do, right!?

Imagine the last 10 years of women’s surfing without Steph’s rookie CT championship run in 2007. She was untouchable, right out of the gate!

Six title later, she’s proven to be one of the more deeply interesting and rich personalities in women’s surfing.

And her sweet-as-pie demeanor hasn’t kept her from turning a few heads and causing a few shit storms. Remember this lovely, lovely ad for the Roxy Pro Biarritz in 2013! Oh the drama that ensued! Roxy got nothing but heat for the scandalous spot! The bare skin! The suggestive sauntering! Oh, Stephanie!

That spot got poor Chad Wells fired, after the “senior surf manager” got on Facebook and, in all his working class nuance, wrote “Some butchy lesbos were representing surfing (in the past). Not rigged out sexy women who are in touch with their sexuality and know exactly how they are represented and marketed. 1 well ridden wave at the end of this clip would’ve made the critics happy.”

(Read here!)

Anyhow, we loved the ad! We watched it So. Many. Times.

But beyond being “rigged out sexy” Stephanie was and is magic in the water. Beyond her gorgeous ripping in contests and clips, I’ve always loved “SINGLE”, that little clip Andrew Kidman released as part of his Spirit of Akasha. Kidman thought Gilmore’s lines at Greenmount were definitively Michael Peterson-esque, and threw Gilmore on a 6′ Parmenter channel-bottom single fin. The result was an epiphany, and resulted in a great story in The Surfer’s Journal and a gorgeous book.

(Click here!) 


Anyhow, Stephanie winning this award is some consolation for what has been an otherwise tough year, missing Margs, Rio, and now Fiji to a knee injury that she can’t seem to shake.

SIMA is throwing some sort of environmentalist award at Perry Farrell, whose music I hated when I was a kid.

Farrel was an “obvious” choice for Environmentalist of the Year because “Perry and his wife, Etty, are frequent Waterman’s Ball attendees making him the ideal recipient of the 2015 SIMA Environmentalist of the Year title. He has also been a long-time supporter of Surfrider Foundation.”

Which seems a stupid, shallow reason. Not to say Perry isn’t an environmental angel, just that SIMA’s reason seems idiotic.

And they are also posthumously giving the inimitable and sexually insatiable Doc Paskowitz a Lifetime Achievement Award, which is rad and something they should have done years ago. Because Doc was epic!

(You should read his book. Buy here!)


Did Jeff Divine drop straight from heaven?

He did! Bringing espadrilles for all!

Photographer to the Gods, Photo Editor at the mightiest mag of them all, The Surfer’s Journal, Jeff Divine has a new collaboration out with Soludos, slipper provider to yoga moms and stylish, albeit somewhat lazy-looking, men the world over (buy here)!

Today Soludos’ regular newsletter arrived in my inbox via my lady, who keeps buying Soludos despite their constantly falling apart, letting her down. (But they are so cute, she protests, and she is right.).

The newsletter is all salt-weathered wood, bright blues so crystal clear, so sparkly. And these adorable little slippers featuring Mr. Divine’s iconic work: the beach scene at Pipe. The crowd at Waimea jockeying and jostling. A photo I’ve seen before but can’t place, titled “Big Wave” but which is really not that big of a wave at perhaps Sunset?

But perhaps most fun of all, Jeff has a post on Soludos blog, with “10 of his favorite subjects”, each accompanied by ripe little descriptive sentences.

Like this one, describing a rainbow haloing Pipeline in all its glory “Sometimes the trade winds will blow the rain laden cloud cells through with the sun illuminating and rainbows appearing one after another.”


Anyhow, these espadrilles aren’t the worst thing I’ve ever seen. I mean, I wouldn’t wear them. But I wouldn’t be offended if you did! And surely we can call celebrate anything that puts money in Mr Divine’s pockets!

Is WSL running bait and switch scam?

Where is the line between fraud and brilliant marketing?

Scott Valor, friend of BeachGrit and passionate supporter of surfing, was home watching the latest women’s CT webcast. It is not strange, for have you seen the state of their surfing? It is better than yours, mine and Dusty Payne’s combined. But he witnessed something strange as the webcast rolled on. No advertisements! Just 1-3 minutes of static nothing in between heats! And Scott Valor picks up in his own words…

“Ok, you caught me. I’m watching the women’s event, but they are ripping.

What I don’t understand is why they say we’ll be right back after a commercial break, then we are treated to 1-3 minutes of a repeat wave video and a written announcement that they will be back after a commercial break.

But no commercials. None.

Are you getting that?  Is this some sort of payback to the viewer for shitty Rio (as in: We know Rio sucked, so here is a commercial free event before we throw up a pay wall for blown out Huntington Beach…)”

Just wondering.”

So now, there you have it. What do you think? Do you think the WSL is sucking in more viewers with unlimited freedom and then, POW, paywall? Do you think they will use the women’s tour as the guinea pig?

Bait and switch is, officially, a form of fraud in the United States.

The joys of being hurt

We all have a little John John in us...

I’m currently sitting in the waiting room of the Imaging Department of Wilcox Hospital, waiting for my name to be called so I can get what will be my third MRI in the last twelve months. It’s getting tiresome, this year and a half long string of injury and illness. But, if you’re gonna bright side it, I’ve got great health insurance and if you’re gonna be laid up somewhere for a bit there aren’t many places better than Kauai. Things could be worse. Much worse.

The funny thing is, I kind of like MRIs. I’m not typically a fan of confined spaces, but, for whatever reason, I find being stuffed into a garbage can that’s being beat on with hammers very relaxing. Also, I’ve read a lot of stuff online that says magnets have special powers so maybe all this exposure will make me a more attractive person! Ha! Get it?

There are a few people in here… Well, I don’t know if you’ve ever dealt with a sports injury that required surgery and rehab (not the drug kind), but you notice that the majority of people who blow out joints don’t do it getting radical. It’s more often a “rolled my ankle getting out of bed and the 350 lbs I carry everywhere made it explode” situation. I have no idea how they’re going to squeeze into the MRI machine. Those things are cramped. I have to contort my upper body into this weird shoulders-together shape to fit in one. I’ve read online that some places take fatties to the zoo, but we don’t have one here. Maybe the tech just uses a stick to jam ’em in? Like, the stick they use to load a cannon. Which is called a “rammer.”

When I got my shoulder surgery last year they used some dead guy’s ligament and I thought it would be funny to say, “It’s not from a black guy, right?” No one laughed but me. It made things a little awkward, but I just did what I always do when I open my mouth wide enough to jam a foot in ankle deep and pretended it didn’t happen until everyone either forgot or let it go.

Whenever I’m going under general anesthesia I make sure to ask the surgical team to refrain from raping me. I understand there’s no reason to think that would stop anyone, but I kind of hope that, once I’m out cold and one of the nurses is all, “Alright! Let’s rape this dude!” someone will point out, “Hey, he asked us to not.” “Yeah, keep it in your pants, we’ll just get the next guy.”
Once a surgeon came back, “Hey, I’m not a dentist!” which I thought was very funny. I don’t know why the fact that a doctor has a sense of humor would make me feel better, but it does. I suppose it shouldn’t What if I woke up and he’d sewn my dick to my leg as a prank? That’s not very funny.

There are two big flat screens in the waiting room. One’s playing daytime TV, the other is just a scrolling hospital/advertisement/news thing. I asked if they could put the surf contest on the second TV, but the lady says she’s not allowed. She won’t give me the wireless password either and the 3G connection sucks, so I guess I don’t get to watch the ladies in Fiji. No big deal, I’m sure I can imagine how it goes. A lot of really hesitant surfing, punctuated by the small handful of girls who can blow up powerful surf.

Something that sucks about living on an isolated tropical island, the medical community is very small. Meaning that there are only a few MRI machines on the island, and they’re always booked solid. Since my current deal is a little too serious to wait two months for an appointment they’re being cool and squeezing me in. But that means I have to sit here with my thumb up my ass until they’ve got time for me. Which could be half an hour, could be all day. Thank god it’s 2015 and we’ve got all these neat tech devices. Otherwise there’d be nothing to occupy my mind but years old copies of Entertainment Weekly and the occasional car mag.

My spirits are bolstered a little by the news of JJs ankle sprain. I watch the kid surf and can feel my joints popping, it’s not fair that he should this invincible young man who has the world by the short hairs. It’s nice to know he’s human. It gives me a little more patience during what may end up being another months long recovery.