Photos by Ryan Robson, words by Jeff Mollencop
People ask me all the time how I came up with the name Moment Surf Company. The simple answer is I wanted something that captured the spirit of adventure and thrill you get from riding waves. As surfers, we are always on the search to find that special “moment” when conditions are right and the waves are perfect. We can’t simply walk down to the local basketball court and pick up a game, or drive to the golf course and sign up for a tee time. Nothing is on our time schedule. It has little to do with what we want and when we want it. It’s up to Mother Nature and on her time frame. Each time we surf, we hope the waves are good, that the winds will cooperate, and that the swell direction is right. Unfortunately for most surfers, these conditions don’t happen very often. So in the attempt to maximize our quality surfing time, Surf Travel was born. We search out certain places, during particular times of the year, where the likely hood of scoring good surf is far better than at your home break. We navigate the globe in the attempt to create “moments” to fill up our memory bank. No place on earth offers more waves and pristine conditions than Indonesia.
I have gone on two boat trips to Indonesia with the guys at banyakislands.com and they run a first class surf charter. Marcus Keeshan and his brother Myles are great guys from Australia and have been operating in Northern Sumatra for over 10 years. From the unbelievable food that Marcus’s wife Ayu serves up, to the well planned out and ultra-comfortable boat, this operation is pure quality. On my last trip, they started talking about doing charters during the “off” season of December, January and February. The Maluku’s are the only Indonesian islands on the Pacific Ocean. They pick up swell from the winter storms that are created near Japan and eventually make their way to the west coast of North America. The boys talked about empty line-ups, reef passes, and high quality waves. I told them “sign me up for the first charter”.
Our schedules didn’t allow us to make their initial trip, but my good friends Blake Kauer, Neill Barker and I were on the second excursion to this virgin surf destination. The research we did prior to leaving called for shorter period swells with an average wave height of 4 to 6 feet, and with nobody else around! This sounded perfect for practicing turns and maybe finding a small barrel or two. So we all packed up our favorite shortboards and a “go to” fish or small wave groveler. 3 full days of travel that included 6 flights and countless drinks, we finally meet the boat and were ready to hit the water.
After greeting my old friends and touring their new boat, the next words out of Captain Marcus’s mouth were “we’ve got swell coming, but unfavorable winds also”. I guess Mother Nature gets mad at Indo too! “But don’t worry, I know a spot that should be good”. So off we went, motoring to a spot that isn’t in any surf guide book or on Magicseaweed.com. Along the way we stopped to surf a couple decent lefts that were fun, but hardly the “classic indo” surf we flew around the world for. The Captain’s secret spot was our intended destination and everyone was bouncing off the walls with anticipation.
Our first view of this tiny island was something out of a surf movie. One side of it had a perfect peeling 200 yard right; this regular footer’s dream. The other side had a slightly shorter but steeper left, more intense but still very welcoming. The wind was blowing off-shore on the right, so we decided to paddle out there first. Just as we were about to jump in, the Captain says “wait, it looks like it is going to turn on-shore in a few minutes”. We were so amped at the perfect canvas in front of us that we jumped in and headed over. By the time we reached the line-up, the Captain’s words had come true. The once perfect head high right now had a bump on it. We still surfed it and everyone had fun, because coming from Oregon we can hardly complain about a slightly choppy tropical reef break. But this series of events seemed to replay itself time after time for most of the first week. If it was the right or the left, another island or different reef pass; good sized waves but unfavorable winds. “Is this some kind of cruel joke Mother Nature?”
Around the start of the second half of the trip, we were all starting to get a little frustrated. We had visions of clean, perfect, “Indo” style waves. Fun was being had for sure, but conditions were just not lining up. Then the Captain came to us with a more favorable forecast. The winds were dropping and the swell was picking up. The call was made to travel through the night to a reef pass that might hold more potential. He had surfed it once before but on a much smaller swell. We were all ready for something new and were okay with whatever we found. None of us were prepared however, for what Indo and Mother Nature was about to hand us.
We woke up the next morning with the sunrise and could quickly see the potential of this pass. Several waves were visible, all very long and steep lefts. The winds were blowing off-shore and the waves looked over head high. We decided to surf a wave the Captain had named Mini-lands. We all had a blast, but couldn’t help but be drawn to the larger waves breaking on the other side of the pass. We made the call to surf there the next morning. Even the Captain hadn’t surfed it yet, and everybody was excited to see what it was all about.
The tide was high early in the morning and the wave was a 100 yard long wall of pure fun. Well over-head and fast, but still very friendly. As the tide dropped however, it became a freight train that barreled from the take-off all the way through to the channel. You had to fully commit to the drop and hold your line till the barrel finally let you out. After one particularly good set, the Captain and I exchanged high fives and paddled back out to the line-up together. He was super stoked and kept saying “in 10 years of searching, that’s one of the best waves I’ve ridden in Indo, one of the best waves”. Maybe it was because nobody else was there, or the joy of finding a new wave, but it’s definitely a “moment” that none of us will ever forget. We all ended up catching the best waves of our lives this day. In the end, I guess Mother Nature and Indo just wanted to remind us that even in paradise, “moments” don’t happen every day.
*Don’t bother asking any of us where exactly this wave is, we’ve all been sworn to secrecy. But I am sure the boys at www.banyakislands.com will be happy to take you there next season on a charter. And if you go, I suggest packing your favorite shortboard, a step-up, and small wave groveler.