Two months straight spent in the remote Mentawai Islands in Northern Indonesia is such an incredible amount of time to bask in waves beyond perfection. Time itself becomes an illusion and having no rules to be dictated by makes life taste so sweet. However I was certainly ready to escape back into the “real world” for a break and to re-appreciate life in the islands. Mum was flying over from Australia to spend three weeks with me throughout Malaysia and Bali.
I found myself mostly inland in Malaysia, exploring ancient cities far away from the world of surfing and learning about colourful cultures.
After researching a small island off the coast of Malaysia, I spontaneously booked mum and I some cheap flights and we were on our way. Hiring a car we drove around the island in a day, finding monkeys in forests, waterfalls and beautiful untouched beaches.
One morning I woke early and went to find a beach we could both enjoy for the day. Winding through the beach roads under jungle canopies, I found myself down the end of a sandy road, where the ocean opened up to a chain of lush islands and limestone cliffs in the distance.
As I got closer I saw some swell in the shore break. I couldn’t believe my eyes, I never knew waves to be in Malaysia but there was a good 2ft of swell!
Racing back to our unit, I told mum the exciting news as she woke with sleepy eyes. I said we had to go straight back to the beach I had discovered so I could try to find a surfboard of sorts.
“Aren’t we meant to return the car and check out in a couple of hours?” she asked with concern. “It doesn’t matter they seem pretty cruisy around here, c’mon you have no idea how exciting this is!”, I replied as I pictured myself on the cover of Tracks Magazine surfing at the foot of Thailand with the green islands as a backdrop.
I started grabbing things I thought mum would need for a lovely day at the beach, sunblock, bathers, towel and placed them next to her in bed. “Pleaaase c’mon I’ll buy you lunch if we can go now”. Reluctantly she got out of bed rolling her eyes with a small grin.
We pulled up at the end of the road and I bolted off to try find a surfboard. “Wait I need you to put some sunscreen on my back”, mum asked. I turned around mid-run with my hair flying in the breeze, feeling like a puppy with its tongue hanging out of the car window at 100km speed, “Back soon!” I replied.
I had trouble containing my excitement as I raced from timber beach shack to timber beach shack eyeing off the stack of assorted tourists toys, wakeboards and blow up rafts, but no surfboards. I checked two timber shacks and at the last one I spotted a grommet’s shortboard under the pile of other boards.
By this stage my heart was racing out of my chest as I shuffled the board out of the pile. The only people on the beach at this stage were a few Muslim women bearing entirely black hijabs, their eyes the only part of skin revealed.
They stood in the sand with hands resting on hips and curious eyes glued at the site of this blonde girl running around with a surfboard.
I frantically tried to find the owner of the board and asked the first Malay guy I saw. “Selamat Pagi, I really, really want to go surfing on this board, do you know whose it is?”. I asked. “Pagi, uhh this is my brothers, he is not here yet, I can’t let you use it until I check with him is ok” He replied.
“Oh please I know how to surf I won’t break it, here I have money”. I said as I pulled some Ringgit out of my pocket, some notes flying loose in the sand. “I want to check with him that it is ok first”, he responded. I kept pulling more notes out of my pocket until he couldn’t resist.
Handing the notes to him and thanking him profusely, I skipped off down the beach, waving to mum with a big grin as she sat on the beach awkwardly trying to lather sunscreen on her back. Shit I forgot.
Making a detour I ran up to her, “Can you believe it, I got a surfboard!”. I yelled excitedly. “That’s nice honey, can you please put some sunscreen on me, it’s baking hot already, I’m going to get so burnt”. I squirted out far too much sunscreen and loosely massaged the cream into her back, leaving a white coating over her skin, before grabbing the board and bolting into the ocean. “Won’t be long!” I yelled back to her.
Even after surfing two months of solid conditions, I think I was almost more excited to be surfing this tiny shore break in a country where I never knew waves existed.
“My first wave I was able to race far down the beach, straight past the woman in their black hijabs with the Malaysian flag flying high in the background. It was such a surreal feeling as the woman watched on although they had never seen a girl surfing before, and they probably hadn’t”
I surfed for half an hour before a parasailing boat turned up ready for a busy day entertaining tourists. The boat launched right next to where I was surfing and I had to be careful not to be caught up in the ropes. I watched as they completed a full lap of the bay, perhaps about 5km long before returning to the same spot and picking up the next tourist.
As the boat launched it created a lot of wake and if I timed it with a set it added another half of a foot to the wave.
The young Malay guys that were the guides started to notice what I was up to and would laugh each time they launched out and high above my head into the sky.
One guy in particular would give me a shaka on each lap and yell out “yeaaah surfer girl!” with a huge grin. A couple of hours into the session mum started pacing up and down the beach and signalling for me to come in. Like a cheeky young grommet I held my finger up to tell her ‘one more wave!’.
Of course I could have spent all day out there but I may have had to take mum to hospital with third-degree burns from sitting in the hot Malaysian sun.