Traveling the world as a surfer on the qualifying series – it’s a dream life, isn’t it?
Well, yes…but it also means a whirlwind of moving, away from family and routine, stressing out about competition results and getting to the next place and figuring out all the logistics…and the waves can sometimes be, let’s say, pretty ‘average’.
Finally, I had a week spare between competitions and it was time for a trip to a tropical paradise that promised waves and a connection with community. It was a bit of a trek – overnight in Singapore, then overnight in Medan, then a final flight and a 2 ½ hour drive – but it was all worth it! Lagundri Bay, one of the top 10 A grade waves in the world, nestled on the edge of the palm fringed island of Nias (off Sumatra) with a vibrant culture recovering from a catastrophic earthquake and tsunami, took the prize and was truly magical.
In her research of the area, Mum had come across an eco-resort where the owners, Mark and Debi, made community the core of what they were doing. The KabuNohi resort, directly in front of the main right hand break, is a relaxed, private oasis in traditional style; with an open, family feeling. The gardens are lush and beautiful and the separate huts are spacious and perfect for a surfing family – with racks for boards and to dry out the boardies and bikinis. The girl ‘squad’ who look after guests and the surrounds are bright and cheerful and I was so stoked to see them out on the waves too, sharing the joy!
Like all our family adventures, we try to learn as much as we can about where we are and give back to the community. Mark and Debi connected us with Augustinus, who’s helping kids in 10 villages in the area with a library and special classes in English and Maths. It was so special to be able to visit the kids and bring them some books, Billabong backpacks and other bits and pieces – to laugh and sing and run through the streets – and hopefully be able to keep up the support and visit them again in the future.
We had a (ridiculously) short 5 days at Lagundri bay – so we tried to cram in as much exploring as we could between surfs. A highlight was meeting the Hart family from WA and setting off on scooters (guided by the legend Elvira) to find the ‘Kings’ village, Bawamatluo, an amazing place nominated for World Heritage listing, where centuries-old traditional houses – built without nails – protect a living culture that maintains the cultural practice of barefoot leaping of a 2 metre stone pillar as a right of passage for men.
We looked at Yani (just the right age at 15) but he just shook his head. Apparently he’d rather charge a 3 metre barrel…Instead, the village guides (and Mum!) encouraged us to put on the traditional costumes and get into the spirit of things. We almost melted in the tropical heat – but the smiles and the enthusiasm of the local people made up for the humidity!
On our way back, Elvira took us off the main track – up a hill so steep our poor scooter needed a push from a friendly bunch of school boys – to a jungle path that wound 25 minutes through the forest to a stunning waterfall. The torrential rain the night before had topped up the water level and we had the most refreshing, rejuvenating experience! On the way home on the scooters, we weaved through the narrow streets (air conditioning provided by our still damp clothes) waving at always friendly people, arriving back in time for an afternoon surf session.
The next day we continued our exploring; wandering up the point to the spooky, abandoned tourist resort with decaying huts under towering coconut palms – a vision before its time…And a little further along an amazing lava flow area that had been pushed up a metre or so from the earthquake, creating beautiful, crystal clear ocean grottos and caverns. It felt like that island in the movie ‘Life of Pi’ – a pulsing, sighing, heaving tidal nursery for fish and ocean life. It was worth bringing the goggles along to try the free diving through the lava flows – sunlight trickling through the gaps.
We didn’t score a major swell while we were there (our five days were wedged between two pulses) – but even at its smallest, the Lagundri wave is beautiful – a long, clean right hand peeling wave over a deep reef that is relatively gentle on your skin! We left our reef shoes behind and managed fine on the walk back to the break. The wave was pretty crowded, but it was awesome to see at least half of the surfers were locals – and among them were several girls! Times are a-changing! We were happy to be able to bring a couple of extra boards, bags and other prizes along to encourage the local groms. The Hash family will be running a surfing competition in the next weeks, with around 24 locals signed up before we had even left!
Despite having so little time, our experiences shared as a family will last a lifetime. It is a place where simple pleasures, relaxed vibes and open hearts set the tone. We are so grateful to Mark and Debi and the Kabunohi family for having us, for the support from Billabong for the kids and to the people of Lagundri Bay for welcoming us and letting us share your waves!
Here’s a short video!