In Indonesia I did a couple of boat charters to the Mentawai Islands. The waves there are amazing and I would like to share a true story with you about one particular charter I went on with Captain Keith. His charter business was called 'Get Slotted' and it turned out to be a trip I would never forget.
After 2 years of living in Dubai and watching my new blue Gash surfboard shaped by Greg Brown of Gash Surfboards gathering desert sand, it was time to go. I needed a surf bad!
Indonesia was like a second home. With others and on my own I had travelled all over the beautiful Indonesian archipelago. I loved it greatly. The people the waves and generally everything about the place
I ended up in a place called Bengkulu on the Sumatran Coast. It was there that I first met Captain Keith. A good bloke a bit out there but a good bloke.
The beach breaks out the front of the Losman were keeping me happy and were good fun. The whole place was good fun really. Captain Keith ran surf charters out to the Mentawai Islands from Bengkulu. I had been there before and knew how good it could be. Anyway Keith worked on his Indonesian charter boat each day getting ready for his next trip out there. We had beers when he got back to the Losman and talked about his day The trials and tribulations of running a charter boat in Indonesia was often discussed.. My charters are like a "camping trip on water" he would proudly say.
Capt. Keith had told me about a wave further up the coast that I was keen to find. He spoke good Indonesian and helped order a taxi to take me to the Bengkulu Bus Depot. The taxi turned up and I was loading me gear into the car. He was watching ready to say his goodbyes. I suddenly wondered what I was doing passing up on a trip to Mentawai's. There was room on the boat for me to join the charter. How much? I'ii help you get the boat ready. We organised a price we were both happy with and we shook on it. Glad to have you aboard. I gave the taxi driver some Rupiah for his trouble. I'm sure he thought we were crazy. When I saw the boat for the first time I wondered if I was! It was to late now. Only time will tell. A group of six surfers who had booked to go on the charter arrived. Turned out they were Victorians like me and only lived a few hours away from my home town.
They later told me they wondered what this feral looking bloke was all about. How come he was going on the trip and would be with us for the next two weeks. We all got drunk that night in high spirits as you usually do before a charter.The next day we were on the way. When everyone saw the boat for the first time they were disappointed. It was obviously a cheap trip for a reason. I had already claimed my bunk by putting my stuff on it. It was thankfully near the door where I had some air and could get out quickly if something went wrong. Out to the Mentawia's from Bengkulu was at least a 20- hr trip.Captain Keith was pleased that it was low tide. The boats mast fitted just under the Benkulu bridge. We were on our way.The Indonesian cook on the boat was annoyed that he couldn't get any mariwana before we left. He would have to go without for a couple of weeks. Great! I thought, as he solely sharpened his knives with a very strange look on his face. The boats diesel motor was load and shook through the boat. We were all asleep and suddenly everything goes quiet. I woke to Captain Keith breaking the silence in a load voice. He swore and yelled "There better be a good reason why were stopped" We were in a bit of trouble. The motor had stopped somewhere in the ??
The boat was side on to the current and was tipping heavily to one side. The ocean was washing all over the deck. One of the lads who had travelled with Keith previously tried to calm everyone down a bit. Don't worry he yelled the Indo's can get a motor started with a rubber-band and a bit of string. Didn't matter a bit of panic had set in. 'Get your passports' yelled out someone.
After what seemed like twenty or so long minutes Captain Keith and the Indonesian crew got the motor started. Thank god. That was close I had acted calm but was starting to get quite a bit worried.
We were now well off corse.There wasn't a GPS or any other navigational device on the boat. All Captain Keith had was a compass but he swears it was a good one!
In the morning light a couple of the lads were sitting on the bow of the boat looking for land. It was possible we had missed the Mentawias all together and were now heading for the top of Australia!
About midday one of them jubilantly yelled out "land" It was a sweet sound. I can now imagine what it would have been like for the early sailors and explorers looking for land all those years ago.
It was one of the bottom islands of the Mentawai chain. It didn't take that long and were anchored up at a wave that featured in a champion surfer Tom Carrol video called "The Hole" . A shallow intense left barrel. We were straight into it. It was hard to believe it was happening after what we had been through. As everyone came in one by one stoked Captain Keith smiled to himself and goes "Yep a good session at The Hole and everyone soon forgets' Some of the trip was spent at another good left called Macaroni's. We must have looked a site to all the other surfers and boats, sitting out on the deck of the Indo boat plastered in sun screen and mosquito repellant.
A couple of us paddled over to one of the other boats. They were all sitting in their air conditioned luxury galley watching videos of themselves surfing. We opened their door to go in. "Quick shut the door, mosquito's!" they say.
Looking back, Captain Keith flirted with all our lives with his camping trip on water but it was one hell of a camping trip and one that I'll never forget.
Flicking through a surfing magazine a few months later in the newsagent there was a story about a surf charter to the Mentawi Islands. The boat had sunk. The surfers on board were rescued by another boat in the area. I wasn't surprised at all to see it was Captain Keith's 'Get Slotted' boat. I smiled to myself and went surfing!