From Serangang, Bali it was an overnight sail of 60nm to the iconic Grajagan or G-Land in the Alas Purwo National Park on the SE corner of Java. G-Land has been on the surf map for over 30 years and there are three surf camps located along the point. Otherwise there are no villages nearby and the jungle spills out to the beach and water. We arrived around 2:30am & hove-to until dawn – no matter how we plan our departure, a knot faster or slower makes hours of difference and it’s uncanny how we always seem to arrive at our destination at night.
The anchorage has a good view of the line-up, with the first surfers in the water around 7am and enjoying a solid 2m surf. The Ranger was happy to see us and collect the Rp300,000 per day anchoring and surfing fee. By the time we did some dinghy exploring and got organised for a surf it was mid-morning and there were 40 surfers in the water. Picking the right wave amongst the crowd at G-Land is an artform – you either get a superfast long wall, faded or a section that squares up and takes you down for a visit to the reef below. There’s no substitute for time in the water to work a place out, so our first session was more of a learning curve.
Next day we were keen and paddled across from the boat early to get a few waves before the crowd arrived. It was a mixed bag and we got a couple of waves to keep in the memory bank. A few more sessions and I could see myself loving this place. After a double round of bacon & egg sandwiches, it was time to decide to either stay or keep moving. Ben wanted to stay; “you never leave good surf to go looking for surf” and I thought the swell would hold and wanted to get closer to the Mentawai Islands before our visa expires.
In what would turn out to be a “I told you so” decision we weighed anchor, bound for Panaitan Island, which is part of the Ujong Kulon National Park on the NW corner of Java and noted for a variety of good surf breaks. After 570nm we arrive at 3:30am and wake up to a small swell. Nevertheless, we stayed for a few days; surfed Napalms and enjoyed the bay – snorkelling, paddle boarding, exploring the shoreline & fishing. And boat repairs.
With no new swell on the horizon, we decided to head to Padang and clear out early to give ourselves more time for the passage to the Maldives. We are around 6⁰ south of the equator the SE trade winds are noticeably weaker – we had enough fuel to make Padang with a modest reserve and Ben wanted to pass on heading out to the Islands of Enggano & Mega searching for waves. This turned out to be a wise decision, as there was hardly a puff of wind for our passage to Pagang and had we detoured we could have been becalmed, without fuel, for some time. After motoring for 470nm, we hove-to outside the harbour at 1.30am before making our way into the muddy waters of the Padang industrial port, at dawn on Sunday 25th June.
Our plans to clear out were thwarted once we realised we had arrived just before the four-day Idul Fitri holiday at the end of Ramadan. The Government Offices would be closed until Friday, our visas expired on Tuesday and there is a Rp300,000 fine per day per person for overstaying. When our clearing agent suggested we could get harbour clearance on Tuesday and avoid the fines, with some public holiday facilitation fees, it seemed to be the better of our choices – at least we gain a few more days to visit and surf the Mentawai Islands. At the end of a long day the Quarantine official played his ace of another $100 fee for the required health documents – I realised the futility and nevertheless attempted to explain my agent that Quarantine was an inward requirement rather than a departing one. We both knew it was irrelevant in the context of the objective for the Harbour Master to sign the Port Clearance, so I paid the fee. So much for the Yacht Electronic Registration Scheme.
After an overnight passage lit by electrical storms, we arrived at the Mentawai Islands on Thursday – after checking Kandui and Hideaways which were affected by unseasonal wind, we found our way to ebay with a good anchorage and a nice-looking lefthander with a nasty end section. Often reef waves finish on shallow coral rather than a safe exit into deeper water – these are variously referred to cheese grater, hamburgers, greedys’, surgeons table etc – you get the picture.
Thursday afternoon drew a crowd of over 20 surfers from the homestay and nearby resorts. Friday morning Ben & I were into it early with only one other surfer out – for some reason the afternoon sessions seem to draw the crowds. About an hour and half into the session I took off late on a set wave and thinking as I free fell, ‘this is not going to end well.’ I got off with some light scratches and my favourite and only board was axed in half by the lip of the wave. The top half washed ashore to the eager kids scoring a new board and I paddled back to the boat to mourn the loss. So long and thanks……………………
Ben surfed seven hours that day and scored some amazing waves – he still hasn’t forgiven me for not getting any photos. He also chatted to surfers in the line-up through the day, including a group from Newcastle on the last day of their charter trip. We were invited on board “Sibon Bau” for beers before they headed homeward. Since it was their last day, I wondered aloud if any of them would be interested in selling me one of their boards. A couple of options emerged from the ensuing discussion on length, volume etc, with a 6’6” Firewire the favourite. Now to the price and amazingly I was given the board! It was an incredibly generous gesture that I am infinitely grateful for. I don’t have his contact details and he has mine, so I’m hoping there’ll be an email with the presentation picture sometime. I’d still be happy to buy it if he woke up feeling it was a moment of irrational exuberance.
I took the Firewire out on Saturday and got some excellent waves before Ben & I weighed anchor and made way for the Maldives.
*Photos by Ben