Wednesday, May 04, 2016

2016 first Indo trip report n.2

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In the previous report, I got to mid day of DAY 4 and that's exactly where I'm gonna pick it up for this report n.2.

That evening I went to see the premiere of a surf movie called Indo Style by Sean Gilhooley.
Before I describe it, I need to premise that, despite my love for surfing in all its forms (including watching on demand ALL the heats of the WSL contests), I do not particularly enjoy watching surf movies.
I'm ok with short clips, but I haven't seen a surf movie that doesn't get repetitive yet. Even the very acclaimed John John's "View from a blue moon" was quite boring for me and I left the theater well before the end.

This said, this movie was the best I've ever seen and I strongly recommend it. The first half hour was exceptional: very original angles and effects, good music and of course great surfing. The remaining hour was just as good (with the exception of a couple of songs that were not my style), but eventually it did get a bit repetitive too.
It's all about Indonesian waves and surfers. The big shots necessary for marketing it, don't really feature much in it and that was refreshing. Just like for the rookies at the start of a new WSL season, I find it fun to watch new surfers/styles.

Below is the trailer, I really like what Gerry says about the lack of anxiety that characterizes the vibe in Indo.

Joel Parkinson was there too and the guy in the middle is the film maker that did pretty much everything from filming to editing. Big kudos to him.


Sundays are beach days for the Balinese and this school class was there for some physical education. Pretty cool stuff, they looked excited.

It was the smallest day of the forecast and yet the longboard/beginner break called Batu Bolong (often erroneously mistaken with the adjacent Old Mens because of a popular restaurant/bar with that name right in front of it) still had waves like that. And crowds like that.

I surfed (and had fun at) Old Mens instead and here's a story I still consider hard to believe. Here's what happened.

I was by my bike getting ready to paddle out, when I saw a guy with a beautiful single fin longboard that had a "#5" on the bottom. Because of my chatty nature, I had to ask the guy:
"Is that a rental board? Because if it is, I', gonna be the one that rents it next!"
"Nah, that's my board", he answered smiling.
I'm good at spotting Italian accents even if very subtle, so my next question was:"where are you from?"
Obviously we then switched to Italian, but this blog is in English, so I'll translate.
"I knew it. My name is Giampaolo", I said while offering him my hand, "what's yours?"
I saw a flash in his eyes. "Giampaolo?! Giampaolo what?"
"Giampaolo Cammarota"
"No way, that's unbelievable!"

I hope I don't sound too rock starry if I say that I'm kind of used to public recognitions because of this blog, but I sure was surprised for that to happen in Bali!
"Why, do you know my blog?"
"My name is Tommaso R...., do you remember me?".
"Tommaso R.... are you kidding me, of course I remember you!"
We instantly hugged each other with great enthusiasm, happiness and brotherly love.

Tommaso and his brother were guests of the Paia vacation rental I was managing back in 2001. That was my first year in Maui and I shared with them many moments of intense fun, but some dramatic ones too. Read Chapter 2 of the Everything is possible series of posts if you feel like digging into that.

15 years later, by complete chance, we briefly were in the same place in Canggu, on the island of Bali. He had just finished his session and was about to leave, I was about to start mine. We did not recognize each other because we now look very different (both of us had short hair back then, plus 15 years are 15 years!) and if it wasn't for my curiosity about that "#5" on the bottom of his board, we would have possibly never have met again. But fortunately we did meet, the encounter was delightful and the selfie mandatory. Can you tell how happy we are?

BTW, I later found out that #5 is the logo of the Bali based Japanese shaper that shaped his board. His name is Go Kitahara and Go means 5 in Japanese. As simple as that. And thanks to that, I found an old friend. I mean, I could keep stressing the fortuities involved in this event on and on, but I won't, so I'll move on with the post.

But not before posting a photo of Tommaso cruising on a wave on that beautiful board of his (too bad you can't see it). BTW, the photo was taken before the encounter, when I still didn't know who it was.

And not before posting a detail of the shaper's logo that initiated the whole thing.
Sorry about all those words and details, but as you probably guessed, that was a special thing for me.

At sunset of that day I surfed a break called Pererenan, which rhymed very much with fun.
After that I had a beer with a friend at the guest house overlooking the break and we had Taj Burrow sitting at the table next to ours. My eyes were all for his gorgeous wife Rebecca Jobson though.
I gave her a 9.5 because, believe it or not, in the lobby I met a blonde that was a 10...
I might need to book a room for a day or two in that place!


There's no wave measuring buoys in Indo (at least that I'm aware of), so far I had to base my surf spot calls on what the forecasts was predicting. But there's now a HUGE aid: webcams! has 5 webcams in key locations. From the early morning observation of which, I could tell that the swell wasn't quite filled in yet (that is usually the case: swells arrive a bit later than both Surfline and Magicsweed predict, or at least they pick up very slowly).
So I could take my time, wait for the tide to peak in the early  morning and hopefully get a bit more energy on its way down. Clockwise starting from the top left: Uluwatu, Pererenan, Keramas and Kuta Beach. There's one in Bingin too, which I'll use to gather the size of Impossibles on big swells.

Also thanks to the lovely lady who showed up just in time to get in the frame, my favorite river mouth looked pretty good already in the early morning light.

And it looked even better later on with a little less water. And empty. And I scored it again by myself. I don't get it, but I sure won't complain about it.

At sunset I added another bit of knowledge to my base: you surf overhead Pererenan on the high tide (mid to high is the only tide you want to surf that spot), you're in for some intense paddling!


I woke up pretty early and left in the dark headed towards the Bukit. When I got by the airport the first light was coming out so I decided to quickly check the nearby reefs. With the binocs I saw some clean waves at Airport left and since I hadn't surfed it yet this trip I jumped on one of the first taxi boats. Conditions were definitely very clean, but it was very inconsistent and by 6.30 it was already pretty crowded. No big deal, I was pretty tired from the evening session the day before, so I had multiple lineup chats and still caught a few good ones like this one below.
Pushing hard on the back foot for a tight bottom turn is something you (sorry, I) can successfully do only on a glassy wave.

After that I abandoned the Bukit trip idea and went back to my Canggu base. I wanted to investigate on why the waves were so inconsistent and with the aid of Google Earth, I drew a few shadow lines on the map below.
Here's its legenda from south to north (top of the map to bottom):
KR: Kuta Reef
SR: Second Reef
M: Middles
AL: Airport Left
AR: Airport Right
J: Jimbaran
B: Balangan
D: Dreamland
B: Binging
I: Impossibles
PP: Padang Padang
RT: Race Tracks

And here's the shadow lines I drew:
194 for Echo Beach (one of the many breaks in Canggu, not on the map)
222 for Airport Left (yellow line)
236 for Balangan
247 for Padang/Impossibles/Binging

The swell of that day was pretty southerly and in the 6f 14s range and that explains the long waits at the Airport reefs. Like everywhere else, the bigger the size and the longer the period, the more the waves have the ability to wrap around land points.

Remember that massive swell from late June 2015, for example?
Well, if not here's the link to the post in which you can admire plenty shots of it. And below is how Jimbaran (the spot I surfed) looked like. It's normally flat, but a swell of that magnitude will wrap around almost anywhere, like a tsunami.

Another very important factor when evaluating possible wraps is the energy distribution in the directions range. When a forecast or a buoy calls/reads one direction, that does not mean that there are sets coming ONLY from that direction. That is just the DOMINANT direction.
Pat Caldwell is really good at pointing this out. When he's calling for -let's say- a swell from 300 for Hawaii, he always specifies that the energy will be from 285 to 315, for example. The more narrow the originating fetch is, the more narrow the directions range will be. That's why such a swell will be inconsistent at Hookipa (and more so down the coast towards Kanaha): only the more northerly sets will manage to get there.
Same happened for my Airport Left session. Only the sets coming from a more westerly direction managed to wrap around the Bukit and get there.

Btw, the east side of the Bukit has plenty spots too of course (some of them world class waves), but they're mostly rights and they get onshore in trade wind season, so I never go there.

Enough of that, sunset session was for the third time in a row at Pererenan and that is becoming a bit of a tradition. That wave is really fun and I was hoping to share a session with Taj, but I overheard his wife say that they're going to Mexico next, so they probably left already. He's doing exactly what he said he was going to do when he announced his retirement from the WCT: go on surf trips with his entourage of cameramen and photographers and produce clips that will blow our minds.
Well I didn't surf with Taj, but it was head high and only 5 guys out, so I had a blast anyway.


I woke up early again and decided to go straight to the Bukit, since I needed a break from Canggu.
This is how the forecast looked like. Next three days Surfline on the left, just Wednesday Magicseaweed on the right. Starting from this last one, notice how arbitrary the labeling of primary and secondary swell is. Calling 4.5f 13s primary and 3.5f 18s secondary is a total nonsense, as the second one will generate much bigger sets when shoaling upon a reef. That is the case for the first part of the day at least, then the two swells swap roles, making it even more confusing to read.

I much prefer Surfline's graphical representation. When you hover with the mouse over the arrows, you get the additional information of period and direction (which in this crop I had to write down for you guys instead), the size is indicated by the grid.

Both websites were calling for two overlapping swells (a declining 6-5f 14s from 200 and a rising 4f 18s from 223) and when I got to Uluwatu, sure enough that's exactly what it looked like, as the place is open to both those directions. See the crossing lines with a different angle?

Here, I give you another one. As a result, the conditions weren't particularly good and I chose to go check the other Bukit breaks down the coast to see if the shorter period swell from 200 would disappear.

As a matter of fact, Impossibles was very small (with a shadow line of 247, it needs a bigger swell for the energy to wrap in there), while Balangan (shadow line of 236) was receiving inconsistent but extremely clean sets of the longer period swell from 223.
Don't be deceived by the apparent perfection, as usual 9 waves out of 10 are too fast to be made over there, so I decided to drive back towards Kuta and catch the long period swell at the Airport reefs.

Instead of being pissed to having driven all the way to Uluwatu, I was stoked to have learned so much about swell directions/periods and spots in one single trip.

I was also stoked that that chicken that suddenly came out of the bushes and crossed the road in front of me didn't send me to the hospital. A few years ago I did hit one and fell, but it was on a turn on the road to Balangan and I was going very slow. A few scratches and a ding on my board were the only consequences of that wipeout. This time instead, it was just before the Padang bridge in a zone where the road was straight and I was driving 40-50 Km/h... it would have been a lot worse.
You guys are welcome to be scared about sharks if you feel like. I'm much more scared about chickens! Drive slowly on any Indonesian road with bushes and limited side visibility is my strong warning message: animals can cross in front of your bike at any time.

Back to the surfing report. I hit Middles at 10am on the decreasing side of a 8.13am pretty full tide and, as I expected, the waves were gorgeous. Unfortunately the crowd went from 5 to 30 in like 20 minutes. Those breaks are too crowded for my taste, I have to surrender to this fact. Got a couple of gems though and I'm not going to complain!

I'm going to briefly add that the sunset session happened at "my" river mouth. It usually is only a place for morning session, as it gives its best in glassy conditions, but the wind died early and it wasn't too choppy. It was actually pretty good and unusually with a bit of a crowd, but I did pretty good as I was clearly the surfer with the most number of sessions there. It's a tricky spot to lineup and you got to catch the wave in the right spot otherwise you either miss it or it jacks up on you too quickly. And for the first time in this trip, the sunset was gorgeous too.
Stay tuned for the final report n.3. Seen the forecast (9f 16s from 206 on Friday), there will be plenty photos of big waves. And wish me luck.

PS. In addition to the label 2016 first Indo trip, this post is also going to have the label Bukit and Kuta spots shadow lines which will help the access to it for future references. I know I will use it...

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