My first tube – The nirvana of surfing
Mentawai is considered one of the worlds best places to surf. Earlier this year in February I had the privilege to spend two weeks there at a surf camp called Pit Stop Hills. This first class camp run by Paul Clark and his fiancé Megan Devine sits on top of a hill right in front of a world class right-hander. Every morning Paul checks the surf and gathers the group of surfers that stays in the camp to call out where todays surf will be. The camp has two long boats and they take you to some of the best waves in the world. When I was there we surfed Pitstops, Nipussi, E-bay, Burger World, Pistols, Beng Beng, Bankvaults, 4 Bobs, No Kandui and a couple of secret spots.
A sweet tube approaching me and some friends in the line up at No Kandui – Photo: John Barton
This particular day we split up to three groups and I decided to explore some breaks far away from the camp. After checking Nipussi and Hideaways we ended up on a spot called No Kandui. The wave got is name due to the fact that it’s pretty darn hard to make the wave without getting stuck inside the tube. On top of this the wave brakes on top of shallow reefs and tons of underwater caves and channels makes the whole place pretty gnarly.
No Kandui breaking to the right in this picture. You can spot the underwater channels. Image: Clear Water Surf Travel
To get an even better understanding of the wave, watch this clip of supersurfers Tom Carrol, Benji Weatherley, Rizal Tanjung and friends surfing the spot in similar conditions that we had this day.
Our guide for the day is photographer John Barton and he orders the long boat to park next to the reef. As jump into the water he calls out “Paddle hard to make sure you don’t get stuck in the current.
I’m here with a group of Australians and our Elan that works at Pit Stops. As we paddle into the line up I decide not to go too deep into the wave as it seems to be closing out quite a lot. It turns out it’s a good strategy. I end up getting tons of waves all by my self and as the hours passes I’m getting to know the wave better and better.
Me duck diving through a wave in the Mentawai’s – Photo: John Barton
Then, suddenly as I’m waiting for a nice one the swell kicks and it seems a bomb is on the way. I prepare myself mentally and focus on staying in the right spot. Sometimes the wave shifts and the peak turns up where I’m sitting instead of deeper down the line. The monster that comes my way does just that. Seconds later I realise that this one will be perfect and I’m in the perfect spot.
One of the guys in the camp, Matt, getting ready to take off – Photo: John Barton
I turn the board around. All I need is two strokes before the board picks up speed. Within half a seconds the wave stands up and tells me it’s time to go. I put one hand on the rail and the other one on the deck. As I take off the wave stands up and I find myself falling down the wall of water. I start to fall and without thinking a grab my rail as I drop into a 6 foot wall of water. I lean into the wave and I land with the rail sticking into the face of the wave.
Suddenly everything goes green. Not green as in green green, but green as in turquoise green. Around me the roaring sound of the breaking waves goes numb. It’s like you covered everything some sort of acoustic dampening sound. I don’t have time to think cause I’m shit scared of falling onto the reef. But then after a second it slowly sinks into my mind – I’m in the middle of a kick ass tube. I’M RIDING A TUBE!
No time to think, the tube suddenly spits and I’m out of it. Still a big wall ahead and I do one bottom turn only to realise the wave will start tubing again. This time, already on my feet I don’t hesitate, I turn up the face of the wave and I tuck into a tubing position and I’m instantly rewarded with a ticket into the green room.
200 meters down the line I sum up the experience. Two really great tubes and a smaller one – all in a one wave. On top of that speedy surf down the line. This was the best wave of my life. I screamed out so loud that John, still shooting some photos from the long boat, realised I nailed a great one.
I’ve been waiting almost 26 years to tube for real. Many times I’ve been inside smaller tubes and thought I’ve been tubing but now once I’ve been inside the No Kandui wave I realise I haven’t been close. That day at No Kandui in the Mentawais my perception of surfing, a sport I already was in love with, changed and it’s gone from being a sport to being something else, not a religion but something spiritual close to the goal of Buddhism, Nirvana – deliverance of the mind – supreme happiness.
Our last night at Pit Stop Hill – Photo: John Barton
Mentawai truly is the heaven on earth for surfers. This was one of the best trips in my life and next year I’ll be back.