This is a story about three friends. All of whom herald from the same small coastal town in Western Java, all of whom had fallen under the spell of surfing. A spell cast by those first surf pioneers who roamed the southern coast of Java looking for waves during the ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s. It’s a small knit community in their town in paradise. Full of people who rely on each other for everything. A place where they shared what little they had. For these three, and a handful of others who aren’t the focus of this yarn, that included the first surfboards they’d managed to acquire through travelers either from breakage or gifts. Their town was fortuitous enough to be on the map for the water magicians who passed through. Blessed with a wave that’s now something of an international attraction. But that’s not the focus of this story either.
The oldest of this trinity, Husni Ridhwan, was whipped up into traveling and surfing from a young age. He’d caught the bug and he was good at it, something the trio have in common. At one point he’d competed and had been Indonesia’s Longboard Champ. But he was too laid back for the whole rigmarole that is competitive surfing. A woman. A daughter and work conspired to make him move to Australia many moons ago. The youngest, Dean Permana, left to seek something he foresaw in his future, something he couldn’t find in that blip on a map. He upped roots traveling to Bali just over a year ago. That left just Deni Pirdaus in paradise. Don’t get me wrong, he’s not lonely, as I said before, he’s still got a mass of mates up where he lives, it’s just that they aren’t pertinent to my tale.
This is an account of an opportunity. The timing was right. All three were in Bali for a moment and when a friend of a friend, friend’s old Mark II Landrover from 1961 was offered up to use they hatched the plan for a short surf trip. The car would move them, but they knew it wouldn’t go fast or far, so they looked east, a place they didn’t get too often but somewhere they knew had waves, Lombok. They wanted to take advantage of this shared location enabling them time to hangout and surf some great little waves and with that thought in mind, the three of them loaded the Landie to the hilt and bursting at the seams with over animated senses of adventure, they set out on their surfari.
If you leave late in the evening you can time it right and miss the traffic cutting the time it takes to get from Canggu to Pandangbai in two. The trio knew that the crossing on the car ferry could take anything from 5-10 hours, yes there is really that much variance in the timing, therefore leaving on the midnight ferry was the aim. That would get them in around dawn or at least in the morning before the sun got so hot you could fry eggs on the antiquated arcs deck plate.
Husni would pilot the Landie from beginning to end. Neither of the others had a license for a car, and with this old girl requiring a certain touch, he would be, for the duration of the trip, the skipper and shackled behind the wheel. The responsibility rested easily on his shoulders, what with being the oldest, but moreover from his move to Australia where he drove an old Landcruiser on a daily basis. This to him was just more of the same. Riding shotgun for most of the trip was Dean, the youngest of the bunch who’d resettled to Bali to get greater exposure for his surfing career. For him, this trip to Lombok wasn’t far but it was more about the company he would keep. Deni had flown in from West Java for the Deus 9ft & Single comp and for him to chase waves with his buddies to a place he’d never been was too good an opportunity to pass up.
The ferry ended up taking about seven hours, the last two sitting so close to the coast they could throw stones. They sat there waiting in a queue for the ferry in front and the one before that to get loaded up with trucks, cars bikes, and people and out of the way. When they rolled off the boat they were well and truly over it and headed up the hill through the odd crunch of gears they found a cruising speed and navigated the old girl south to find some surf.
First place they came upon was Mawi. It is a beautiful vaguely populated bay on the southside of Lombok. Hills stand like pillars at wither end and its awash on the one side with aqua blue waters and on the other with fields of half-grown green grains. There’s a white stripe of delineation, the sands of the beach, being the in between. This was a spot with a known left hander and a lot less known right. Well, these three were all naturals and to a man, they liked going left as much as they liked eating sandwiches for lunch, which when you take in where they are from, isn’t very much nor very often for that matter.
The right was working when they arrived and after parking and safely securing their gear they dived into the waters and out straight into the small waves that were on offer. The clean clear sea served to dislocate all the travel dirt and washed off the past night and mornings trek. Steep cliffs on two sides held the wind at bay until a little later in the day and they enjoyed the separation and solace this far-flung spot provided. Hunger pushed them out of the water and back to the car. They packed efficiently and headed off to find a local lean too and a delicious meal of rice, meat, and vegetables.
Their repartee was immediately apparent. And they spoke with fluidity and candour only true friends acquire. Teasing and mockery were there but malice wasn’t. They talked about everything and everyone they knew in common. They talked between waves, between the bouncing over bumps on the dusty track and between mouthfuls of food. They filled in the gaps that had appeared in their friendships when one moved away or stayed.
Thus, they began to set up a sedate routine. Drive, park, surf, drive, eat, drive, sleep, drive, park, surf, drive, eat, drive, sleep and so on. Talk was a constant. Where many others would have fallen silent this triad chose to speak, laugh and play all the way. They trawled the south coast from Serangan, through to Grupuk. The days blurred until there were gone and time told them to point the car north and head for the ferry home.
The ‘63 Landie performed amazingly. Shouldn’t sound so surprised but for a vehicle whose age is only slightly younger than the combined age of the three occupants, it was great to see there wasn’t a hiccup from it the entire trip. Of course, it was slow, noisy, underpowered, has an uncomfortable driving position, minimal or no creature comforts, and no land speed records were broken before, during or after their jaunt. It should be said that it was the car that set the tempo for the entire journey. With its open sides, brakes and clutch that can both be very, very heavy (a real pain, literally, getting on and off ferries and in traffic jams) and a totally inadequate sized motor, it took them out into the wild untamed places. The three boys were transported back to a simpler period, allowing them to unconsciously drop the pretenses of the intervening years leaving them able to catch up on miss times and hear about the other opportunities.
They vowed to not leave it so long before the next trip.
Words by Ano Mac