Perfection – 4.6

PerfectionWhat happens when everything goes unexpectedly right? Six surfers take a chance on an Indo boat trip, and the gamble pays off: they score some of the best surf of the year and a closer look at a misunderstood culture.Story by Mike FroodPhotography by Dustin Humphrey

September 11, 2001. The World Trade Center is destroyed by the combined impact of two hijacked passenger jets colliding into the Twin Towers.

October 10, 2001. Anti-U.S. protesters clash with riot police on the streets of Jakarta in a small but vocal protest widely reported in the international media.

November 23, 2001. The U.S. State Department warns citizens to defer nonessential travel to Indonesia.

April 5, 2002. American pro surfers Adam Repogle, Tory Barron, Mikala and Daniel Jones, and Cheyne Magnusson meet Indo ripper Made “Bol” Adi Putra, photog Dustin Humphrey, and videographers Josh Humphrey and Erik Hjermstad in Indonesia’s bustling capital, Jakarta.

How did this come to be? A group of America’s top surfers traveling to Jakarta, currently one of the world’s least-desirable travel destinations, as the crowded and polluted city is also the capital of the world’s largest Islamic nation. The boys were nervous. Their families were nervous. The mass media portrayed this country as a hot spot for Islamic warriors, a place hostile to the Western world, in bed with the deranged terrorists of the Taliban. Indo resident Dustin Humphrey had tried to reassure them.Dustin and his brother Josh have lived in Indonesia for some time and reported a gross distortion in the media, a representation that sensationalized peripheral events and ignored the true nature of this gentle, open, and caring society. The Humps had business to sort out in the city and invited the surfers to join them before embarking on their wave hunt. The invitees were unsure. Although comforted by Dustin’s confident call that all was okay, backed up by part-time Indo resident Mikala, nerves were still evident. Before departure, Tory called from home a few times to make sure all was safe, Adam had news headlines racing through his head, and Cheyne was mindful of his father’s warnings of the likelihood of threats to his life. When they met at Soekarno-Hatta Airport, they were expecting the worst, but everyone they met was smiling and friendly. Where were the protesters, the hostile faces, the gun-toting fundamentalists?Despite different preconceptions and expectations, the boys’ reactions to the circumstances were the same. While being blown away by the poverty and pollution that characterizes Jakarta, there was little to intimidate-no hostility and no signs that a war was going on in a country on the other side of the world. For Indonesians, life went on as usual-they greeted the surfers with a mix of bemused intrigue and friendly goodwill, sharing their aloha, as Tory would say.___After checking into their hotel, Dustin led the boys straight to the kampung, the housing estates of the majority of Jakarta’s lower-class residents-areas that would be referred to as slums in most other countries. As they walked, the mosque call eerily began. The visiting surfers got nervous. Rather than the expected call to arms our media may have us believe, the whiny voice crackling over the loudspeaker at top volume was a call to prayer, to give thanks and praise Allah for the blessings bestowed upon this tropical land. Cheyne described the scene:”They were blaring Muslim prayers across the city, and we were just sitting there. There was no hostility; the stereotype just wasn’t there. No one was trying to kill us. It was pretty mellow.”As the boys walked the streets, they noticed people asleep in the gutters. A malnourished child lay crying on the dirty sidewalk while her mother begged for the charity of passersby-her only hope of obtaining money to feed her child. Often unfamiliar with these tragic circumstances that are as common in Indonesia as rice, many Americans wonder how this could haen in a world capable of spending trillions of dollars on military budgets and corporate developments. This is Jakarta.___A teenage girl dressed the same as any teenage girl in America stood in front of a mall, her shopping bag resting at her feet as she snacked on McDonald’s fries. She giggled as she read a text message from a friend regarding her capers the previous night at the 24-hour nightclub called Stadium. She called out a greeting in MTV English to a friend passing by on their way to one of the exclusive colleges that juxtapose the slums in the Jakarta cityscape. She was about to send a reply, when she saw her driver round the corner in a brand-new pickup. She jumped in and turned up the Britney Spears CD in the stereo, singing along to her favorite song.This is also Jakarta-a city of stark contrasts, of misery and affluence, of modernity and simplicity. A city where Americans will almost certainly get lost, but at the same time will almost certainly find themselves, develop an awareness of how the majority of the world’s population lives, and realize how very lucky they are to live in a country as fortunate as the United States.The visiting surfers rode trains and exchanged smiles and broken conversations. They encouraged the crowd of young kids who gathered as the boys skated to have a go on their boards-much to the kids’ delight. Soon they had an entourage of excited youngsters who were enthralled by Tory’s Osiris backpack with its built-in boombox pumping hip-hop down the laneways. At one point the kids persuaded Tory to teach them breakdancing. Soon all the kids were gyrating their bodies to the bass, their wide grins expelling peals of raucous laughter. You can guarantee that just as the surfers would never forget this, neither will these kids. Stories of the good times would circulate on school grounds for weeks to come. This is Jakarta.___The contrasts increased when the boys boarded a bus and headed southwest to the Ujung Kulon National Park, home of the famed and nearly extinct white Javan rhinoceros. As the bus jolted along the potholed road, the drab cityscape out the window gave way suddenly to the quilted greens and yellows of the rice paddies. Farmers toiled in the soil. The boys waved and smiled to kids riding through fields on the backs of water buffalo. Two hours later, the bus careened into a parking lot, skidding to a halt just in time to avoid plunging headfirst into the waiting ocean.The boat that would be the boys’ home for ten days sat anchored in the small harbor, its masts and rigging cut across the blood-red sunset. The 60-foot Sulawesi schooner is a majestic and romantic sight-a modern-day replica of the classic Indonesian sailing boat, hooked up with AC, a VCD player, and a backgammon board that was in for some serious punishment. The Nomad, as it is aptly named, was built in 1996 in Sulawesi, Indonesia, then sailed down to West Java in 1998, where it has spent the last four years cruising the reefs in search of waves.___The lucky pair who crew the ship are as professional as they are oddly matched. The quiet, well-mannered Australian captain, Todd Rossler, is offset by the loud and riotously funny American cook, Bill Christopher-Lloyd, a former Santa Cruz reggae DJ. The two live the simple life, cruising the curvaceous, well-stacked reefs of the national park. Despite living such an idyllic life, they haven’t softened. They run a very tight ship-always up at the crack of dawn, steering their passengers to wherever their intimate knowledge of local weather conditions suggest the waves will be sickest.Everyone was struck by the pristine environment the boat gave them access to. The sparkling azure waters lapped a blindingly white beach, which quickly disappeared into one of the densest, most beautiful tropical jungles in the world. Steam rose from the green canopy, offering a natural sauna to the psychedelically colored bird life and rambunctious primates. Below in the dank, dark shadow lurked panthers, tigers, wild pigs, deer, snakes, and monitor lizards. Civilization was a world away.The only other permanent residents of this wave-rich park, apart from the wild beasts, were three Californians who have chosen to turn their backs on the modern world to live the lives of wild beasts in paradise: Timmy Turner, Travis Potter, and Brett Schwartz. Meeting these three was an unlikely reunion in an even unlikelier place. The three “feralicts” (as they were dubbed due to their feral living conditions and derelict existence) first discovered the park on a trip to Jakarta with Dustin four years earlier. The three are also old friends of Mikala and Tory. Despite having chosen to walk different paths, the guys are all still great buddies.The feralicts live a dream, camping in one of the most sublime settings in the world. Theirs is a hunter-gatherer lifestyle, a primal existence inspired by the waves breaking just off their doorstep. Having these guys around came in handy after Daniel tore his face apart on a shallow reef. No one on the boat had given stitches before, so Timmy was called on board and-in exchange for a few cold Bintangs-performed the surgery.___In an attempt to convey the mind-blowing goodness of the surf, the boys described it in all sorts of ways. Although it is a completely unique setup, unlike anything else in Indonesia, possibly the world, comparisons were made. Teahupo’o-in-reverse sprung to mind-Ujung Kulon’s mysto right has the same “backless” dredging elements as the famed Tahitian left. Parallels were also drawn with Backdoor for obvious reasons, except here there was no back-dooring. At Ujung Kulon it was airdrops straight to the pit, bottom turns in the pit, then racing and pumping to keep up with the growing, growling monster. From takeoff to pullout (or closeout)-tube time all the way.It seemed like there should be a word stronger than “perfection” to describe this trip. Possibly a word that incorporates the idyllic surroundings, dream-like waves, and richness of the experiences in and out of the water. The best waves of their lives are only a small part of what the boys would take home with them. Cheyne commented: “We all probably caught at least one of the top five waves of our lives. I think I caught all five of them!” However, when asked what the most significant thing he’d take home was, his response focused on the cultural awareness from spending time in Jakarta.___When it came time to depart, all the boys were on the boat except for Mikala, who was waiting to catch one in. Suddenly a set reared up behind him-the biggest wave of the entire trip. Having snapped all his other boards, he paddled into it on a thin six-one, air-dropped into the heaving barrel, raised his arm above his head, and styled through a monster tube.When the boat pulled anchor, the feralicts all scratched to get out. Adam threw a board out to them, goodbyes were called out, and we all said farewell to Ujung Kulon, feeling blessed and knowing we scored. A poem Tory had carried with him the entire trip seemed to sum up the mood nicely:

ElevatorsTwo elevators being free to create, To rise above the things we hate.You are coming up at an amazing rate, The next level is your fate.Elevate.Elevator. shadow lurked panthers, tigers, wild pigs, deer, snakes, and monitor lizards. Civilization was a world away.The only other permanent residents of this wave-rich park, apart from the wild beasts, were three Californians who have chosen to turn their backs on the modern world to live the lives of wild beasts in paradise: Timmy Turner, Travis Potter, and Brett Schwartz. Meeting these three was an unlikely reunion in an even unlikelier place. The three “feralicts” (as they were dubbed due to their feral living conditions and derelict existence) first discovered the park on a trip to Jakarta with Dustin four years earlier. The three are also old friends of Mikala and Tory. Despite having chosen to walk different paths, the guys are all still great buddies.The feralicts live a dream, camping in one of the most sublime settings in the world. Theirs is a hunter-gatherer lifestyle, a primal existence inspired by the waves breaking just off their doorstep. Having these guys around came in handy after Daniel tore his face apart on a shallow reef. No one on the boat had given stitches before, so Timmy was called on board and-in exchange for a few cold Bintangs-performed the surgery.___In an attempt to convey the mind-blowing goodness of the surf, the boys described it in all sorts of ways. Although it is a completely unique setup, unlike anything else in Indonesia, possibly the world, comparisons were made. Teahupo’o-in-reverse sprung to mind-Ujung Kulon’s mysto right has the same “backless” dredging elements as the famed Tahitian left. Parallels were also drawn with Backdoor for obvious reasons, except here there was no back-dooring. At Ujung Kulon it was airdrops straight to the pit, bottom turns in the pit, then racing and pumping to keep up with the growing, growling monster. From takeoff to pullout (or closeout)-tube time all the way.It seemed like there should be a word stronger than “perfection” to describe this trip. Possibly a word that incorporates the idyllic surroundings, dream-like waves, and richness of the experiences in and out of the water. The best waves of their lives are only a small part of what the boys would take home with them. Cheyne commented: “We all probably caught at least one of the top five waves of our lives. I think I caught all five of them!” However, when asked what the most significant thing he’d take home was, his response focused on the cultural awareness from spending time in Jakarta.___When it came time to depart, all the boys were on the boat except for Mikala, who was waiting to catch one in. Suddenly a set reared up behind him-the biggest wave of the entire trip. Having snapped all his other boards, he paddled into it on a thin six-one, air-dropped into the heaving barrel, raised his arm above his head, and styled through a monster tube.When the boat pulled anchor, the feralicts all scratched to get out. Adam threw a board out to them, goodbyes were called out, and we all said farewell to Ujung Kulon, feeling blessed and knowing we scored. A poem Tory had carried with him the entire trip seemed to sum up the mood nicely:

ElevatorsTwo elevators being free to create, To rise above the things we hate.You are coming up at an amazing rate, The next level is your fate.Elevate.Elevator.