South Pacific Utopia
The return of the Dedi.
By Dustin Humphry and Timmy Turner
Before the dust had even settled from the bus that dropped us off in the nighttime darkness of Dompu on the island of Sumbawa, a drunken Indo local was in Timmy’s face making slashing motions across his neck with the dull end of a machete.
[IMAGE 1]It was early October 1999, and the Indonesian government, embarrassed by the revolt in East Timor, had been broadcasting warnings about “barbaric” Australian soldiers who were landing on the beaches and airfields throughout their island nation of Indonesia. Ironically, according to the international press, the Aussies were there to “stop the killing.”
“You Australian?” The drunken local asked Timmy, as he pointed his thick knife toward him. Timmy kicked his head to one side and spouted out some Indo slang. All at once, fifteen to twenty locals who’d been watching began to approach. The drunk local waved back the oncoming crowd with his machete. He then took a swig from his bottle of Iraq, a potent local liquor, and brought his nose up to Timmy’s wire-framed glasses, slowly raising the blade overhead.
Timmy didn’t know whether to shit or spit. Just as I was about to intervene, the machete-wielding bad man broke out into a long loud belly laugh and reached out to embrace Timmy. The crowd rushed in, and before we knew it we were the honored guests in Dompu. The next morning we found ourselves in the warm cradle of what had now become our second home¿a loseman over-looking a perfect peak that was peeling down the reef at about eight feet. There was a gentle offshore breeze keeping it hollow, and nobody was out in the virgin greenish-blue sea.
It’s amazing to think that just an hour’s drive behind us was the ragged rough town of Dompu, where life is a daily struggle and greed has left a swath of poverty and bitterness across its face. Here, at our favorite Indo seaside village, life’s slow pace belied the stark reality of a nearby swell, busting open at low tide on a distant reef beyond the sweet-smelling beach. Timmy had just dropped into his fourth consecutive pit, and I was snappin’ off shots when I felt two tiny paws grab my trunks. Then crash, the barrel rolled by¿and so did my trunks. Up came Dedi, a local lemon-headed kid with a broad smile and a twinkle in his dark-brown eyes. “You little ‘Ben Chung’!” I shouted.
[IMAGE 2]Dedi, like most of the young kids there, has made this stretch of sand his home ever since a kindly Frenchman opened up a restaurant and hired a slew of grommets to work it. Unlike most of the kids, Dedi has something special, some indescribable way of making everyone who meets him fall in love. On my last trip here, I’d fallen for the kid myself when I saw him beat the pants off this Aussie in a chess game. There he was, this little kid wearing hand-me-down surf trunks and a tattered T-shirt big enough to fit the likes of Shawn Briley. Dedi had a narrow-brimmed hat pulled down over his eyes like Clint Eastwood in some Spaghetti Western.
With his last move, Dedi had cocked his hat back, revealing big brown eyes, and blurted out, “Checkmate” in some kind of scrambled Indo-English drawl. The ten-year-old was sporting an ear-to-ear grin that won me over instantly, that very first day. No matter where we traveled throughout Indo¿a magical land of island reefs, perfect barrels, and stark beaches¿nothing compared to the surfing, people, and life at that pristine spot. It was sad to think that our favorite spot, like so many others before it, will most likely be transformed into just another Kuta Beach, with big hotels, crowded waves, and street vendors selling trinkets to red-nosed fat guys in tank tops.
[IMAGE 3] When we arrived in Bali in July (four months earlier), Lorca, a family friend, quickly whisked Timmy and I away from Dempesar International Airport. Lorca and his family had been our gateway to Bali on our laast trip here. He helped us realize that Bali is a land filled with Hindu culture, and very much isolated from the largely Muslim Indo populace and their traditions. While Bali is home to Indo’s Padang-Padang, our most favorite wave, its nightlife is where we found ourselves when it wasn’t breaking¿which was more often than not.
One night we stumbled onto Legion Street, a narrow strip of bars and clubs designed to extract every last rupia from drunken sailors, tourists, and wandering surfers alike. Timmy had decided to take our helmet cam out for a spin on the street’s dizzying dance floors. The camera was designed to capture multiple angle surf shots for our DVD film, Burning The Map. But Timmy soon found out that the goofy contraption worked best as a damn chick magnet.
While traversing more than seven Indonesian islands during our trip, Timmy and I hooked up with a lot of old friends. Including the soulful Travis Potter, who clocked in more than his fair share of barrel time. Timmy, Travis, and I were good traveling companions. No matter where we found ourselves, we all knew it was paradise just to be there. Even if that paradise was in the back of a smoky bus, a stanky hotel room, a perfect barrel, or on a perfect beach. Together we searched the islands for perfection at some well known spots, and others not so well known.
We met up with Jamie Sterling at one of Indo’s better-known spots. Clicking off shots of young Jamie Sterling as he pulled in on a ten-foot G-land face had me flashing back to what it must’ve been like to see his late stepfather Ronnie Burns do the same, in the same place, more than a decade ago. Like the magic that has brought me back to Indo time and time again, witnessing Ronnie’s legacy riding those waves was more than perfect¿if there is such a thing.
After a rough and rolling ride on boats and bimos, Rory Parker and his sidekick, fourteen-year-old Chris Fowler, joined us with some Newport Beach friends on the island of Java. It was near there that we found the best waves of our entire trip. The boys were getting ten-second barrels on a break comparable to Backdoor. With time running out on our visas, we met Timmy’s older brother Ryan Turner on Sumatra, one of the largest Indo islands. We all sprang for a two-week boat trip to the much touted Mentawais islands. It was expensive, crowded, and overall not worth the boat ride out. But I have to admit I loved watching Ryan surf Lance’s Right.
Weeks later, Timmy and I found ourselves back with Dedi and the rest of the local boys along that same stretch of beach, which we still believe is our true home, our perfect utopia. With total sincerity Timmy turned to me and asked, “Do you think the customs people would come for me if I threw away my passport and never went back?”