Go There: Kandui Resort
Doing The Mentawais In Style
Where: Located in the Playgrounds area of the Mentawai Islands, Kandui Resort is 60 miles off the Sumatran coastline and receives the brunt of Indian Ocean swells.
What: An idyllic, small tropical island paradise that doubles as a surf resort, Kandui is truly a surfer's paradise. At the Kandui Resort there are eight umas (traditional thatched roof rooms) that sleep up to four people, a bar and restaurant, game room, and surfboard shack. With dozens of breaks within a 30-minute boat ride and expert surf guides, if there's even a sniff of swell in the water, you're gonna score.
When: The Mentawai Islands reap the benefits of an angry Indian Ocean during the months of April through October. While there is the occasional swell in the off-season, it's generally flat, hot, and really humid. A great time to go is when Billabong hosts its annual Surf With A Pro trip generally early in the season. Go to billabongcamps.com for details on the 2012 trip.
Above: Highlight video from the 2011 Billabong Surf With A Pro trip to Kandui Resort.
Why: Because you deserve it. It ain't cheap, and Mexico is closer and easier to get to, but one day at Rifles--one of the best rights in the world--will give you a lifetime of tubular memories. With fewer boats out there than in years past, the odds of scoring perfect surf with just a handful of others are increasing as the economy goes down the drain. Call it a silver lining for tube-hunting surfers.
How: LAX (or any other major US airport) to Singapore, Singapore to Jakarta, Jakarta to Padang, then Padang to Kandui via a chartered flight. It's a long haul but well worth the payoff when you arrive. Singapore Airlines is hands down the best carrier; they don't charge for boards and have cute flight attendants who will keep your drink and belly full throughout the flight.
Places To Stay: If you're looking to do a land camp in the Playgrounds area, Kandui Resort is the place to stay in the Mentawais. If they're full, your other options are WavePark, Kandui Villas, and a handful of others.
Places To Eat: The food at Kandui is delectable. Served buffet style in the main bar/restaurant area, the meals are included in the price and as filling as you want them to be--nobody is going to tell you, "No seconds." The typical breakfast includes cereal, eggs style, bacon, fruits, and rocket fuel coffee. Lunch and dinner are more varied, and anything from fresh tuna to tacos can be featured on the menu. The kitchen is particularly good with vegetarians and/or those with special dietary needs.
Babes and Dudes: With an occupancy limit of 18, your options are going to limited in this department. It's generally a bunch of dudes who throughout the week start to ogle over just about any female within sight. If you want romance, it's a BYO affair.
Crowd Factor: The cool part about Kandui Resort is that the surf guides are completely dialed in to the zone and know where to go according to what the swell (and sometimes more importantly) the wind is doing. They also have covered, panga-style canoes with giant outboard motors on the back that can get you just about anywhere in the Playgrounds area quick. With the speed of the boats and superior surf guide knowledge, oftentimes Kandui guests are the only ones out wherever the waves are best.
Stuff To Bring: A groveler type board for the small days, your best shortboards, and a step-up. Check the swell charts before you leave, too, if there's a massive swell swirling around, a proper gun in the seven-foot range could be called into duty. You won't need a wetsuit, but a rashguard will keep the inevitable sunburn in check. If you're not used to surfing over coral reef, bring a pair of reef walkers. It's always a good idea to bring spare leashes, fin keys, sunglasses, wax, and accessories, too.
If The Surf Is Flat: Despite overfishing in the region, the diving is pretty good out there--so bring your spearfishing gear and be the camp hero when you rock up with a 50-pound dogtooth tuna. If killing fish isn't your thing, a trek across the island, snorkeling, shell collecting, or a cultural tour of a nearby village are all options for the downtime. Then again, you could choose to do nothing at all except sit in a hammock with a cold beer and read a book.
Helpful Websites: Billabong does an annual Surf With A Pro trip to Kandui Resort, which is open to anyone. For info and to book that trip, go to billabongcamps.com. Go to kanduiresort.com for booking, availability, rates, and a ton of information on the area and resort.