What can I say, the forecast for Indo during the winter of 2018 started to look like a fantasy forecast.
Chains of intense lows would push up in the Indian Ocean being the perfect swell window for the 18,000 Island archipelago of Indonesia.
It’s not uncommon for the surf forecast to start off optimistic shall we say, and then moderate as closer to the due date arrives.
This was not a normal train of swells, so good was the forecast that I started looking for places that could not only hold the swell and could be surfed, but also that I could document as well. Important aspect when you’re a surf photographer.
I have some unfinished business from earlier travels, in the documenting of Nias and wanted to ensure that I got back there when it was at it’s very best. Particularly, as in recent years there have been some tectonic up lifting’s of the reef, thus making the break even hollower.
Having a good friend, expat Mark Flint that also happens to have the best accommodation on the point, a luxury losmen called Kabunohi, made the decision easier.
The usual suspects, the team of big wave surf nomads that circulate the globe, arrived at a similar time to myself, in time for an 8-10ft swell. Mark Healey, Matt Bromley, Lucas Silveiro, Nate Florence, Billy Kemper, Ian Walsh, Kipp Caddy, JuggHead and Marty Paradesis and a host of others.
It was a jungle out there!
But it was the next forecast that was interesting; instead of reducing in size it was actually growing at an alarming rate. If this continued, as the forecast got closer, this could very likely be the largest swell I had ever seen in Indo. Confirming with my good friend Martin Daly, probably the most authoritative person on Indo swells and he agreed this was going into new realms.
My Whats App started working over time. I touched base with Laurie Towner again, and he was soon on his way. Every respected under ground surfer, as well as high profile big wave crew was focused on Nias.
Very few surfers have ever had the need for an Hawaiian gun at Nias, as they are usually more perfect point waves that are being surfed. This was no ordinary swell and would prove a masterstroke for Mr Healy.
Having a huge board would play a big part in the difference between being able to catch the biggest waves ever to be surfed at Nias than getting pitched over the falls to certain doom.
From my side I was busy negotiating access to a boat for the swell, but it was all a bit of an unknown quantity. Could a boat even get out in such a swell?
THE DAY OF RECKONING
The day of reckoning arrived, before light Laurie Towner was up he had already had a severe wipeout and was returning to get a new board and some painkillers.
Our crew went to the corner of the bay to launch through the surf in our vessel, captained by a local surfer who was somewhat fearless, not necessarily the same for all of us on-board.
The only other boat for hire could not be launched for a few hours, as it was inaccessible due to the raging surf sweeping down the reef.
The normally safe entry to the surf, the famous Keyhole, was now the most lethal short cut to the surf. There were massive swells sweeping across the normally sheltered Keyhole dragging hapless surfers across a jagged reef
Bear in mind even the smallest laceration, in this part of the world spells infection and tropical ulcers; large cuts are the end of your trip. Most of the surfers that day were being forced to enter into this Thunder Dome further down the reef and into the bay.
Waves that washed up into losmens bought back terrible memories of the 2004 Tsunami that destroyed many homes one the point.
Coconut trees and assorted debris washed through the bay. The ocean was a cauldron of seething white water.
We were in our little boat looking directly into giant black caverns, monstrous barrels, black holes.
Swells were 8-15 foot but the problem was the girth of the waves, they were doubling up and some times tripling up.
Fish traps were breaking from moorings; boats were breaking free and infamously going over the falls in that take-off zone. Safe to say it was koas and the ocean was winning.
A number of surfers put on an extraordinary show. Matt Bromley, Laurie Towner, Lucas Silveira and Mark Healey to name a few.
Late afternoon the numbers had dwindled and only a hardcore crew chose a second session.
The late afternoon light creates some of the most spectacular moments to photograph the waves in all their glory as the dark dirty water turns into a sparkling sea. Enter Mark Healey; a red board, he drops into a late pitching lip, one of the largest sets of the day.
Deceptively easy (or at least he makes it look that way) nurturing his rail into the face of the wave to lay a bottom turn into one truck-driving barrel. This is what I came for.