Surfing in Mentawai
Surfing in the Mentawai
The Mentawai Islands are a remote chain of islands located on the western coast of Sumatra. The first surf charters started to explore this area around the 90s. They found untouched rainforest and an impressive amount of world-class surf breaks along the scattered islands.
No place in the world has so many perfect waves like the Mentawai. The islands are totally exposed to the Indian Ocean and capture all kinds of swells. Winds are not a problem in this area since there are always options on both coasts depending on the wind direction.
The most famous surf spots are Macarronis, Hollow Trees, Thunders, Greenbush, Telescopes and etc. The list is endless.
Why surf in Mentawai?
Every teenager who loves to surf has drawn a wave in their notebook and dreamed about a place full of palm trees, away from everything, with amazing and perfect waves. That’s the description of the Mentawai. It’s one of the most beautiful surf destinations in the world. The water is crystal clear, the scenery is tropically lush and the waves are the best ones in the world! Don’t worry about building up high expectations, they will be all met.
Although the waves are perfect, this destination is not recommended for beginners. The waves are fast and the reef is sharp. If you are an intermediate surfer and really want to improve your skills in an intense two weeks of surfing, you are going to have the time of your life. And for the experienced surfers, you can expect nothing less than accumulating a few more milage inside the Indonesian barrels.
Climate in Mentawai
Like the rest of the country, Mentawai has an equatorial climate. There are two very distinguished seasons: dry and wet. The temperatures are warm all year, shifting around 27-30 degrees Celsius. During the wet season, it rains a lot, especially from December to January. For the rest of the year, the weather is clear and the sun shines every day!
Best time to go
The Mentawai Islands attract swell all year round, but the surf season is between March and October. The most consistent months are from June to September. That’s when the biggest swells come from the Southeast and hit the chain of the islands hard.
The wave size can range from 2-12 ft with occasional 15ft+ swells. The average wave height is around 6 ft. There are all kinds of waves from fun long walls to stand up barrels. You can not find so many perfect right and left-handers so near each other anywhere in the world.
Although nowadays there are a lot of surf charters, camps and resorts there are still empty surf spots scattered around each corner or secluded bays of the many islands.
Main Surfing areas in Mentawai
There are 4 major islands in the Mentawai: Siberut, Sipura, North Pagai and South Pagai.
Siberut is the biggest island of the archipelago and this is where the area known as Playground is located. This is the area with the most number of surf breaks: E-bay, No-Kandui, Rifles, Bank Vaults, Hideaway, Beng Beng, Pit Stops, and many others.
Down south you will find the islands of Sipura with the legendary surf spot of Hollow Trees, Lances Right and Left, Telescopes, Bintangs and the list keep ongoing.
North Pagai and South Pagai are right under Sipura and there you will find the crown jewel of the Mentawai: Macaronis. Other surf spots there are Greenbush, Thunders, Rags, Screamers, The Hole and etc.
It’s a consistent left-hand reef in the middle of a beautiful bay. Super fun and friendly. It's a good spot to start your trip and put your boards under your feet.
Not for the faint-hearted. After the take-off, you must barrel and go past two rocks that stick out of the water. If you’ve done everything right you will still have to go through the below-sea-level end section before you reach the channel.
One of the most rippable rights on the planet. You will be able to practice and improve all your repertoire in this high-performance wave.
This wave will blow your mind. It has one of the best barrels in the whole area. The take-off is quick and the wave moves fast. Only for experienced surfers. Gets really dry on low tides.
This right-hander breaks in pretty deep water and it’s the most consistent break in the area. Captures any swell direction and is surfable in all tides. It's considered the main swell magnet of the Playground area.
As the name suggests this is a heavy and square right-hander. The bigger it gets the more it barrels. It has many take-off spots so spreads the crowd really well. Good to test your barreling skills.
With a dramatic background, this wave is one more swell magnet of the area. Good and reliable on the small days. It has hollow sections at the beginning and at the end of the ride. In the middle allows you to set a pace and connect good cutbacks one after another.
One of the most feared and desired wave of the Ments. Kandui is better when its big since the barrels are more wide open and makeable. Prepare your heart for some intense moments.
Top 5 best right-hander in the whole Mentawai. Exactly what you expect when you come to this surfer's paradise. Long rides deep inside hollow barrels.
Super fun and consistent wave with two different sections. On bigger days the inside section can barrel.
It’s the easiest wave on the whole Playground area. This wave has a soft lip and it’s perfect for big long house round cutbacks.
Left-hander that captures a lot of swell. Good for the rare smaller days. It can also hold size and be a good spot to get away from the crowded and more famous waves.
This heavy left-hander needs a solid west swell to start working. The inside section gets heavy and shallow.
This is a hardcore expert only wave. It’s a square hollow barrel breaking on top of shallow reef.
Really long left-hander with occasional barrels. This wave is on the other side of the channel of one of the most famous waves in the Mentawai, Lance's Right. This break can be less crowded and it's a really fun wave.
Hollow Trees (Lance's Right)
Short hollow right-hander slab. Get ready for a steep take of straight into the barrel.
This wave is the crown jewel of the Mentawai. One of the best left-handers in the world. Perfect mechanical barrels on the first section and absolutely rippable at the rest of the wave. This wave is a goofy footer paradise.
Extremely hollow tube ride. This wave needs very peculiar conditions to break. King tides, SSW swell, and northerly wind. When the conditions align it’s one of the best barrels on the planet.
Considered a good option on smaller days but can also any size of swell. This left-hander has big walls with some almond shape barrels sometimes.
This hollow left-hander moves a lot of water so we recommend you a bigger board at this break. If you wipeout gets ready for a heavy hold-down.
Although is not a very consistent wave, this right-hander is totally worth to be checked. Similar to HT’s but a little bit longer. Get ready to be in the green room.
This left has a steep takeoff straight into the barrel. It can get really good on big days. Just hold your line until the channel.
What is your traveling style?
Luxury / Nice / Upscale Surfing in Mentawai
There are many amazing surf resorts all around the Mentawai Islands. This kind of accommodation is exactly what you need if you are thinking about bringing your girlfriend, your family or just need to take a break from the world with a lot of styles. It will pay off when you see your big nice room with awesome food and perfect waves right in front of your window. The price range for this luxury is between 200-500 USD per night.
Surf boat Charters in Mentawai
Every surfer's dream is to jump on a Surf Charter and go to the Mentawai with their best friends. This is the best way to explore the vast amount of surf breaks that can be found in every tiny island of this amazing archipelago. Mobility is the key factor. You can finish a surf session in one spot in one afternoon and wake up in the morning in front of a new wave. Nothing beats the feeling of looking outside your window and see 6ft perfect barrels breaking 100m away from your boat. You will get barreled before you have your first meal. That’s what we call “morning glory” or “breakfast of champions”.
The price to live these dreams is around 150-300 USD per night with all meals included.
Budget Surfing in Mentawai
Boats and resorts are the most popular way to visit the Mentawai, but these options can be expensive for someone's pocket. If you are on a tight budget but still want to surf the best waves of your life, the Mentawai also has more modest surf camps that will suit you just fine. You will still wake up in front of the break in the middle of the palm trees just like you always dreamed, but you won’t have the mobility of going around with a boat. This works really well for those who have already been to the islands before, or if you want to surf the same spot over and over again to be closely intimate with all the sections of your wave of choice. Surf camps in the Mentawai charge around 50-250 USD per night.
Nowhere in the world hosted so many group surf trips as the Mentawai. The boats take up to 15 people so that’s the perfect chance to bring all your best friends for a trip to be remembered forever, or even repeated year after year. The resorts are more exclusive but they can still host 8-20 people at the same time leaving a lot of room to bring the whole family plus the closest friends. The hardest thing will be to choose who you want to bring with you to paradise.
Mentawai Travelling Guide
Packing and equipment
What should I pack for a surf holiday in Mentawai
When you are traveling to the Mentawai you will inevitably go threw a long journey, it’s the price you have to pay to arrive at this paradise on Earth. So the best thing you can do is to travel light. Bring a lot of boards since you will be surfing a big variety of waves. If you break one there won’t be a surf shop close by where you can buy a replacement board. Besides many boards, you will only need a couple of pairs of boardshorts and a few t-shirts. Don’t forget that Indonesia adopts European standards for electrical plugs, so pack an adaptor to make sure you will be able to recharge your camera or cell phone (that you will probably only use to take amazing pictures from the breathtaking scenery and sunsets). All the boats and resorts at the Mentawai have wi-fi. If you are okay without having internet all the time and if you are just going to the Mentawai and back home, don’t bother buying a sim card. If you, on the other hand, want to have full access through all times, it’s very cheap and easy to purchase a sim card at the airport.
Basic Info about Mentawai
Indonesia’s national language is commonly known as Bahasa. It’s an easy language to learn and it’s very useful when you are going to remote areas like the Mentawai.
Learning the basics is always a good idea if you want to have a closer exchange with the locals.
The local currency is the Indonesian Rupiah (IDR). The locals are usually helpful and they love to bargain and you can always ask for discounts or trade things. Get ready to become a millionaire.
(1 USD = 13,000 IDR)
Before Going to Country
Visa / Documents
No need for visa
Free tourist visa for 30 days
60 days visa on arrival (35 USD)
Don’t forget to go to the immigration office to extend your visa on arrival.
Vaccines / Health
If you are coming from South America or Africa you need the yellow fever vaccine.
Your usual childhood vaccines plus protection from Hepatitis A should be fine.
Cases of malaria happen especially during the wet season, but that’s not a major concern.
Be extra careful with dogs, cats, and monkeys. If you are bitten, go straight to a local hospital to get yourself a rabies shot.
Getting to Mentawai
If getting to paradise was too easy it would spoil all the fun. When you go to the Mentawai you will need a lot of time and patience. Just remember what’s waiting for you at the end of the journey. First, you have to get yourself to Sumatra, Padang. There are daily flights from Jakarta to Padang that cost around 65-150 USD one way. From there you will be able to get a fast boat (4h) to the island of your choice. If you are going to stay on a charter boat you will board there immediately and do the crossing at night. When you wake up you will be in paradise!
Moving Around Mentawai
The only way to move from island to island is by boat. If you are staying at a resort they will provide you comfortable boat trips to the nearby surf breaks. This service may not be included in your package if you are staying in a surf camp. Some island has easy tracks to move around and you can go on an adventure through the jungle and end up finding an empty line up just for yourself. Renting scooters is also available, but most of the time you will need a boat to get to the breaks.
When you are in a secluded destination like the Mentawai group of islands, the option for food is always limited. For those who are staying in a resort, there is no need to worry about anything but where you are surfing next. If you are on a short budget and have experience in spearfishing it’s highly recommended to bring your equipment since there are plenty of fish in this area. If you are really good you will probably end up feeding a whole village after a couple of hours fishing.
Other things to do while Surfing in Mentawai
The main attraction of the Mentawai is surfing of course. But for those days that you are super tired and just want to relax, there are the other activities that you can enjoy during your vacation like:
- Kayaking or stand up paddling
- Fishing or spearfishing
Culture in Mentawai
The local villagers of the islands are super friendly and receptive to the tourists. Even if you don’t speak the national language or the local dialect, the local people will do their best trying to understand you. They are always smiling and cheerful ready to pose for pictures and interact the best way they can. It’s totally worth it to go on a walk around the islands to feel the local vibe.
Type of Risks
99% of the surf spots in the Mentawai are reef breaks. No matter where you are surfing, always respect the ocean and above all, your limits. To avoid reef cuts, never surf on extreme low tides. If possible, try to hire a surf guide that can show you around and that can put you in the best place at the best time.
Earthquakes are very common in the Mentawai islands. Most of the time they are just minor tremors and can barely be felt. When they are stronger they can cause damage but the traditional wooden bungalows are flexible and perform really well during these shakes. If the center of the earthquake is at the ocean, a tsunami is an unlikely but possible threat. As soon as you check in your hotel, ask the staff about the evacuation plan just as a precaution.
How to Prepare
If you are a weekend surfer and a little bit out of shape, prepare your body for a lot of paddling. When the conditions are perfect you will want to stay in the water surfing for long hours non stop. To make the most out of your trip and to avoid injuries you should try to get into the best shape of your life. If you live far away from the ocean you can start swimming in a pool to strengthen your back and shoulders. But if you are near the ocean try to go surfing as much as you can. Even when the surf is flat you can go for a paddle just to keep the momentum going.
One week before your trip, it’s possible to check the forecast to get to know how the waves are going and to get ready for the surf conditions. These are some recommended forecast websites that cover the Mentawai Islands:
If the forecast is showing big waves it’s always a good idea to reconsider insurance, just to be safe. Most of the time a good first aid kit with lots of band-aids and betadine will do the job, but insurance might be needed since you are going to a remote area with very limited medical facilities around. Here are some options to keep your mother or your girlfriend relaxed:
When you are running away from a 10 ft wall made of water that is chasing you and trying to take you out of your board, anything can happen. Skills and preparation are helpful to avoid the worse, but sometimes things can get out of control. If you get hit by your fins and get a nasty cut, don’t freak out. This happens all the time on surf trips and the boats and accommodations always have someone qualified to stitch you up.
If anything more serious happens, you should contact your insurance for a medical evacuation. If you don’t have one, a medical evacuation can be organized although it will cost you a small fortune.