TIGHTROPE: SURFING OVER BROKEN GLASS
“There are hatchets and knives on that reef, man” Says wave whisperer Nick Chong, “every wave is a magic trick…you either pull the rabbit out of the hat…or it’s you could disappear”. And it’s this reef that, though only half the size of a football field, attracts near suicidal tube hunters from every corner of the planet. Each surfer that is in love with this spot, or rather in a love/hate relationship with this spot, each of these surfers have there own set of circumstances that will drive them there. For one thing, like most beautiful siren’s, it’s not a sure thing. It takes a stupendous swell to make it happen.
And when it does it’s a serious matter. Big walls of water break off a boil rock on the outside of the bay and then rear up into thick, heaving left bowls that grind themselves to a halt onto an inside section. A section that is one of the shallowest in Indonesia. If the catastrophic thoughts of wiping out even cross your mind, you don’t paddle out here. Indonesian pro’s like Made Winada Adi Putra are the magicians that Nick Chong is talking about. To see Adi Putra wind his way through horrendous situation after horrendous situation on his way down the line is both mesmerizing and horrifying. These aren’t so much barrel rides as they are precise risk managements. “If you think about this wave you are dead” says Adi Putra.
“Once you take off, it’s not a wave anymore, it’s a kind of wild animal. You don’t tame it, you match its instincts”. To call this wave rare is fair. By Indonesian standards it is, but then Indonesia breaks 365 days a year so the scale of rare is skewed. This is not some a local winter bombie we are talking about. But it is a wave with a fickle spirit and it is effected by the island it crashes against. It’s mostly offshore in dry season tradewinds and heavily effected by the tides, but strange micro-climates move in on a whim. These due to the morning thermal heating and evening cooling of the mountainous coast line. “This wave definitely has a spirit”, says Hollander Ivo Pansier, “If you are plugged in, you can feel her. If she’s unhappy with anyone, she’ll turn onshore, even though you can see the whitecaps of the offshore trades on the horizon. Karma comes into play here more than most visitors care to realize”.
Still her allure is undeniable. With water as clear as the beginning of time. To see her in the distance, and it is a distance out to her from the beach, is to see what appears to be silent, spindrift perfection, reeling off the left of a bay so astonishingly beautiful that only the most articulate surfers can even describe it. A fantasy set-up. A movie set. One half expects a turn of the century pirate ship to come sailing around the corner to anchor in the bay. But once beyond the beauty, once the lust takes hold, a very different kind of fantasy can meet the first timer that paddles into her line-up. One will be met with a very unique crowd.
An international crowd of super-hot surfers, all jockeying like a horserace when the bell goes off at every set. And that clear water? As beautiful as it is? It now serves as a very unnerving magnifying glass. Enabling you to see quite clearly your violent fate should you falter on the tightrope between your instincts and the will of the wave. But then again, it is no achievement at all to walk a tightrope across a flat floor. So you go. And you hope. And you either live or die.