How to Succeed on an Indonesian Boat Tour with the Boat Owners Themselves

Over the past month, you’ve seen Nathan Florence double in huge green cathedrals at HT’s. Or maybe you watched Kelly Slater’s hands-free dream squeeze through Kandui’s cylinders. The Indonesian archipelago, and the Mentawais in particular, has been on fire for months.

And the boat trip remains the gold standard for experiencing some of the most perfect waves on the planet. However, being one of the most expensive surf holidays on the market, it is worth getting it right. We asked some of the most experienced Mentawai charter skippers and operators to share their in-depth knowledge with us. We can’t guarantee waves, but follow these tips and you’ll give yourself a shot at the best surf trip of your life.

Visions of the tube and visions of where you will sleep. Photo: Indian Merchant

Yeah Yeah Skipper

“Navigating through the myriad of islands in precarious shallow water requires an advanced level of skill that takes decades of experience,” says Martin Daly, legendary Mentawais explorer and skipper of the Indies Trader 3. “Hundreds of people die each year in boating accidents in Indonesia and many as a result of mistakes made by captains. Make sure your captain has a license ANT V (Master 5) or more so you can be assured they have the proper training to know how to deal with emergencies and make careful calls about weather conditions and hazards.

Look over your shoulder

“Don’t be afraid to travel in the shoulder seasons,” says Mentawai owner and skipper Steve “Sooly” Sewell Huey Surf Charters. “Besides the savings you can make, I’ve had some of the best late season trips with few to no people.”

Additionally, with the current COVID backlog that operations are honing, most top charters now have limited berths open during the early months of June through September, even for the 2023 season. Off and shoulder seasons are more available and are becoming more and more popular.

It’s a numbers game

“Always check the number of surfers on the boat,” says Matt Cruden, owner of Latitude Zero Station and the Mangaluis and one of the most experienced operators in Indonesia. “There should never be more than 10 surfers on board. We’ve seen boats with 14 to 20 guys recently. It’s obviously a crowd to hire, but it’s also just downright dangerous.

Tower problems

Two weeks without a phone or wi-fi can be one Internet user’s dream and another’s nightmare. However, whatever your connectivity streak, there’s a benefit to making sure your boat has 24/7 satellite internet access, and not just so you can post your four-second head drops on Instagram. Some boats rely on cell and VHF for communication, so must be within five miles of the few cell towers dotted around the islands.

“Cheaper boats, sometimes, but not always, with an all-Indonesian crew like to stick to breaks close to cell towers so they can use their cell phones while the guys are surfing,” says Daly. “They will find excuses why they can’t or shouldn’t visit other breaks, but in reality they just don’t want to be bored without cell service. This can reduce your options for waves and increase your chances of surfing with crowds.

It pays to pay a little extra for your home away from home. Photo: Huey Surf Charters

Beware of discounted travel

“Beware of cheap travel or heavily discounted travel. If they discount, they will discount your trip. They will reduce fuel consumption, which means you won’t be able to get to all the places you want to go,” says Sooly. “They will have less money for maintenance, which will affect reliability. Beware of “too good to be true” prices, because they usually are. »

Do not book with an operator without local offices

“When transferring money overseas, be careful because you will never get any money back if things go wrong,” said Jamie Gray, CEO of The perfect wave. “Use a trusted and reputable company that you can come back to with local regional offices. Make sure the operator has operator liability insurance and an office in your country to make sure they can’t hide you.

The right kind of travel insurance

“Last week we had an absolute nightmare of a situation with one of our guests,Sooly said. “He broke his femur and the travel insurance company was a nightmare to deal with. It took almost 48 hours from the time of the injury to the organization of a medical evacuation to get him out of here. All boat operators should have recommended insurance providers. Stick with them and if possible hire your entire crew on the policy which will make it much cheaper.

Maximize your time

“We always recommend two week trips to maximize your swell window. Traveling halfway around the world and missing a big swell is a huge disappointment,” says Daly. “More and more boats are offering shorter trips with more time at the port of Padang. Boats that stay out longer can usually take a few days when most boats are in port, and can sneak into even the most prominent empty spots.

How to Succeed on an Indonesian Boat Tour with the Boat Owners Themselves

Beware of bidding. See below. Photo: Perfect wave trip

Ask questions first, shoot later

“Always ask what is and isn’t included in the price. Do they include beer or are there any extras you have to pay for when you arrive? said Matt Cruden. “Dodgy operators often charge a variety of things like port fees, visas, extra transfers and extra beers and once on board it’s impossible to pay for them.”

Sooly, who boasts of never losing a day of surfing in 15 years to mechanical failure, also advises ask questions first and shoot later. “Are you traveling at night? Do you have all safety equipment? When was the last engine refit? These are all great questions that you should be able to answer in your first application,” says Sools. He also recommends asking for current images of the engine room, beds and galley to give you a good indication of the boat.

The call for tenders

“The dinghy, or small fast boat that carries people out to the waves, is an important factor. Everybody has one, but some are these little plastic things, but look at the size of the tender, the size of the motor. Can he take you back to Padang in case of an emergency,” says Cruden. “They are also great for splitting the peloton. If you have six kooks and four shredders, that causes stress on a boat. With a good dinghy, half the crew can sail ten miles up the coast and score waves to match their abilities.

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