Photos: Reflections on a Lombok corner
By Matt George
Photos by Federico Vanno / Liquid Barrel
Recently, Indonesia loosened the locks on its gates and if you had the money for the $1,700 sixty day visa you could've surfed Indonesia's best waves - which by default means the world's best waves - with very few surfers in the line-up.
Of course, the 1,700 bucks and the outrageous international airfares and all the COVID protocols in the coming and the going were a deterrent to most civilians, but it seemed that the cashed up pros took full advantage. It turned the islands of Bali, Lombok, Java, and the Mentawai into a sort of wellness retreat to the stars.
Here in Bali, one of the big innovations has been the jet boats. If you went down to Benoa, found a muscle boat, and threw enough cash at it, you could be surfing G'Land in an hour, then trade stories over a cold beer at Uluwatu while watching the sun set on the same day.
Same goes for Desert Point.
By reducing these exotic corners to within an hour's hop from Bali, where G'Land once meant a four day jungle stay and Desert Point a 24 hour mission on ferries and bad roads, the muscle boats were a miracle. Though again, only if you had enough dough. Whether or not this becomes the new normal to wealthy visitors remains to be seen. It does, after all, come with its challenges. Little things, like getting lost at sea in one of the most dangerous channels on Earth or going airborne at 30 knots as you break all the rules of big swell cruising.
Desert Point is the most fascinating study. Considering the sublime quality of the wave, how Bangko Bangko has dodged the crushing development that one sees at Uluwatu is one of life’s great mysteries. Indonesia's diverse palate, where neighbouring regions can have contrasting values, helps explain the riddle, but no Westerner will fully comprehend the cultural depths of Indonesia, so sometimes it's better to let things be, simply sit back with an empty mind as an otherworldly confluence of swell, reef, tide, and wind unfurls in panorama.
And so Bali and Lombok have survived another seasonal onslaught of visitors.
This year was made unique by the tiny numbers of them and the occasional pro delivery vessel with monster outboards mounted on the stern raking a glassy line-up. With the season winding down, and the memory of the pro performances still fresh in mind and inspiring, the best breaks are once again a local’s domain.
// MATT GEORGE with photos by FEDERICO VANNO/LIQUID BARREL