Give blood

Matt George
Swellnet Sessions

Story and captions by Matt George
Photos by Pete Frieden

It's not so much the needle they stick in your vein, but the long Q-tip they shove up your nose. Surf travel in Indonesia is possible, but no-one said it would easy. Which is why photographer Pete Frieden found himself in the drive-thru COVID-19 testing bay at a local hospital on Bali. You can’t go anywhere without your health clearance and with the swell of the year about to hit, so Frieden figured he had it all worked out. A secret boat to Desert Point as a practical stowaway, then back to Bali at the end of the week for the Padang Padang super session that was sure to happen on that following Sunday. 

A heavy crew was on the way to Desert Point by any means necessary. The car ferry over to Lombok, the one that recently ran aground and was briefly on fire, is an odyssey these days. Up to an eight hour wait in line just to get on the thing. “That’s not waiting,” says Frieden, “That’s camping”. Of course you can always fly over. It’s just a twenty minute flight. One small board only. That is if there aren’t many surfers on the flight. Then the rental car hassle. Then a long drive to the southeast tip of the Lombok. All sorts of things can go wrong there. So it was a lucky Frieden who was able to jump on board a locally-owned jet boat with the promise of shooting the best surf photos the Captain ever had taken of himself. 

But first, the blood test and the Q-tip up the nose. With the necessity of the thing reaching the farthest reaches of your nasal passages, it is a study in discomfort. Still, given the green light, Frieden raced down to the harbor, health papers in hand, jumped on board, and after a roaring channel passage, was shooting maxing Desert Point within three hours of departure. What he found there was a group of hardcore international devotees and the local surfers revelling in the most uncrowded Desert Point in decades. Padang Padang would have to wait until the end of the week. 

And it did. And it was as good as it gets. 

And Frieden killed it there too.

Nothing happens in the water without local resident 'Budi' knowing about it. He’s had Desert Point on lockdown for years. The owner of the best accommodations and the controller of all photography and video, the Desert Point world revolves around his unofficial decrees. A hot surfer, he has carte blanche whenever he paddles out. 

The South Americans have staked their claim at Desert Point over the years. It’s the hairy nature of the wave, especially the meat grinder on the inside known as the Grower, that seems to call to their almost suicidal tendencies. Manu Grana is a surfer from Uruguay that boasts never having missed a major Desert Point swell in the past five years. “With international travel non-existent, how he got here on this day was anybody’s guess” says Frieden, “But you could find him on the bigger waves of the day”. 

John Kelly is one of those surfers who sits way outside and very, very deep. With a hard charging style and his leash attached to his front foot, he's impossible to miss. 

The Prince of Desert Point, local Usman Trioko is one of the only surfers with the confidence to carve around on this bottomless wave. Growing up with this wave as his front yard, he rarely travels. Though a perennial threat at the Annual Rip Curl Cup over at Padang Padang, he prefers to mostly wile away his days ripping his birthright to pieces.

A long time master of the break, Bruno Santos brings impeccable positioning to the wave. On his distinctive red board, he rides with complete comfort, bringing a very professional act to a very remote place. His influence on the handful of local surfers has been profound. Emulating Bruno, they have developed into world class barrel riders of their home break.  

Having raced back across the Lombok Strait, Photographer Pete Frieden showed at at Padang Padang just in time to see local master Made Winada 'Bol' Adi Putra bring his matador style to one of the best day in years. There was a lot of water moving around the corner from Uluwatu, and only so many surfers held the key to the challenge. As usual, Adi Putra spent the day proving why he has two Rip Curl Cup Championship trophies at home. 

Mega Semadhi, yet another Rip Curl Cup Champion, has a special bond with the wave. Studying to become a 'Pemangku' or Balinese Priest, he often leads worship within sight of Padang Padang from the temple close by on the cliff. With this wave literally in his backyard, Mega surfs here with an exuberance and belonging that inspires the younger generation like no other surfer.

No day at Padang Padang would be complete without another master, Rizal Tandjung, bringing his mature, flawless lines to the session. Now a dedicated father of two and a mentor to legions of young surfers, his surfing is showing no signs of slowing down. “So I jumped off the boat”, says photographer Pete Frieden, “and I raced up to Padang Padang, swam out and the first guy I see taking off is Rizal in absolutely perfect position, of course. It was a perfect way to spend the last afternoon of what had been a long week of insane waves”.   

Comments

dandandan's picture
dandandan's picture
dandandan commented Friday, 31 Jul 2020 at 12:54pm

I bought a board from John Kelly years ago when he was shaping in Canggu, and I always suspected he charged. Nice to see a photo of him getting some.

T.Edds's picture
T.Edds's picture
T.Edds commented Friday, 31 Jul 2020 at 3:21pm

How many swells of the year are there in a single year?

thermalben's picture
thermalben's picture
thermalben commented Friday, 31 Jul 2020 at 3:36pm

Good opportunity to give this one a run.

Westofthelake's picture
Westofthelake's picture
Westofthelake commented Friday, 31 Jul 2020 at 4:35pm

Bloody top shelf drummin' right there.

batfink's picture
batfink's picture
batfink commented Saturday, 1 Aug 2020 at 12:15pm

When I saw the headline I had to go straight to YouTube for this clip. Off his White City album I think. Post-Who days, Pete delivered some very fine albums indeed. This one and ‘Empty Glass’ are as good as music gets.

I tend to stay up to date with current music, have found that not doing so means you are slowly dying, but going back to a classic every now and then is also good for the soul. Yes, WOTL, some very fine drumming indeed.

thermalben's picture
thermalben's picture
thermalben commented Saturday, 1 Aug 2020 at 1:03pm

I remember doing work experience at a record store in Year 11, and this was the album I had on high rotation at the time.

More tubes please's picture
More tubes please's picture
More tubes please commented Friday, 31 Jul 2020 at 4:26pm

Great photos but I’m sorry Friedan is not a legend, he’s an asshole. Always travels with a big pack of guys and thinks he’s hot shit. He spends his time when he’s not surfing heckling travelling surfers trying to get them to buy his surf shots. All while operating on a tourist visa. And I’ve seen him in the water at deserts, he can’t surf for shit. Deadset fuckwit in my book.

t-diddy's picture
t-diddy's picture
t-diddy commented Friday, 31 Jul 2020 at 5:04pm

"Great photos but I’m sorry Friedan is not a legend, he’s an asshole."

I think you can be both!

ringmaster's picture
ringmaster's picture
ringmaster commented Friday, 31 Jul 2020 at 9:35pm

It's 'arsehole' in Australia mate.

Spuddups's picture
Spuddups's picture
Spuddups commented Saturday, 1 Aug 2020 at 6:27am

Maybe in the 1960s. I’d say “asshole” is the more common usage these days.

mickseq's picture
mickseq's picture
mickseq commented Friday, 31 Jul 2020 at 7:31pm

last time I was at Desserts, I met and surfed with this Aussie guy that systematically surfed and drank longnecks every hour (all day) intermittingly while the tide fell on an evening ultra-low

mickseq's picture
mickseq's picture
mickseq commented Friday, 31 Jul 2020 at 7:33pm

I wonder what the line up was like

shorebreak's picture
shorebreak's picture
shorebreak commented Saturday, 1 Aug 2020 at 9:03am

Hey Dude I found him, So you can get your money back.
http://stormrider-surfcamp.com/bali-blog/entry/john-kelly-surfboards-hawai
If this is the same guy.....? He may surf well, shame about his ethics

shore break

BeachBumEd's picture
BeachBumEd's picture
BeachBumEd commented Saturday, 1 Aug 2020 at 10:46am

When it comes to $ ethically challenged.

More tubes please's picture
More tubes please's picture
More tubes please commented Saturday, 1 Aug 2020 at 4:32pm

He’s an absolute nightmare in the lineup out there too. Calls himself Keoni rather than John

T.Edds's picture
T.Edds's picture
T.Edds commented Saturday, 1 Aug 2020 at 4:43pm

Is he the bloke that romps around on occasion screaming “if your not Hawaiian I can’t see you...”?

More tubes please's picture
More tubes please's picture
More tubes please commented Saturday, 1 Aug 2020 at 4:46pm

Haven’t heard him say that but wouldn’t surprise me. He’s actually from Florida, but pretends to be Hawaiian. He burns guys left right and centre out there, absolute fuckwit

saltman's picture
saltman's picture
saltman commented Saturday, 1 Aug 2020 at 11:15am

Wow two arseholes in the one story !
Matt George might like to venture into some journalism and do a follow up
Seems there’s some material close at hand

More tubes please's picture
More tubes please's picture
More tubes please commented Saturday, 1 Aug 2020 at 4:47pm

Matt George thinks Deserts is on the SE tip of Lombok! Enough said!

batfink's picture
batfink's picture
batfink commented Saturday, 1 Aug 2020 at 1:24pm

I’ve heard quite a few people say they have had very unpleasant experiences with the cue tip up your nose. One letter writer, a male, complained that he imagined it was what the pain of childbirth was like. Now I recognise that individual practitioners may not have such a light touch, but really, get a grip.

Had it done about 4 years ago, up the nose and back of throat after a week of not recovering at all from a cold. It’s not nothing, but it’s pretty close to it. Chest x-ray scared me much more, as a former and now very occasional smoker there were things they might find that I didn’t want to know about. Turns out I had whooping cough, yeah, get outta here. Much more common than you would think for a disease that is a disaster for babies and the elderly. Wasn’t too bad overall, just a nasty cold that hung around for two weeks, but it is highly infectious and a notifiable disease (doctor has to record it with the health dept and get special permission for the antibiotics)

Anyway, to update the experience, I had to sit in the Bondi clinic car queue for 2 hours yesterday to get tested (for a very sore throat that I had reason to believe was bacterial, but we really should get tested). Nurse doing stellar duty, tough out there wrapped in full PPE all day, and she says this might be uncomfortable, a bit like getting salt water up your nose. I respond that that shouldn’t be a problem as it happens to me often enough, and she is pretty much right. The biggest issue is just learning that there is this vast cavity up the back of your nose that you could fit the long pool cue into.

As a person who has had long stretches where I would get full on sinus problems with every cold, this was literally not on the scale, didn’t register.

Get yourself tested if you have any symptoms, then stay at home till you get the results. I just got mine, negative to COVID-19, in just under 24 hours.

Now I just have to get over this sore throat and general malaise that goes with it.

Off topic, I know, and a rambling grandpa Simpson post, but that was the style at the time.

Spuddups's picture
Spuddups's picture
Spuddups commented Sunday, 2 Aug 2020 at 7:10am

That was a good read. Thanks for sharing.

kookfactor's picture
kookfactor's picture
kookfactor commented Sunday, 2 Aug 2020 at 9:25am

So basically the place is run by the locals, pecking order of Brazzo's and ex-pat aholes....wow fun trip. No contest that its been pumping but a mission trip to get burned by all these crew. Saying DP is on the SE tip? maybe it was some mysto spot in a parallel covid universe.

goofyfoot's picture
goofyfoot's picture
goofyfoot commented Sunday, 2 Aug 2020 at 11:57am

John Kelly sounds like a real legend of a dude. What a parasite. Why give any publicity to this prick?

groovie's picture
groovie's picture
groovie commented Monday, 3 Aug 2020 at 7:00am

I've met John twice in Lombok both times surfing other breaks in Southern Lombok (& several years apart)with no crowd in serious waves. Seemed like a nice bloke to me who charged some solid waves & was a real gentlemen in the lineups we were taking on.