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.