Patience. It’s a currency that can be a little hard to come by these days. Surfers, of course, are familiar with this cash, even if some places like Indonesia are often so perfect and consistent — that not much of it is normally required.
Because, sure, sometimes it’s doable to just rock up to a place you’ve never been to before and hope for the best. But with, say, a seasoned surf guide taking the wheel — a driver like that knows every single twist, turn and dead-end of a wave. They know exactly what the tide might do, and when, or what a “devil wind” might do to a lesser known corner of the island.
The following is not only a journal entry of a recent trip in the spring by owner and surf guide of Asu Camp, Earl Sullivan, it’s an expert’s manual of how to score in this remote and extremely unique area of Indonesia known as the Hinako Islands. Of course, with Earl’s help, the whole lot of them reaped 9 days of rewards…
When the chance to score somewhat empty Lagundry Bay with a moderate 4-6’ SSW swell appears on the radar, you don’t think twice — you pull the trigger. Coco and crew had been working with me for four weeks on making the most of a 9-day trip in a two weeks travel window to score in the Hinakos, just west of Nias island. They live in Bali and their goal was to score perfect waves — perfectly empty — before the post-pandemic crowds come swarming back to Indo. We had our eyes on the swell charts and something good was coming down the pipe, the winds were forecasted to be NW for the first days, onshore at Asu, the crown jewel of the Hinakos, but offshore in Lagundry. Time to pull the trigger.
Day 1 Coco called me up. “Do you think it’s worth stopping at Lagundry Bay on the way in?” he asked. This is exactly the kind of question that inspired me to create Asu Camp’s “Lagundry Strike Mission” package. The idea is to book a stay at Asu Camp for your available window and if the elements align, get down to Lagundry Bay for 3 days/2 nights of pumping righthand perfection. So, with northwest winds and a 5’@16s ssw swell on the charts all I had to say was, “Oh, yeah.” (Click, bang).
In classic Third World surf trip travel fashion, their early morning flight from Sumatra to Nias was cancelled and changed to a late morning flight, which then got delayed an hour. Alas, they arrived right after low tide on the afternoon of the peak of the swell, right into the mouth of the beast. It was pumping and it was lovely. Lagundry at 4-5’ is an incredible wave, the stuff of dreams — barreling, but friendly. Powerful, but forgiving. Only the occasional 6’ set had most of the crew in the water scrambling for the channel, because at 6’+ she has teeth, the bottom drops out a little harder, the top throws over a little farther, and everything about the take-off gets a touch more critical.
I surfed for three hours into the dropping tide awaiting their arrival. The wind went WSW for 30 minutes at low tide and I thought all might be lost, but it just emptied the lineup of the crew that was already tiring out. When Coco and crew arrived, there were only 10 people in the water and the wind was back offshore. A COVID dream come true. Lunch in the belly and they were out there.
Coco paid the ultimate price for the trip. With a local guy charging through a tube straight into his line of paddle, he had to take an alternate route under the pit, ditch his board, and caught the rail of the nose of his board on the outside of his left shin, blasting open a nice gash. On to the beach for five stitches; the dark side and brutal truth of a swell day gone wrong.
Day 2 was for Luca, Jonas, and Jil to reap the offerings on hand. Most people had cooked themselves on Day 1 of the swell and Day 2 was still offering up overhead tubes with just a handful of humans. Low tide was especially kind and they all had multiple sessions while Coco looked on from his new ‘home office,’ tracking sales while the boys tracked tubes.
Day 3 was a perfect travel day with cool and cloudy weather, the swell in the Bay having faded away. We hit the road for the Hinakos anticipating a windy sea crossing as the forecast was for the wind to fade the next day. We arrived to the west coast port and were greeted with south winds: already offshore at Asu. What a blessing.
Day 4 and Asu is pumping. With the westerly direction in the swell, Asu gets a lot more juice than the Bay down south. The wind is slightly out of the east, we wait, eat breakfast and I alleviate the boy’s fears of how close the wave breaks to the reef. Trust me, I say, it’s bigger than it looks and deeper than it looks. We give it some time for the east wind to back off before we head out, but the crew is eager and it’s hard to hold people back from almost-perfect waves, even with the promise that it will soon be actually-perfect. When we do get out, it’s exactly as promised, bigger than it looked and plenty of space between us and the reef. Everyone gets some fun ones, but the east wind hasn’t really let up and it’s not very clean. We make the best of it for two hours as it slowly cleans up. At 1pm we are ready for lunch and the wind is, ironically enough, dying down, and the waves settle into the glassiest we’ve seen all day. Lunch is amazing and we digest, resting in the hammocks.
Coco had to watch the session from the beach and while he’s ready to get in the water again, he’s not sure about surfing. I gave him some medical-grade super glue to seal the wound and the boys are eager to go spear fishing on another island, leaving me to do the afternoon dance with glassy Asu all by myself. Another solo session in the books with lovely 4’ Asu, just another day on the job. The boys came home with a lovely little 2kg Baby Wahoo which we’ll have on the BBQ tomorrow for lunch. For now it’s lasagna for dinner, and we wash it down with some rum to celebrate a fantastic day.
Day 5 and the winds are super light, amazing glass out front, swell is fading, some nice 4’ sets every 5-10 minutes, but everyone is hung over from last night and moving slow. The crew is still intimidated by how close the wave seems to be breaking to the reef, and now that it’s a touch smaller — even more so.
But we leave at 11am for Bawa island and the ocean is an amazing sheet of glass in all directions. By the time we get to Bawa there is a light side-onshore wind from the WSW, but the wave is unaffected. Lovely 4’ peaks and walls are rolling in and we are out there. Over the next 2.5 hours the wind slowly clocks around to the west and goes more and more offshore, but the swell is fading. Still peppered with solid sets every half hour, everyone gets their share of Bawa bombs and fun walls.
All cooked from a super fun session, we head home to eat the fish from last night, and what a fish it was — amazingly flakey white flesh that is perfectly cooked over the coconut shell coals by chef Lili. Out of this world flavor. The boys are hungry for more fishing and they shoot back over to the fish tank for another shot. They come home with two small fish, and report that it was not as good as last night. For me, the surf was fading and the light onshore west wind made for a perfect breeze to start rebuilding the beach shack for the 2022 season.
Day 6 and we awoke to another day of no wind and absolute glass surrounding us in all directions. Swell had dropped a touch more and only a few ridable waves at Asu, so we head to Bawa again after breakfast.
Bawa is clean and pumping, 3-4’ and super fun. The wind slowly creeps up out of the south and bumps it up and sends us home happy at midday. Winds are up in the afternoon out of the WSW and I tell the guys that it’s sideshore at Bawa and Asu. With the swell picking up tomorrow for the next three days, I recommend taking the afternoon to rest and relax or spearfish if they want to stay active. Coco and Jonas go spearfishing and Coco nabs a beautiful snapper for lunch tomorrow.
Day 7 and we awoke to grey and ominous skies, 3-4’ waves at Asu, but there are east winds up the face and a looming, massive thunder cloud is approaching the island from behind us. It wasn’t long before we were enjoying breakfast in the shelter of the kitchen while the rain thundered down. The day would not turn out as expected. The light southerly wind forecasted turned into a north wind, so we set out to make something of the rising swell. We found a fun right hander that was clean and offshore and with the rising swell filling in slowly, we managed to squeeze a fun surf session out of a funky day.
Day 8 was glorious. Glassy conditions in the morning and the rising swell starting to show, though still not quite what we had anticipated. The east wind slowly filled in, bumping up the faces, but I assured the guys that the midday session would provide. And provide, it did. The boys scored super fun well overhead racing Asu walls and I stayed on the beach to record the show with my lens. The wind came up out of the west just a touch too much in the afternoon and Asu never really recovered. Luca went out for a few bumpy ones to himself, but it was more work than reward and even he ended up snapping his board when ditching under a big set. Sometimes the price must be paid.
Day 9 and the winds are out of the east, the swell is down at Asu and we go look at a secret left hander in the neighborhood. Upon arrival there are nice waves, but there is a squall to the south that is looming and ends up running us down and killing the waves with a strong south wind within minutes of getting our first few waves. Back to Asu where the south wind has become perfectly offshore and slow, but 3-4’ sets are rolling in for the patient three of us that wait for them.
The crew packed their stuff and headed for the hotel near the airport that afternoon. 8 nights, 9 days, 5 waves, 4 fish speared, 1 bottle of rum, and so many smiles. Another successful Indo adventure in the books with Asu Camp. Big thanks to Coco, Luca, Jonas and Jil for putting their trust in me and the Asu Camp crew.