When most surfers think about big wave surfing in January, their attention turns to Hawaii, Northern California, Nazare, and Ireland.
Indonesia simply doesn’t get a look in, and rightly so. Waves are lucky to reach head height and the famous waves at Uluwatu, G Land and Desert Point are onshore 24/7 during January.
But on rare occasions, when the planets align, it can absolutely pump in Indonesia rainy season. Right now is one of those times.
Two ex tropical cyclones are set to merge and combine with a deep cold water low right in the middle of the Indonesian swell window. On Thursday the storm is predicted to bottom out at 925 hectopascals. That should create a serious 10 foot plus swell with plenty of south in it.
With prevailing westerly winds in January and a rare thumping swell, Indonesia becomes a natural footers heaven.
There are a few slight problems. Where exactly are the waves capable of holding serious size in the wet season? And can you handle it?
Let’s look at the second question first. If you are based in Australia (like I am) you probably haven’t surfed waves of consequence for a few months and your surf fitness is probably going to be at a yearly low. There’s a very big transition from Aussie summer slop to grinding coral reefs.
And for all you goofy footers, how are your backhand pig dogging skills? Ha ha, now you know what it’s like for us natural footers at most of Indonesia’s top breaks!!
Finding waves that handle a big wet season swell is also not as easy as it sounds. Surf camps and charter boats are typically non-operational in January, and the waves aren’t so easy to find.
Let’s start with the easy options.
Bali has Nusa Dua, but you need elite fitness to handle the sweep. Sanur would be a pretty safe bet with a couple of options on that very long reef.
Keramas would have serious waves, and the pretenders who typically infest that line up would no doubt end up as pool-side spectators.
For the slightly more adventurous Lombok would have a few options. I won’t be giving people any clues to those wave locations other than saying, Desert Point isn’t one of them.
If you want to surf really heavy waves, with no crowds in remote areas, there’s plenty of options available. The famous spots aren’t the places to be.
Anywhere off Sumatra would be epic but it’s a long way to go for a swell that looks like only lasting a couple of days. With most of the charter boats in dry dock and very few camp guests, there’s sure to be some very happy surf camp staff over the next week.
The waves at G Land won’t be any good, but Reverse G (about five hours away on the other side of the peninsula) could be all time. Good luck finding a boat to take you there. You may find one by ringing the G Land surf camp offices in Bali. Don’t forget your credit cards. Getting there isn’t cheap.
Sumba has a wave capable of holding massive swells and the winds would be ideal. But would the tide be right? Don’t forget to take a mate, because you will probably be the only two in the water if it gets huge.
And then there’s Apocalypse on Panaitan Island off Java. It’s a mission to get to, and this truly frightening right hander is the heaviest wave in the country. If you don’t genuinely enjoy surfing 8-10 foot at your local break, you won’t have any fun here.
So there it is folks, a guide to a very rare swell event. If you’re time rich and have a few disposables in your bank account, what are you waiting for? Book those flights. (and don’t forget the travel insurance).
Featured image credit: Brad Masters via Surfline
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