Sometimes it’s difficult to decide where to take a surf trip. Other times, it’s a total no-brainer. June is one of those no-brainer months, because by the time the solstice comes around, Indonesia is solidly into its season.
Of course, Indo is one of the few places on the planet that can fire year round, if you know where to go—but June is when the trades kick up and the swells start to pump with consistency, and all of the quintessential Indo spots really start doing their thing.
The wind blows from the south east this time of year, and the swells come from the south and south west, so ideally you are looking for a reef pass or point that faces west enough to enjoy the winds, but not so much as to miss out on the swell.
With thousands of islands and setups to choose from, there is nearly always somewhere that is pumping—and just to make things better, the bigger islands like Bali and Java enjoy their own micro-climates, so you can often still get morning offshores on the east coasts.
Plus, the water is warm, the people are friendly, and the lifestyle is very affordable. In other words, Indo is just about the best place you can go in June if you are looking for waves, no matter which region you decide to visit. The only real question is, why you aren’t on a plane already?
The Bukit Peninsula on Bali is the original Indonesian fantasy. First surfed in the early 1970s by pioneers like Steve Cooney and filmmaker Alby Falzon (of Morning of the Earth fame), this stretch of coast is offshore in the trades, picks up pretty much every drop of swell Indonesia receives, and has dozens of world class waves, (most of them lefts). Highlights include Uluwatu and Padang Padang, where local pros such as Rizal Tanjung have been friendly hosts since the mid-’90s.
Bali is the sole Hindu island in a country that is largely Muslim, giving it a markedly different culture and feel. The past 40 years have seen the island become one of the biggest tourist and ex-pat destinations on the planet, so it’s pretty busy, both in the surf and on land, but the locals are notoriously friendly, and when a solid south swell fills in and lights up the area's reefs, the Balinese dream is still very much alive.
Located off the coast of Sumatra, the Mentawai Islands might be the most wave-rich zone on the entire planet. Exposed to the world in the 1990s, the Ments have gone on to become one of the biggest surf tourism destinations in the world, where dozens of live-aboard yachts now compete with a recent crop of land camps.
There are waves for every level of surfer in the Ments, but most go there seeking barrels at marquee spots such as Macaronis, HTs and Kandui. The local economy in the Mentawais is not yet well-developed, so there aren’t a lot of local surfers. But numerous non-profits like Surfaid got their start in the region, so there is potential to step outside your charter boat bubble and give back to the locals while still scoring the waves of your life.
The discovery of G-Land is the stuff of legends. First surfed by Bob Laverty and Bill Boyum in 1972, Grajagan Bay had been spotted by Laverty from the window of a passing airplane. Bob and Bill immediately set out to find their way to the wave, and Bill’s brother Mike Boyum soon joined them there, starting the world’s first surf camp on the edge of the jungle overlooking G-Land. Gerry Lopez soon began doing extended stints there, often surfing alone at what was then considered the best lefthander in the world, with only the tigers in the jungle for company.
In the 1990s, the Money Trees and Speedies sections of the wave were featured on the world tour, with the some of the best conditions ever featured gracing the 1995 event. Today, the multi-section, mile-long reef break receives less attention than in the early years, but still pumps out goofy-footed perfection to the die-hards who return to the area surf camps each year.
Like many of Indonesia’s jewels, Lagundri Bay on Nias has been the stuff of legends since 1975, when Australian surfer Peter Troy found a world-class right in the land of perfect lefts. The wave actually got better after the 2004 earthquake and tsunami, and now provides draining tropical barrels up to the double overhead range, and a slabby, Teahupoo-esque tube once it goes into the triple-overhead range.
Widely considered one of the best rights in Indonesia, Nias can be very crowded, and the local village has long served as a cautionary tale of what can happen when surf impacts a local culture for the negative. However, the situation has cleaned up a bit in recent years, and it’s still possible to score empty perfection to yourself during the early and late season, or at the crack of dawn, before all the other visiting surfers paddle out.
Perhaps the best thing about Indonesia is how immense and varied the archipelago is. With nearly 18,000 islands and one of the most consistent swell windows on the planet, there is a wave for just about every type of surfer. Whether you are looking to surf the marquee spots or get off the beaten track and live out your tropical fantasy alone, Indo is waiting. All you have to do is go.
Cover shot by Trevor Murphy