Watch out for
In the last couple of years boat operators and camp owners have done what they can to domesticize surfing in Sumatra. You can stay on board luxury yachts or live in purpose made surf resorts built for surfers and their families. But much of Sumatra is still remote and in some parts the jungle hasn’t changed much.
If you are in Sumatra, you have come to find some cover in it’s famous barrelling waves. Which means you are going to probably be contacting Mr Reef at some point. It pays to be extra careful around these parts as the fastest way back to the mainland can still be a 5 hour fast boat ride. If you are going to be surfing over shallow reefs you may want to consider extra protection. Surfers aren’t wearing neoprene here because its cold but for protection.Serious surfers are even wearing helmets. Why not? Everyone wears a helmet on ski fields nowadays, and surfing is way more consequential.
During peak season the waves in Sumatra can take surfers unconditioned to Indo by surprise. Typical beach break waves that you surf at home are created by swells with a period of around 10-14s. In these parts you can get up to 20s swells travelling much faster and with much more energy than you may be used to.
Earthquakes & Tsunami
The 2004 SE Asian tsunami devastated Aceh in North Sumatra, Many areas were affected. The macaronis resort was leveled. Not long after, a major earthquake in March 2005, resulted in 700 local lives lost in Nias. Since these events, operators have put in place strategies to deal with Tsunamis and Earthquakes to the best of their ability. But the fact remains that Indonesia is on the Ring of Fire, the most volcanic active part of our planet and there is always a risk.
Its absolutely crazy that Malaria is so rampant around these parts that 50% of families lose a child to the virus. Thanks to work of SurfAid in places like the Mentawais, locals have a chance of getting the vaccine. In addition to Malaria, mosquito bites can also spread Dengue and Japanese Encephalitis. Staying on a boat lessens the chance of exposure and resorts may have prevention strategies. Probably best to check with a doctor as to what medication you can take.
You have more to fear from the mosquitoes here, but the jungles of Sumatra are one of the few places in the world where tigers still roam freely. There have also been attacks on villagers by giant Pythons.
Bring Everything You Need
Surf shops are few and far between in Sumatra and non existent in the islands. Bring everything you need for surfing plus spares. Good idea to also bring along snacks, supplements, liquor and any other creature comforts.