Updated: Oct 5 2022

Sumatra


On the Westernmost flank of Indonesia, the island of Sumatra and it’s outer islets are home to some the best, most consistent waves on the planet.

Sumatra is Indonesia’s largest island stretching across the Equator on it’s Western coast. It is perfectly positioned to pick up the Southern swells which march in from the Roaring Forties. Throughout the years intrepid surfers have been uncovering the potential of this area by sea and land missions. Mapping out the many angles and coastlines of the mainland and islands for its ability to refract swell into rideable waves. While Sumatra's famous waves are now on every surfer’s radar, the islands around Sumatra still hold the promise of undiscovered waves.

Where to Surf in Sumatra

The chain of islands off the Western coast of Sumatra - the Mentawais, Hinako, Banyaks are one of the most wave rich regions in the world and have been drawing surfers to its waves ever since their discovery. The mainland also gets its fair share of waves. South Sumatra just North of Java has good waves in the Lampung region -  home to Ujung Bocor, one of Indonesia’s longest left handers. In Northern Sumatra, the Aceh province is the most exposed to swell. This is where you will find Nias, the natural footer’s dream wave. A long perfect right-hander in a land of lefts. Much of Aceh’s potential is still untapped due to regional conflicts and the difficulties in getting there.

BEG
INT
ADV
Suicides
reef
Nipussi
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Macaronis Right
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Fish Fingers
beach
Icelands
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Kandui Left
reef
Bank Vaults
reef
E-Bay
reef
Beng Bengs
reef
Four Bobs
reef
Lance's Left
reef
Telescopes
reef
Silabu
reef
Pitstops
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Lance's Right
reef
Thunders
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Greenbush
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Macaronis
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Chubbies
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Burger World
reef
Rifles
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Scarecrows
reef

Why Surf in Sumatra

For surfers who want to have a bit of an adventure.With the arrivals of accommodation and  boat charters it is not necessary to camp out in Jungles like the original surf explorers. But surfing in Sumatra is still a wild experience. The islands are a long boat ride away from civilisation and overland routes are still “foreboding”. Most tourists are here to surf. There are no beach clubs and similar encroaching excesses of modern life which have creeped up around Bali. There is only a pristine natural backdrop of palm trees and clear water for your surf sessions. Providing you look past the mega yachts.

When to Surf Sumatra

The most consistent swell in Sumatra happens during the Southern hemisphere Winter (April to September) when swells travel all the way from the Southern ocean to the Sumatran coast. These long range ground swells fire up the breaks and this is when you can expect the biggest heaviest waves. For advanced surfers looking to score some heaving barrels, the dry season is your best bet.

During the Wet or Monsoon season, wind and ocean conditions are more unpredictable due to tropical storms. This period still has consistent waves though the sets are starting to get smaller. Surfers who are fine with not staring into the jaws of death on every take off should consider a trip around this time..

Since trade winds run along a latitude of -10 to -30, Sumatra sits above this area and feels less of the effects of the trade winds. Northern Sumatra near the equator does not get trade winds while the effects of the trades increase as you travel South.

Dry Season

The Dry Season is the most reliable time to head to Sumatra. During this time the large swell, reliable offshore trade winds means that you will be experiencing the very best that Sumatra has to offer.

Wet Season

Unlike Bali, where winds blow consistently from the West during the Wet Season, in the Mentawais there may weak or even no wind during this time. There won’t be as much swell as during the Dry Season making it ideal for surfers who are fine with not chasing 2 x overhead bombs.

 


Surf Trip Types

Boat Charters

Boat charters are the tried and tested way for missions to the Sumatran islands. Best thing about boat charters is you are mobile. Your crew of merry adventurers can rest assured that the Captain will be navigating his boat through the islands and dropping anchor at the best breaks of the day. The disadvantage is that you are stuck in that boat with your band of pirates during all hours when you are out of the water. Level of comfort being very much dependant on teh how much you spent on your ticket. Living out in the water, your chances of getting mosquito borne diseases is also lower.

Losmen home stays 

The cheapest option is to organize your own transport and accommodation. Home stays run by locals have sprung up around the various breaks. Some even provide transportation by road or fast boat to nearby surf spots. 

Surf Resorts

At the famous surf spots, all inclusive resorts have sprung up to accommodate surfers who need a certain level of luxury. They have their own fast boats which transport surfers to and from the surf spots and some even have air conditioned rooms. 


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.

Shallow Reef 

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.

Heavy Waves

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.

Mosquitoes

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.

Wildlife

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.


Where to Surf in Sumatra


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