Perhaps nowhere personifies the Indo boat trip more than a mission to the Mentawai Islands. A chain of 4 main islands (Siberut, Sipura, North Pagai, South Pagai) and up to 70 smaller islets off the Western coast of Sumatra make up the Mentawais. The islands were first pioneered by Martin Daly whose forays into the region on the Indies Trader unlocked the islands for surfers to come. Nothing beats the feeling of surfing a remote Mentawais wave breaking off an uninhabited island surrounded by the open ocean.
The reefs in the Mentawais are formed from volcanic rocks producing the powerful, mechanical waves which are a characteristic of the location. Though the coastline mainly faces West, the many islands with their points, inlets and bays produce lots of breaks facing all different angles. Meaning there will always be a surf spot delivering the goods somewhere.
Why Surf the Mentawais
The Mentawais is one of the most wave dense destinations in the world with more than a couple of world class waves like the super rippable Macaronis and intense tube freight trains like Lance’s Rights. There are lots more breaks out there which may not be as well known or barrel rich but are just as good, giving you a chance to surf without crowds. Surf Sleep Repeat. Surfers in the Mentawais have a laser like focus to score the waves of their lives, everything else is secondary.
When to Surf in the Mentawais
The islands receive the most consistent swell from the Roaring Forties during the Southern hemisphere Winter from April to October. This is when the majority of surfers travel here chasing the big swells and when all the charter boats will be running. Being closer to the equator, the Mentawais are less affected by the trade winds. As a result, winds can be quite unpredictable and it pays to be mobile in the islands where you are always within a short boat ride to a surfable break.
In contrast during the wet season, the large swells are fading, the crowds thin out and boats dock for maintenance. During this time, surf camps may be a better option. The Northern Mentawai islands get less rain which is typical of the monsoon season.
How to Surf the Mentawais
Surfing the Mentawais by chartered boat is the tried and tested way. Captains use their deep knowledge of the local islands to bring your crew to a wave that works on the day. Traditionally surfers would charter ocean going vessels from Bali or Padang, staying and living abroad. Nowadays surf camps are springing up in the Mentawais at popular spots catering to the surf traveller. They are usually located next to breaks and have their own speed boats if you need to travel to further breaks. Local home stays are a cheaper option. They offer basic accommodation but usually only have land based transport limiting your access to nearby breaks only.