Are you thinking or dreaming of surfing the Mentawai Islands? But you’re not sure yet if you can handle the waves? Even if you’re not into surfing at all, and you’re accompanying your surfing partner on a family holiday, I can tell you: going to the Mentawai Islands is a good idea. Except when the weather is shit and the waves are messy (yes, that does happen – also in “paradise”). Fortunately, I was lucky.
(All photos are taken by Quinten Jacobs)
As I’m writing this, I’m sitting on a comfortable sofa 10 meters away from the beach, overlooking the clear, turquoise ocean. Small but perfect waves are breaking on the reef in front of me.
I’m staying at Pulau Pototoga, a tiny Mentawai island located in West Sumatra, Indonesia.
It’s still early in the morning, and I just had an amazing night’s sleep. There’s nothing here but the relaxing sound of waves and birds. I don’t think I’ve slept this good in over a year.
This place is absolutely stunning. It’s my first time to Sumatra, and the Mentawai Islands were on my bucket list ever since I first read about them in a surf magazine.
The reason why I’m here is, obviously, to surf. My good friend and surf photographer Quinten Jacobs got invited here to take shots of the property and the surfers. I said I’d make a good plus one.
And I’m so glad he listened to me. I can honestly say that I’ve had some of the best surf of my life here (update October 2019: no, I did not). Which is not so weird because these are the freaking Mentawaiiii!
Dream waves for all levels
I wasn’t expecting that though. I always thought that the Mentawai waves were only meant for pro surfers on the search for barrels all day long. Which is true, BUT there are actually waves here for intermediates as well. Even for beginners. If you don’t feel comfortable on your own, take a surf lesson (beginners, def do that).
Icelands is a beautiful lefthander, which occasionally breaks to the right as well. When the swell’s big and the wind is offshore, it barrels off the peak. You can also shoulder-hop it if you’re not feeling confident enough yet.
Ombak Tidur really is a dream wave – if your dream wave is a righthander. Even if it isn’t, it holds up beautifully with an offshore wind and a bigger swell. It’s just so much fun, including for goofy footers.
Then there’s another wave, called Telescopes. This long, mellow lefthander is a bit further away (like a 20 mins boat ride) and it’s another intermediate’s dream wave. I surfed it when it was small, and I still managed to get some really long rides.
Of course, there are many more spots around (well-known Playgrounds is about an hour by boat), but I didn’t get to surf those (need something to look forward to for when I go back, which I will).
We mostly ate fish, rice, noodles, and vegetables for lunch and dinner.
Fun non-surfing activities: yoga, snorkeling, stand-up paddleboarding, and a beach walk
In between surf sessions we practiced yoga at the studio or went for a stand-up paddleboard session. The water is so clear that if you want to go snorkeling, you almost don’t need a mask (unless you wear contacts, then don’t open your eyes underwater – learned that the hard way).
After my last surf session, I decided to walk back along the beach instead of taking the boat. So I paddled about 15 minutes to the beach, which was by far the most beautiful paddle you can imagine. Like, I was paddling through crystal clear, turquoise water, just enjoying the view of the white beach, the palm trees, the blue sky, the sun… and the fact that I was totally on my own.
Not a person in sight, I walked for about 20 minutes along the beach and made my way through soft white sand, hopped over palm trees that had fallen over, climbed over small rocks, and dodged pink little crabs.
The sun was kissing my skin quite passionately, so I used my surfboard as a hat. For a minute I felt like I could totally rock a live version of Castaway. My surfboard would be my Wilson.
How to get there
It’s not the easiest place to get to, but that’s what makes it so unique. You need to fly to Padang (Sumatra), then spend one night there and catch the Mentawai Fast ferry to Tuapejat in the morning (a 3-hour ferry ride).
Ferries only operate on Mondays (6 am), Wednesdays (7 am) and Fridays (7 am).
I stayed at Wisma Mutiara in Padang. A cheap ($15-$20 per night) and welcoming homestay, which is located 3 mins from Mentawai Fast Ferry.
PS Do you want to see more dreamy photos of this trip? Connect with me on Instagram!