Local time is 5:40 a.m. The vague signs of light reveal a textured sea with only the sound of a muffled diesel engine displacing water. The air temperature is a moist 86º. With not a cloud in the faint blue sky, the only way to judge whether the boat is actually moving is by the mounds of open ocean swell we are traveling over.
Inter-island travel doesn’t get any more local than this. Here Parker catches a ride with an Indo fishing boat.
As if on a ride, the 64-foot vessel gracefully lunges down and then up again with each oncoming set. Despite jet lag fueled by a 14-hour time zone shift, there isn’t a sleepy eye on the boat. The anticipation of what’s around the next desolate, oncoming atoll creates a palpable energy only a surfer would understand.
The top deck is crowded—though silent—in fear of jinxing any of our expectations. Surfers can be a superstitious breed, even though they probably wont admit it. From hundreds of yards away, a perfect wave is unmistakable. From the moment you make eye contact, the excitement can’t be contained any longer.
It really doesn’t matter if it’s 60-foot or 6-foot—as long as your boat gets you to the break.
You’ve never seen so many men, young and old, running around giddy and ready to jump off the boat the instant the anchor drops. And this is how we began the first morning of a 12-day adventure exploring every nook and cranny that may be home to a wave.
“The anticipation of what’s around the next desolate, oncoming atoll creates a palpable energy only a surfer would understand.”
Parker navigating his way through some tropical turbulence
Few places on the globe are as diverse and wave-rich as the archipelago of Indonesia off the island of Sumatra. During their winter months—our summer—it is a perfect cocktail of weather, swell window and unique bathymetry (underwater landscapes) that creates one of the most spectacular locations for wave riders on the planet.
This area is protected by nothing and exposed to everything—sunny skies one minute and tropical squalls minutes later. But any apprehension about the remote nature of these islands quickly disappears after one ride on a wave down here.
Post-surf stoke in a Sumatran sunset
For Parker Browning, an 18-year-old Los Angeles-based surfer whose furthest wave trek ended near the Mexican border, an excursion to the opposite side of the globe was quite a new thing. After four flights, one train, two taxis and a short water ferry, he was anxious to ditch the shoes, jump into some boards and start gliding in the Indian Ocean. This is our adventure.
More than a pipe dream.