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The Scramble Gamble

The rain came, the tides stopped working and the sets started to look the same … so the Deus crew headed east – on two wheels. Words & images: Tom Hawkins.

Being based somewhat permanently on the shores of Indonesia is definitely something of a double-edged sword. The archipelago we call home hosts a large majority of the world’s best waves, which in turn, like magnets, draw people from all walks of life. It seems that over the last four or so years, the divide between the ‘low’ and ‘high’ seasons has become blurred. Even during the rainy season. Now it’s more of a geographic shift-change throughout the year. First come the Europeans, then the Japanese and last but definitely not least come the Brazilians. Australian numbers fluctuate, but they seem to be here year round.

Through the dry season the trades blow strong and the sun shines from its rise to set, however on the flip side of the year we see the rainy season settle in, bringing with it variable winds and the type of constant cloud cover that threatens rain at any moment. However hope is not lost, the ever-prevailing saving grace of the Indonesian archipelago is that there is never a lack of swell. During this rain-soaked season you may not be scoring the big name spots like Padang Padang or Uluwatu, but for those who are willing to peel back the canvas and have a look a little deeper, rewards await in the form of fun bays, fickle but firing reefs and the stories of getting there in one piece.

After we saw surf guides starting to ferry punters to some of the lesser-known breaks that work in the wet season, we made the decision to get away from it all for a bit and looked to slow down our transformation into a jaded surf crew that talks about “how good it used to be”. Beers were cracked, a map was consulted and next thing you know we were off on a two-week motorcycle mission. We decided to capitalize on the ambiguous nature of the surf spots on a neighbouring island; we knew they existed, there just wasn’t much information to go off of, and that was a good thing.

Since we had no real idea as to what we would find along the way, we decided a diverse quiver would be the best course of action; nine boards between us and with two boards each the boys had everything from a 5’2 fish to a 9’6 longboard, with a plethora of options in-between. Right off the bat we knew we weren’t going on a die-hard surf strike mission, we weren’t envisioning pulling up to stand-tall pits in a quiet fishing village. No, this trip was more of an excuse to spend a couple weeks riding bikes with some good friends through some amazing stretches of Indonesia. If we found waves, awesome. If we didn’t, awesome. We left with low expectations and smiles on our faces.

I’ve come to realize over the years that the real beauty about traveling by motorcycle is the simplicity of it all. You can only take what you can carry on your back and on your bike, which means you can be packed and on the move at a moment’s notice. Exploring like this is really makes you think about what you need and what you don’t need, depending on what you’ve set out to do. No fuss or clutter. A lesson I’d like to apply more to life in general.

As well as providing a means of transport, our bikes also offered up something to do when the waves were flat. Hours of fun to be had, rain or shine. After leaving the Deus Temple of Enthusiasm in a downpour we made a quick dash along the Balinese coast, dodging police checks and rain squalls along the way, and then hopped on a night ferry and crossed the Wallace Line headed East.

An early morning arrival saw us wipe the sleep from our eyes and throw a leg over our respective steeds. We pulled out of the port as the sun’s light started to chase the darkness from the horizon and after a quick stop for fuel, both for us and the bikes, our journey began.

Now to be fair we didn’t know exactly where we were going, but Harrison and I had been to a wave about an hour’s drive from the port the year prior, so we thought it would be as good a place as any to start. The burble of our exhaust notes followed us down the dawn-lit highways as the locals went about their business setting up stalls and opening shops. With one last left turn we met the cool sea air . . . almost there.

Accommodation was found and after a quick breakfast we sat and watched the reef break slowly get better as the tide dropped until the boys couldn’t take it any longer and unloaded the bikes to paddle out and wash the ferry journey off.

Throughout the day the reef did its thing, pulsing then resting and thankfully staying somewhat glassy. Everybody was stoked and the mission was definitely off to a good start. We spent the next couple of days doing stints between the reef when it was working and exploring the surrounding hills once the wind picked up. Being able to just slide the surf-racks off our bikes and head off in any direction was the saving grace of the trip. Once the tide got too low or high, or the devil wind started puffing, we just jumped on the bikes and went for a ride.

The swell came and went, tapering off and leaving us to load up the bikes one afternoon and set course for a new stretch of coastline. The foothills of a local volcano were a welcome change in temperature, leaving the sticky salt air behind we convoyed up and over ridges then down and though the lowlands as the sun sank. After a few hours of playing ‘who’s the leader?’ and getting lost a few times, we descended into the humidity and pulled into the first coastal hotel we came across, and without even unloading the bikes turned in for the night.

Having the bikes loaded and ready to go was a blessing, a quick coffee in the morning and we were back on the dusty road headed to a fishing village that would become our base of operations until our time was up. Twenty minutes down the road and a few insects to the face later we pulled into the seaweed-scented locale and set about unpacking and figuring out the plan for the coming days. We had a week or so of pretty much no swell, then a pulse that looked like it was going to hang around for a few days before we turned around and went back the way we came, so we decided to do some recon of the area and suss out some potential zones to hit once the waves picked up.

The bikes became our entertainment for the next few days; we zigzagged the coast on single tracks, raced each other up hills, found salt flats to flat track on and even held regular wheelie contests (that Forrest always won.) After a couple of days of no waves the boys were jonesing to get wet, so took measures into our own hands one afternoon by taking the fin out of a McTavish Bluebird and towing along an empty stretch of white sand to pass the time.

Eventually after a week of calm and flat ocean, things mercifully started to pick up and it was time to hit the spots and hope for the best. We lucked out and were treated to some pretty fun waves over the next few days. From the log-friendly right across the bay from where we slept to the punchy shallow reef with endless jungle for its backdrop that we were lucky enough to get to ourselves, we spent the mornings riding to them and then the rest of the day surfing them on and off until it was time to get home.

When it was all said and done and we were packing up for the return mission homeward with grins on our sun-burnt faces, it was pretty evident that we had done exactly what we had set out to do. Get away from the rainy hustle bustle of Bali and do two things we love, ride and surf with friends. We all had a blast on the bikes, Forrest led the way (usually only on his rear wheel) and everyone managed to keep up, even new rider Lewie, who let his bravado fill in the spaces his skillset lacked. The waves were so much more than what we hoped for, having low expectations helped with that . . .  Harrison always managed to make the longboard work, Zye spent the whole time on his fish and Lewie mixed and matched his way across the whole quiver. Looking back now I reckon we lucked into better waves than most people manage to find in the dry season. Slabbing reefs, fun nose-ride rights, even some rampy end sections to hit. It just goes to show there are gems out there for those who are willing to look a little harder and see the trees through the forest.