Harrison Roach & Zye Norris spent four months crossing Indonesia in an old Land Rover strapped with motorbikes and surfboards.
Words: Harrison Roach
Photography: Woody Gooch & Anthony Dodds
First on the list of essentials was a good quiver. Traveling by road, we could bring as many boards as we dared, which was great because we needed equipment that would work in anything from one-foot sand-bottom points to ten-foot grinding reefs.
Next, we needed two dirt-friendly motorbikes, so the guys at the Deus Temple turned a couple standard Yamahas into surf searching machines that’d get us pretty much anywhere. Originally, they were 150cc Bisons, but after the boys were done with them they were totally unrecognizable. If the car couldn’t make it, we could rely on the bikes — they’d also serve as Plan B, when the surf went flat. Mountain trails are always big and offshore.
Then we checked off the basics: tents, pillows, legropes, sunscreen, swim fins for bodysurfing, blah, blah, blah… Suddenly, we had a lot of stuff to haul around. The trip called for something large — a Land Rover with a huge steel roof rack. Ours was a 1970-something, worn and rusted white beast. As soon as we saw it our minds were made up.
At dawn, the people from the village rode out in their boats. At mid-morning, they returned. All that concerned them was the day’s catch. Just the same, we paddled out at dawn and rode back in by mid-morning. Our day’s catch was less useful, but a day’s catch all the same.
As the afternoon glare beat down, we shared the shade and relaxed together, laughing at their jokes even though we always seemed to be the punch line. We spent five great days in that village, with no concern for the rest of the world.
It’s unnerving how surreal life can feel when you’re in such a remote and beautiful place. We’re lucky that we go to such strange lengths in search of perfect waves.
They were rudimentary at best, but when we found a long, fat right-hander in the Ments we couldn’t get off them. Self-shaped and finless, the boards were crude and ridiculous, but we slipped and slid on the same wave every day for a week straight. Those were the most fun sessions of our trip.
Zye shaped channels into the bottom of his board with a Bintang bottle. I think it was 6’4. Mine was an embarrassing attempt at what Derek Hynd rides, never measured.
At one stage we were plagued by a particularly long flat spell. We decided to venture into the mountains, where someone told us we’d find three active volcanoes. They said it was a dream for camping and motorcycle riding.
Early in the morning, the volcanoes were shrouded in a thick layer of fog. The weather was cold, but it grew warmer as the fog burned off. The place had a sulfuric, rotten egg smell to it; a sea of volcanic sand and brutal wasteland. Each volcano rivaled the next. One was of incredible height and size. Another was lined by ridges and covered in green. The last looked as though it would erupt at any minute.
There was something thrilling about knowing our lives could end any minute via showers of exploding lava rock.
Along the road, we repeatedly surfed ourselves into sun-baked oblivion. If you sit down and list the waves between the start and end points of our journey, you come up with a lot of notorious and incredible setups. Take a moment and think of all the waves that you already know… and then try to imagine all of the waves that you don’t. I can’t explain to you how overwhelming it all ended up being.
You can’t drive a forty-year-old Land Rover four thousand kilometers and expect nothing to go wrong. We spent almost as many days outside mechanic shops as we did on the beach. Yet each time the brute ran again, we praised her for her prowess. Boards on the roof and bikes on the back… it was hard not to smile each time we were on our way again.
Home never feels so far away as when you’re hurt. But home never feels so far away as when you’re getting tubed with just one mate in the water, either.
Eventually, we reached our destination. We surfed the place that gave Dick Hoole his Dick Hole nickname. And it was, as we’d dreamed, the ultimate place to end four months of traipsing round the archipelago. Along the waves’ open-faces and inside its almond tubes we found the satisfaction attained only after doing what you have set out to do.
We’d finished a journey of a lifetime, alive, sane, and more tubed than we had ever been. We’d completed a journey that, at times, seemed ridiculous — one that our local villager friends would have made a joke about, with us as the punch-line.