Steve Vallance, Will Powell, Tony Warrilow, Paul O'Connor, Matti Scott, Joel Scott, Ben Sebatian, Ron Bateman, Steve Blakey, Annaye Blakey
Safely back from the latest mission to the magical isles off the NW coast of Sumatra aboard the floating home of family McGroder, aka good ship Barrenjoey!
Our hosts, Captn John, wife and logistics manager Belinda, and bubba tow partner fearless Fynn along with crew Elvis, Yudi, Eric and Bang Bang worked tirelessly to ensure sensory overload, empty perfection and laughs aplenty. This year the visiting team comprised yours truly, eldest nephew and recipient of the "Rookie of the Trip" award after memorable HT's launching Will "Aqua Boy" Powell, fellow "Blindforce" founding member, and brother to Belinda, Steve "deaf in one ear how's the body holding up" Blakey together with daughter and renowned Dolphin Pt charger Annaye who took all in her stride (evidenced by HT's barrel weaving captured on film!). Additional crew members included Margaret River charger and pro-photog Tony "Phantastic Wildebeest El Toro" Warrilow (the only person NOT to take a camera - everyone needs a holiday sometime!), Mexican (well Victorian) and fellow 40's something nurofen sponsored ripper Paul O'Connor carving on another vehicle created by master craftsman extraordinaire Wayne Lynch, plus team Cronulla - jousting identical twins Joel and Matti, the smiling master of the casual late drop Ben and provider of comic relief (when released from the infirmary) Glen who amazed all with his newly discovered surfing skills after trading motor-x and snowboarding for surf only 2 years prior! (Smelly Skater can breathe easy that the discovery wasn't made 10 years ago!!).
The trip had all the right stuff - Will burnt the midnight oil to successfully wrap up uni exams and report deadlines with moments to spare to secure the trip as a 21'st gift, Amanda and lil Jack Adam farewelled us amidst hugs 'n tears 'n hurry homes. Qantas club provided G&T liquid refreshments to calm the pre-flight anxiety. Several hours/movies/G&T's later we left the work/uni pressures behind and enjoyed a night in the luxury of Singapore's Goodwood Park Hotel where my folks treated Steve B, Sheardie and I to a memorable feast only a quarter of a century ago whilst we were en-route to our first taste of the wave fuelled spices of the Sumatran islands. An unscheduled rendezvous with Steve B and Annaye at the bus stop to Singapore's budget airline, Tiger Airways, had us belly laughing amidst a bundle of boards and bags ill designed for bus transport. Singapore vs Sumatra, the Malacca Straights a moat separating one world from an entirely different other, the transition from arguably the most efficient to the most chaotic never ceases to amaze - somehow both function. Tiger are superb however don't be fooled by on-line $10 tickets, total cost is ~$300 once you add plane/fuel/seat/belt/bag/sporting equipment (surfboards) - pay all up front to remove check in angst. Padang - immigrasi, queue for visa, pay $25US in crisp clean notes - smile 'n wave boys, smile 'n wave. The Barrenjoey sign bearer complete with transport and tips for baggage handlers greeted us once customs was successfully navigated. Somehow (a word often used in these parts!) we survive once more the hour long, 2 speed (flat out and stop) hand-on-horn drive through the peak hour Padang maze to keenly awaited ice cold long neck Bintangs and mega sandwiches at Christina's Hotel situated on the salubrious Padang canal development. The rest of the team arrived via Jakarta - meet and greets all round and it was time to board the Joey, run through safety protocols and life aboard ship, select a bunk, weigh anchor and set a course. Almost all points of the compass west of the 0-180 degree meridian lead to world class surf from Padang harbor - John set the helm on W by NW for a morning assault on the fabled Playgrounds, a collection of picture postcardesque tropical islets complete with blindingly white coarse coral sand beaches, thick groves of coconut laden palms and surf on all fringing reefs. Motor sailing through the night we awoke to the familiar sound of the anchor chain running through it's hawsepipe and we're greeted by an oily clean ocean the likes of which can only be found in the equatorial doldrums.
First get wet, a fun 3-4' right hand peak - a perfect reintroduction and a great way to wash off travel fatigue. Unleash the 5'8" flying fish quad - yeehah! From here we traveled north, and for the next week were amazed by the set-ups and sheer beauty of the island chain.
Everyday day delivered a variety of waves in the 3-4' range with several days pushing sets overhead. The potential of this area when a solid swell is pushing in would be phenomenal. A major bonus is the lack of other operators - we only saw 2 other surf charter boats the entire time we were up there so were able to enjoy the solitude that these trips should be all about.
With 3 days to spare the signs of a solid swell started to show well to the south - John started roaming the decks muttering about his beloved HT's and the fact that if we motored south we could enjoy several days of the new swell or stay put and maybe get only 1 day at best - easy decision, up anchor, motor south for 14 hours plus and we're in the channel at HT's! Sounds simple but the effort that John, Belinda and the crew put in to getting us to the best waves day after day was just phenomenal.
Sure enough as John predicted the swell arrived, the office started to fire and John put on a show of how the HT's barrel should be ridden. Special mentions go to Steve B for taking on the peak and pulling in to all on offer in a semi-crippled state, Will Powell for hurling himself over the ledge, making it on several beasts and getting back out there after washing across the reef with his tail between his legs, Wildebeest Warrilow for charging through "one of the best barrels of his life", Annaye for showing no fear and slotting a similar tunnel, Paul for keeping me company across the inside bowl and all the lads from Cronulla for having a "Blindforce" style red hot crack!
Asia, paradise you still haunt me...
John, Belinda, Fynn and crew of the beautiful Barrenjoey.
We had an awesome time.
Terimah Kasih Banyak.
Stay safe and look forward to reconnecting soon.
Steve Liberty V.