Behind the Seven Ghosts
If you’re as intrigued by things like the Seven Ghosts as we are, then you’ll share our enthusiasm for details.We figured there was no better way to get the whole story than to talk to two people who were on the trip, for two different perspectives. We’ve paraphrased and pieced-together the two different perspectives here […]
If you’re as intrigued by things like the Seven Ghosts as we are, then you’ll share our enthusiasm for details.We figured there was no better way to get the whole story than to talk to two people who were on the trip, for two different perspectives. We’ve paraphrased and pieced-together the two different perspectives here for you: One from a non-surfer in attendance, and one from a team surfer. But we’ll never tell who.
After a flight into Pekan Baru, the capital of Riau (which is a province on the island of Sumatra), a seven-hour drive follows. The Rip Curl crew were picked up by a guide, but had problems getting there as one of the access bridges was broken. Simultaneously, as the first crew flew and drove, a second crew (two men driving a truck carrying two jetskis), travelled all the way from Bali – an eight day journey. The gang also had three boats, which were hired from Jakarta. It took nearly a month to organise boats, skis and the whole catastrophe. Included in organisation was the acquisition of legal documents to cross certain bridges.
The team’s guide, who’d been there before, had run into trouble on his last trip. Locals became angry with him (for reasons unknown) and knifed a hole in the side of his zodiac, popping it. During the Rip Curl team’s trip, they had to pay off security guards in the village, every day, so that nothing would happen to them, the skis or the boats. One of the crew was looking for a place to launch the ski and asked three locals for help – he was met with menacing snarls and was left with little choice than to offer money. Once the locals had a taste for cash, a trend developed – every day thereafter, the police would tell the crew they had to pay the men for the day’s security.
The hotel the team stayed at backed onto the river and was held up by stilts. Toilet amenities consist of three squat holes that flush straight into the river. Pipes then come out of the river and fill the buckets that are used for showering. Every person, in every village, along the whole river, flushes their waste into the river. They wash their clothes in the river and shower in the river water. The water looks like Coca-Cola. “And not a Coca-Cola that’s been dropped and foamed up,” our source said. “A proper, flat Coca-Cola.”
Pure perfection. The wave works every new moon and every full moon. The wave is, essentially, the product of a changing tide. Picture a normal swell, that’s in fact just a rapidly-incoming tide. It begins at the ocean as a tidal wall of whitewash and rushes up-river. Only one wave comes each day and there’s three good sections along the river. First the wave runs into deep water, then hits the first shallow bank and barrels. Each section is completely different. After the barrel is another fat section – at this point it’s a bit more work to push through turns. It was described to us as “like a beachbreak, except perfect.” Being in the right spot at each section is very difficult, as the river’s so wide. The left/right peak you see in the videos is the best section. From the village the team were staying in, the peak section is 17km up-river. After the wave closes-out on the peak section, it reforms. The team met a problem at this section on the second day, when one of the boats hit the sand bar, stopped, then took the full force of the wave. From first section to last, by the time the team’d finished surfing, they were 45 minutes’ ski ride up-river. The team would surf for one hour each day, which is how long the window lasted. Around the new moon, the wave breaks for four or five days in a row.
Each day, the crew would wake up, eat, organise themselves and get out to the first break at nine or 10am. Then they’d wait. The wave’d surge through the river and they’d meet it at the first section. Things were difficult, because there were five surfers – our source says it might’ve been better-suited for two. There’s only one chance each day. The jetski drivers need to be completely on point for two reasons: Firstly, because if someone falls off the back, the ski needs to pick ’em up and get back around in front – trying to beat the wave up-river and get far enough in front of it to set up again. Secondly, because they gotta dodge floating logs and trees in the process.
Quote from our sources:
Like everything in life, good comes with the bad. The wave, as you can see from the video, can offer the ride of a lifetime. But nothing’s perfect, and you gots to deal with shit before you get to the glory.
Anonymous non-surfer: “I’d never go back to that crocodile-infested, staph-breeding shit hole in my entire life. There’s fucken eight-foot crocodiles in the water. We saw the trail… the wake of a crocodile. Then the guy on the jetski just went directly over it. I got a fucken staph infection on my ankle from the water there, which I’ve had for two weeks now.”
Anonymous surfer: “It was mind-blowing, just so, so perfect. Such an interesting place to surf. It was the best wave I’ve ever ridden in my life. Actually, it was the best thing I’ve ever done in my life.”
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