Stab Magazine | Behind the Seven Ghosts

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 […]

news // Feb 22, 2016
Words by stab
Reading Time: 4 minutes

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.

Getting There:

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 Village:

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.”

The Wave:

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.

Daily Routine:

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.”


Comments are a Stab Premium feature. Gotta join to talk shop.

Already a member? Sign In

Want to join? Sign Up


Most Recent

The WSL Pumps Over 10 Million USD Per Year Into CT Prize Money

Here’s how much surfers make, and how dramatically that’s changed over the years.

Feb 7, 2023

The Worst Day Of Competitive Surfing (So Far) In 2023

With 2-point heat wins and 30-minute lulls, Day 3 of the Billabong Pro Pipeline was…

Feb 7, 2023


Unlocked: ‘Toasted,’ By Caity Simmers

Your favorite surfer directs, edits, and stars in her first feature film. 

Feb 6, 2023


More Dane Reynolds Than You Can Stomach In One Serving

Chapter 11 TV is everything surf media needs.

Feb 6, 2023

Kanoa Igarashi On Concussions, Goose Chases, Title Visions, The Three Types Of Surfers CT’ers Encounter In The Water, And More

A candid and wide-ranging conversation with 2022 World #5.

Feb 5, 2023

Can Small-Scale Investors Buy Into Wave Pools?

Say you got $10k and a dream — what can you do?

Feb 4, 2023

An Early Pipeline Exit For Stephanie Gilmore Amidst GenZ Glory

Day Two of the 2023 CT season was a clear notice that the kids are…

Feb 3, 2023

Hand-Shaping, Glassing, And Finishing ’70s-Inspired Displacement Hulls Will Not Make You Rich

Profile: Tristan Mausse of Fantastic Acid is in it for all the right reasons.

Feb 3, 2023

Hassling, Head-Dips, and Broken Apple Watches

The 2023 CT is underway. Here's what happened on Day One of the Billabong Pro…

Feb 2, 2023

Stephanie Gilmore And Filipe Toledo Are The 2022 Stab Surfers Of The Year 

Caity and Hughie take Best Juniors, “NOZ VID” wins best film, and Ho and Pringle…

Feb 2, 2023

Stab Surfer of the Year: The Stab Premium Vote

Day Ten: You voted, we counted.

Feb 1, 2023

Red Bulls, Crypto Bears, Former’s Six-Figure Fish, Tyler’s Multi-Millions And More

A brief catalog of the latest surf industry news and whispers.

Jan 31, 2023


“Definitely The First Time I’ve Gone Surfing Via Plane”

Parker Coffin, Harrison Roach, and friends tear through NZ on Roark's most well-rounded surf trip…

Jan 30, 2023

Pipe Preview: This Year Feels Different

With John and Gabs healthy — and the arrival of the femme next-gen — here’s…

Jan 29, 2023

WSL Tells Competitors: ‘You Better Like Them Apples’

Will mandating competitors to wear Apple Watches make the 2023 tour more or less engaging?

Jan 29, 2023

Stab Surfer of the Year: John John Florence, Italo Ferreira, Balaram Stack, Rolo Montes, and Shaun Manners

Day 9: "You can't do better than his year last year." - John John Florence

Jan 28, 2023

Full Moon Surfs, Impassable Puddles, And A Few Nights Spent Sleeping In A WSL Commentary Booth

A reader-submitted collection of nonconformist surf stories.

Jan 27, 2023

Kael Walsh Now Owns A Bitcoin, And Watched One Crypto Video

He’s officially your Stab Edit Of The Year champion.

Jan 27, 2023