Mark Healey Had His Girlfriend Fly Him Out New Boards For The Nias Swell
Because he’d broke (almost) every sled he brought!
It’s 6:30 in the morning in Nias. Rain is pounding in the background. Phone reception is spotty. Mark Healey’s back on the move.
“I’m in the car for the next three hours, I’ve got plenty of time to talk,” he says before our WhatsApp call cuts out.
On his way from Nias to Bali, 15 minutes later we reconnect.
“It’s been really interesting over here,” he says when asked how the massive Indo swell compares to the lofty big-wave achievements that dot his resume. “There was so much energy. For a place like Indonesia that hasn’t gotten a really big swell for a couple of years, this one ended up being one of the biggest ever, as far as we know.
“For me, what stands out is how much of the coastline and the reef changed from it. I’m driving right now, and we almost went into a giant hole where half the road is gone. The driver looked pretty surprised,” he laughs. “It’s almost like tsunami-esque changes. The energy was just crazy.”
Mark’s ridden giant waves in all the world’s oceans, but this shot of Indian Ocean juice was different than other’s he’s experienced in the Pacific or Atlantic.
“I think because the Indian Ocean is completely full of swell, and has been for awhile, we have full moon tides, you can tell the difference when a whole ocean is on fire like that and it’s not just one storm that’s done it. The amount of surge coming through the lineup was nuts,” he describes.
“You’d be paddling as hard as you could when a set was coming in, paddling for like five minutes straight. Then you get over a wave, check your lineups and you’re losing ground. You’re paddling your ass off and getting a crazy 18-foot, tow-style wave on your head. But it wasn’t just with each individual wave that the water would push in, it would be pushing in like a tidal surge for minutes at a time. Staying in the lineup was exhausting. The energy felt larger than the individual waves that came in…which I think stands out from other swells around the world that I’ve seen.”
As far as the biggest swell he’s ever surfed in Indo, Mark matter-of-factly says nothing compares.
“Four times bigger than anything I’ve ever seen here, easily,” he says.
“I came to Indo for the swell,” he continues. “It was actually a last-minute ticket I bought 10 hours before I flew out.
“Billy Kemper called me and was asking where the board bag he lent me was, and I was like, ‘So, Billy, where are you going?’ That’s how I ended up buying a ticket and joining Billy, Koa [Rothman], Nate Florence, Eli Olson and those boys. Our board bags ended up getting lost. My boards didn’t come in, so I’d just travelled all the way around the world and had no boards. Finally, I got one board because we’d swapped out boards in one another’s bags in case somebody’s didn’t make it. So, I had one board, paddled out to the lineup, took a set on the head and broke it. I was back to square one.
“I eventually got my boards but broke most of them. I was down to a 6’6” and a 5’6”. Then we saw this other swell coming and decided to extend the trip. My lady was coming into Bali anyway to meet up with me, so I was like, ‘Honey, I got a big favor to ask…can you drag a board bag with you because I need new supplies.’ Then I called Fisher Heaverly, who’s living across the street from me in Hawaii and was like, ‘Dude, can you go under my house and find this dirty, old board bag?’”
It’s at about this point in the conversation that the connection with Mark drops out again. Another fifteen minutes passes…
“So anyway, I had to get a ticket back to Bali to meet up with her and get my boards. We spent the night in Bali and flew back to Nias the next morning, so it was like 20 hours of travel,” he explains.
“The evening before the swell wasn’t even big yet,” he continues. “There was line one freight train set right before dark, besides that it was like four-foot. But the next morning it was really filling it. It was already flexing. It just kept getting bigger all throughout the day. All the waves were complete double-ups, like swells just eating each other. Especially the way the reef at Nias was handling it. It kind of makes the waves do that anyways, but on top of that the swell was doing that. It was just really nasty waves coming in with no happy ending.”
And like that, the phone cuts out again. Mark’s gone for good this time. There’s another swell headed to the islands, and if he has any boards left, he plans on staying to see what happens next.
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