Stab Magazine | Three Reasons Why The Mentawai Boat Trip Remains Ever-Alluring

Three Reasons Why The Mentawai Boat Trip Remains Ever-Alluring

Featuring a crew of young Aussies you’ve probably never heard of.

Words by stab

What’s your quintessential surf trip?

Is it chasing sand-bottom equatorial points with a local surf guide? Staying at a luxe resort and boating to emerald reef passes? Or maybe you’re the pack a few guns and pitch a tent overlooking Pupukea kinda gal.

We’ve all got our own ways of slicing the surf pie, but if there’s one sliver that’s been sold to us over and over for the past two decades, it’s the Mentawai boat trip. Ten days, hell, even two weeks on a 50 to 200-foot boat, cruising around the most wave-rich corner of the globe, trying to surf enough in that short window to justify your stagnant, office-bound existence.

My fascination with the “Ments” coincided with the release of September Sessions, an early-2000s film that followed Momentum Gen. stars Kelly Slater, Shane Dorian, Rob Machado, Ross Williams, and a few Australians for flavor, around Sumatra’s fertile headlands, where they scored quite literally the most perfect waves I’d ever seen, particularly in that one session at Hollow Trees. 

For nearly 20 years I’ve held the Mentawai boat trip dream in my heart, but for reasons relating to money, time, and geographical estrangement it’s remained just that: a movie that my mind plays on repeat when I hit the REM cycle. 

Recently, a crew of gangly Australians lived out my dream with filmmaker Tai Jennison as their witness. We talked to Tai about the trip, which, despite certain downfalls, failed to sully my rose-tinted vision of the Ments. 

Here are three reasons why the Mentawai boat trip remains ever-alluring. 

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Is this not what it all boils down to? Photo: Respondek 

1. The waves.
Is there a dreamier setup in all of left-foot forward surfing than late-arvo Lance’s? I say nay and our protagonists would likely agree, however there’s a catch. Tai, the filmmaker, explained that this session was actually on the first of their trip and that the swell quickly plummeted after that point. As we all know, there’s nothing worse than starting a trip with pumping waves only to surf scraps from there on out. Well, I guess you could not get a good day at all…

2. The escape.
Who else is fucking sick of the emails? Of the pings and dings from your pocket-bound techno shackle? On a Mentawai boat trip, cell service and wifi are luxuries that I would happily forgo. Just throw up the auto-reply: “Floating somewhere in Indo, be back next week,” and you will literally be erased from your co-workers’ consciousness. It’s modern-day magic. 

3. The memories.
Color me corny but it ain’t waves, claims, and clips that define a surf trip. Nah, it’s the fucking stories you remember for years on end, like how the Aussie boys (from above) got kicked off a neighboring Brazilian boat for partying too hard and beating their South American comrades in an arm wrastle. Or how a mysterious sickness jumped from shipmate to shipmate, taking the crew down one at a time like a silent but deadly assassin. Or how they ran into the Billabong women’s boat at one of the waves, tried to invite them over for a cuddle, but were quickly denied (presumably for the Brazilians).

So yeah, the Ments might be crowded, the water makes you sick, being on a boat for 10 days is torture etc. etc. but is there anyone among us who wouldn’t bear these burdens for a chance at the dream? You know, like pulling up at six-foot Lance’s with only four people in the water, and all of them are abiding by a clear and logical rotation?

Or maybe my vision is just a mirage.

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