It was just another of many cruel tricks that Jah played when designing the universe, to make Indo come into dry season just as home was thawing out after the long dark brutal brrrrrr.
His mischief presented the barrel thirsty wave rider with the following conundrum: forgo out precious few warm months (weeks?) at home in order to chase legit ‘vision’ in SE Asia… stay home, maximise bar-b-q and al fresco lager at the expense of tropic tube thunder.
Turns out it’s not that much of a conundrum for anyone with the a) funds b) time c) lack of carbon footprint guilt.
So once you’ve decided that Indonesia, inarguably the finest surfing country of them all is a place you must take a surf trip to, it stands to reason that a boat trip, a Mentawai boat trip, is the easiest living your best life decision you’ll make.
However. Which boat? What fellow boat trippers? Not all boat charters are created equal, and there’s a fine balance between getting bang for buck and shipwreck, or worse.
With this in mind we chatted to Steve ‘Sooly’ Sewell, surf guide of the Huey Surf Charters, the fastest boat in the Ments. With some 25 years of Indo surf experience, Sooly has a few things come and go, and was happy to pass on a few tips for the latest episode of It’s Not The Length Podcast.
“The most import thing is how long they’ve (the boat charter) been operating, their experience. Those that have been operating here a long time, know the ins and outs… are less likely to have things go wrong that are gonna jeopardise your time in the water, which is what you’ve paid for. You don’t want break downs, a boat that’s unseaworthy, you want a boat that’s had the money spent on it.”
“A boat that’s too cheap is cheap for a reason…beware of the too good to be true price”
“There’s 53 boats out there right now, from the Banyaks down to Mentawai… so there’s a bit of a price war going on…”
“You don’t wanna go on a boat that’s too cheap. A boat that’s too cheap is cheap for a reason. If they’re discounting heavily on price, they’re gonna discount your trip, on everything. They’re gonna use less fuel, which means you’re not gonna to all the places you could possibly go, they’re not gonna have spent the money on maintenance and that’ll affect the reliability of the boat. So beware of the too good to be true price.”
“Email the owners, ask the hard questions. Do you travel at night, do you have all the safety equipment on board? All for a photo of the engine room, the refit.”
“Lately what’s been happening is the Brazzo boats, they might have space for 10 but they’re putting 14 or 16 passengers on board, and not telling the other punters. They’re getting on the boat, supposed to be with 9 other blokes and all of sudden there’s 14 of them on there.”
“Can it (the tender) make it back to Padang in an emergency? That’s a big thing”
“The tender boat is a big thing. Everyone’s got one, some boats have those little plastic tinnies for running out to the surf so if you wanna find out. How big is it? How many horsepower is the motor? Can it make it back to Padang in an emergency? That’s a big thing. They’re great for splitting up the pack; if you got six kooks and four shredders it causes tension on a boat. Everyone gets their day, but everyone can have their day twice if there’s a good tender so that half the crew can take off ten mile up the coast.”
“Space is a huge factor, how much room there is on a boat. After 7 or 8 days on a boat, if you’re constantly having to brush past people, slide slip to get past, always sorta in everyone’s face, the boat shrinks… when it rains, you lose a lot of the outside area, the boat automatically shrinks. So the floor space is a big thing for avoiding cabin fever. A lot of the operators bullshit on their websites.”
“That boat is about 65 foot long, and on their website it says it’s 100ft”
“There’s one boat out here, the engineer died in the engine room, an our out of port, got electrocuted coz of dodgy wiring. The boat wasn’t water tight, he was down there making sure the pumps were working to keep the water out. They noticed the boat getting heavier so they went down and found him floating in the engine room. So they turned back to Padang, hired another boat and drove that up onto the reef. That boat is about 65 foot long and on their website it says it’s 100ft. There’s some cowboys out there alright…”