The Story Of Martin Daly’s Most Exciting Surf Discovery

In current times, it’s hard to resist feeling a nostalgia for the heady days of global surf travel. 

So, we’re encouraging you to indulge it enthusiastically with our brand new series of discovery stories from some of the world’s most prolific surf explorers, running all this winter here on the Wavelengthmag.com 

We’re kicking things off with Martin Daly, a man who arguably sits at the very top of the pioneer’s pile, credited with the discovery of dozens of world-class spots throughout Indonesia, the South Pacific and beyond. 

Martin in the early 90s. Photo via Indies Trader

Martin grew up surfing and spearfishing in Australia, leaving home aged 16 to travel and work as a commercial diver in New Zealand and the Philippines, before landing in Indo aged 23. After a few years surfing along the Javanese coast in the early 80s, he chartered a salvage boat named the Rader with a crew of 5 mates and set out in search of waves just beyond the horizon. Back then, Bali, Nias and G-Land were Indo’s only mapped surf zones, so the crew headed instead for South Sumatra, where they stumbled across several perfect reef passes, including the now world-renowned One Palm Point.

The now iconic One Palm Point. Photo Art Brewer

From there, Martin dedicated himself to exploring the undiscovered surf potential of the Indian Ocean’s vast archipelagos and in 1986, with money earned from salvaging shipwrecks and sunken treasure along the way, he bought up the Rader, promptly renaming it the Indies Trader.

Soon after, he ran his first surf ever surf charter with a group of Aussie pros and off the back of the coverage that followed, spent the next decade expanding his business with an ever-growing fleet. In the process, he put the Mentawais firmly on the surfing map, introducing waves like Icelands and Lance’s Right (although Lance was already there) to the wider surfing public, redefining the notion of ‘the perfect wave’ as he went. 

In ‘99 Martin embarked on The Quiksilver Crossing; a seven year long surf discovery mission cum global coral health survey, which took him to 56 countries and led to the reported discovery of 115 new breaks, although names and locations were kept firmly under his hat.

Here’s what he told us when we asked him for the story of his most exciting surfing discovery and if there’s anything left out there to find:

“I’ve been cruising in the remote West Pacific and Melanesia for the last 8 months, waiting for the world to reset, and I think I may have discovered the most perfect left point I’ve ever found. 

I’m pretty sure it hasn’t been surfed, the main reason being, aside from asking locals, that it’s so good, I’m sure there would be crew all over it if it had. 

Prior to that, I think the most exciting was a wave in West Java in 1983, a long Raglan like point wave. They call it Loji nowadays I think, although it breaks very rarely and unfortunately really polluted. 

As Martin didn’t snap an image of is new discovery and few exist online, here’s pristine Desert Point instead. Photo: Heick Family // ‘Secrets Of Desert Point’

I was by myself and there was a really big west swell. Everywhere was too big at the normal breaks and I’d been driving around for hours seeing nowhere that was handling it. I was heading out to a long headland when I saw it through a gap in the trees, way in the distance. It looked too good to be true. Long lines peeling down this perfect rocky point. It took me the whole afternoon in my Land Cruiser to finally get to it, trying to find a way through all the rice paddies, lots of dead ends, turning around and trying again. It was the middle of the wet season, really soft and muddy, and I came sliding sideways into this small village, car completely covered in mud, just as the sun was about to set. I threw the keys to an old local guy and said: “look after it and I will give you some money”. They must have thought I was an obsessed crazy guy.

I was so excited that instead of walking down the rocks to get to the end of the point I paddled out through the shore break, which was much bigger than I thought, and it was sucking dry on the rocks. The water was chocolate brown and I couldn’t see how shallow it was. I got smashed. The point was so long it took me forever to paddle to the top, but when I finally got out through the sets, I caught 3 really long waves and then it was dark. 

It was a most memorable experience, the first really proper A-grade wave I had found. The hook was set and it started a lifetime obsession.

Martin’s most recent discovery. Via @indiestrader

Whilst most of the world’s surf has been discovered and well-trodden, I still know of several waves that are world-class, long, consistent and empty. The difficulty of access is what protects them of course, and I won’t elaborate as I hope that there is still the opportunity for others to make the effort, actually get off the couch, put down their devices, do the hard yards, and find them themselves.”

Want to join Martin for a surf trip in paradise? Find out more here.

Cover photo: Jeff Divine. Check out his book, featuring iconic surf images from the 1970s, here.


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