July 22, 2013 | 5:51 pm | No comments »

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Summer came fast although there was more snow than in many years in the North. One weekend the temperatures went up and never really came down again. I switched snowboard pants and boots straight to boardshorts and flipflops and I was still home in the Arctic circle. The warmth felt good. The air between my toes felt even better. It was not long before I started to long for sea, salt and waves. I was really tired of being on the road for six months straight but the call of the waves fortunately took the best of me trying to bury myself into the couch. I have grown a habit of going on a surf trip after snow season… and good habits die even harder than bad ones.


We’d been talking about a trip somewhere in Indonesia again for several months and it started to become reality by booking flights to Bali. It’s the perfect place to start the indo travel – get equipment together, some paddling power to spaghetti-like arms, get used to tropics and get the first lobster tan going. After indulging in awesome warungs and restaurants and getting frustrated with the crowded surf it’s good to change to some other island in the Indonesian archipelago. There are tens of thousands of them so plenty to choose from!

We have been doing these surf trips for several years with our friend Kimmo, founder of Finnish surf brand Asenne. He resides in Bali year round and has the hunch for the best spots and destinations. So me, my girlfriend Laura and Mikael trusted him to be the travel mastermind and coordinator – He suggested West Java this time and we gave the thumps up.

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After a short flight from Denpasar to Jakarta and long drive we got to Cimaja, small village in western Java and home to some good surf and surfers. Kimmo had been here before so he organized everything and soon we were in a cozy house in the middle of the rise field and walking distance from surf. Kimmo’s local friend Iman came for a sunset surf with us and let us in on the local spots and things to try out. Iman and all the locals were really helpful and friendly. We got some curious stares and shy smiles for being so blonde but surfing was pretty established in the village and travelers were not a new sight like in some more remote places in Indo. Cimaja is also a weekend destination from Jakarta and we were told that it might get crowded in the water. The swell really picked up and there was lots of people on the beaches but the lineups stayed empty compared to Bali. We drove around with a moped or took a boat to different waves in the region but there was never more than ten guys in the water and we made four out of those!

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Local ripper at Cimaja




We met our boat crew and surf guide at the port of a one small fishing village. The guy greeted us and started to tell us stories about the island and surf. The opening sentence was pretty much like this:

“you guys brought wetsuits and helmets, right?”

“….ohh nope we didn’t. Why?”

“Ooh so shallow and dangerous there. I almost died. I never surf again”

We casted looks on each other in disbelief. Ok, that was a nice welcome speech and good marketing for our NOT yet paid trip. At the same time we saw glimpses of our board bags being carried towards the boat and our transport speeding away. I guess that was the “cancellation policy”.

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Leaving land behind

We had done some homework of course about the waves and the descriptions sounded pretty serious but so does most in Indo. Many of the waves are described: ‘for pros and kamikazes only’ but that does not mean they are no-go. We talked little more and found out that there was also not-so-life-threatening waves to be found. Panaitan and surroundings started to sound tempting actually and the first scary bunch line started to lose (I don’t know what) meaning. We double checked that everything was in order and as agreed over the phone which is always good to make sure before hopping on a boat for a week. Sun was blasting when we stepped on the pretty safe and stable looking local fishing boat. It was far from any western standards but was floating at least. The wind felt good on the skin and we were excited of the adventure ahead and to get out of the hot and dirty land.

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We got to Panaitan before sunset and had a brief session on a nice right hander. Water was crystal clear and refreshing after the travel. Then we had to still rush back to the neighbor island where our huts were. There was no buildings nor inhabitants on Panaitan. The islands were part of a Ujung Kulong National park and there was only one place to stay on land. We arrived to Pulau Pechang after dark and were greeted by wild deer and boars wondering on the beach. We settled in to the forest ranger houses. Jungle was loud and I felt surrounded by nature. The hectic indo traffic and busy towns felt million miles away.

Morning company

Morning company

In the morning a monkey was sipping last drops out of our beer cans that got left outside of the rooms. Big lizards were walking on the white sand and pelicans of some sort fishing out of the crystal clear water. It was out of this world or at least didn’t feel like  this century. We had breakfast on the boat admiring the new scene that we just woke up in. And then we surfed empty waves.

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My bottom turn at Angels. pic: Laura


Mikael's cut back. Reef was never too far away.

Mikael’s cut back. Reef was never too far away.

There is several world class waves in the bay of Panaitan island and few more on Java mainland. We cruised between different waves for the next day picking the one that looked best that given moment. We learned pretty quick that the waves were mostly really heavy and shallow. It was a dream destination for many pro surfers and we could understand why. The waves were excellent but didn’t allow mistakes. Going over the falls or getting caught inside were not really good options. We surfed most of the waves but some we didn’t dare to even try. The most famous and dangerous is One Palm Point or Kelapa Satu to the locals. It’s almost kilometer long left hand barrel when all the elements come together. You can have the ride of your life but you have to be ready to pay the price. It breaks insanely shallow over razor sharp reef. Our guide Nomo said you will hit the reef when you fall. We saw the wave working on a pretty big swell and there was few guys in the water all wearing full suits and helmets. We settled for watching. We got big enough thrills from Illusions and Napalms. Swell and winds were right for them few times but it would have been great to get to surf them more and get used to them. Now it was more feeling them out and being intimidated. Mikael hit his fins on a rock just by sitting in the take off spot of Illusions! Kimmo got washed on the reef in Napalms and was soon in knee deep water.

Unknown surfer on Napalms

Unknown surfer on Napalms. pic: Kimmo

There was few other boats on the bay but there was no crowds by any means. It was actually nice to have more experienced guys in the water sometimes showing the way. But most of the times we surfed by ourselves. The wave we surfed most was Angel which was little shorter and bit less scary so we got to surf it alone every time. Having great waves just with your friends is pretty unique these days. Crystal clear water which changes color by the angle of the sun, empty white sand beaches and surf, we had hit the jackpot!



Indonesia is my favorite tropical destination, perfect holiday from winter. It’s not only home to best surf in the world but also amazing nature and crystal clear ocean, great food, happy people and good weather.

But there is also lot of contrast everywhere you look, taking care of trash being one of them. You can find the most pristine beaches or the dirtiest villages not far from each other. Nature is respected and disregarded at the same time by tourists and locals both. I experienced the far floating trash first hand for the first time in the bay. Winds and currents brought heaps of thrash to the uninhabited island and line up. It was a unexpected nasty surprise to paddle between plastic scraps in the clean clear waters. Crap starts to creep in even to paradise! It’s sad and worrying to see such things even if I knew of it’s existence long before this experience. What can I or anyone do? It’s easy to say that everybody should take notice and recycle but most people, specially in developing countries, can’t even afford to think about recycling let alone cleaning things up. In a big scale it seems like a impossible equation and dilemma but fortunately people have started to take action. Bali for example have had to wake up to the pollution and trash problem and now there is bunch of organizations working for cleaner future. And it’s working already! These organizations and people are crucial to the less-crap-future and spreading the word. So by supporting their actions, thinking and doing alike and spreading the word will hopefully make a difference.

Floating plastic next to the line up

Floating plastic next to the line up


Dirty village in Mentawais. Crap washes out to the sea.

Dirty village in Mentawais. Crap washes out to the sea.


I always try leave the least impact possible. What should be simple and obvious; don’t leave anything behind in nature, does not seem to be so simple for many. I try to pick up my own and little more when I travel. Of course I understand that traveling is not green action in the first place but it has also opened my eyes in a new way and into this world. Somehow it’s easier to realize things through own experiences, both good and bad and things in small and big scale. I dream greener, trying and hoping to do more in the future.



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