On The Mark in Indo - The Virgin Indo Experience

(September 16th, 2014)

On the Mark in Indo

Every time you read about an Indo surf trip, it features pro surfers well beyond your means and ability. How about if you knew a person who surfed at your level that just went to Indo and you could ask them every question that’s been burning in your head? Mark Brown is a surfer just like you and me. He surfs NC, PR and Peru. He has a job and a family rather than a pro surfing contract and an ASP ranking. He had all these same questions in HIS head going into this trip…

Below is an account from Mark’s recent Indo trip and all the questions we (and most everyone else out there) wanted answered:

On the Mark in Indo
Mark Brown in Indo with his …Lost Rock Up and Mini Driver.

REAL: Boat or Island Resort?

Mark: We went on the Indies Trader 3, a 90 ft charter boat that a friend of mine, Mike Leason, has been going on for years. This is the boat owned by Martin Daly, one of the original Indonesian surf explorers.

Indies Trader 3
The Indies Trader 3.

REAL: Give some details…

Mark: The crew from the Indies Trader 3 picks you up at the Pandang Airport (west coast of Sumatra). From there it is about an hour car ride south down the coast to where the boat is moored. The charter runs 12 days/13 nights and includes everything. Once you get off the plane the only time I spent money was to tip the crew at the end of the trip.

REAL: Why did you choose to go Boat vs. Resort?

Mark: A couple of our guys went early and stayed the week before at the Kandui Resort. We picked them up there the first day on the boat. They enjoyed the stay there but couldn’t wait to get on the boat to find some un-crowded waves.

Indies Trader 3
“I’m on a boat.” – The Indies Trader 3.

REAL: How did the trip get set up? Most people have nightmarish stories about organizing their friends…likening it to “herding cats”…

Mark: I was lucky to have Mike Leason organizing the trip and I think he would have rather been “herding cats”. He had to deal with all the headaches of people backing out do to injuries, work etc. and finding replacements. Not sure if he is up for being the front man again. It was much appreciated though and hope it ended up being worth the hassles for him.

REAL: A lot of people say the travel there and back is brutal….how many hours each way and how did you pass the time? Did you feel like you got hit by a bus when you finally arrived?

Mark: I had also heard the trip there is brutal so I got a lot of advice from friends that had done the trip before. I left from Denver, Colorado at 11am on Aug 5th and arrived Aug 7th at midnight into Kuala Lumpur with short stops in San Fran and Hong Kong. The total time was about 24 hours of travel including the layovers with the longest leg being San Fran to HK.

It is a 14 hour flight and the advice I was given and that worked well was to get a window seat, stay up the first hour or so and take a Xanax on an empty stomach right before the first meal. I took this advice watched a movie on my laptop, took the Xanax, ate and woke up when we hit the ground in HK. At 6-2/200lbs and flying coach I thought it was going to be miserable. Another 3 hour flight (slept off the rest of the Z) and I was refreshed and ready to roll.

Spent the day (about 30 hours) in Kuala Lumpur, a real highlight of the trip, and the next morning I had the hour flight to Padang. Other travel recommendations for the flights I would give are to buy one of those horseshoe-like head rests, bring a fleece blanket and download some good movies, podcasts etc. I had no jet lag at all while I was there. I did the same plan on the way back home and it worked well again but had jet lag for a couple days after. Also took melatonin the first 2 nights there and when I came home, not sure if this helped or not.

REAL : What other destinations have you surfed? Was this the most challenging? Were there “normal” waves? Or was everything make the drop or get your face ripped off by the reef?

Mark: I have surfed mostly on the East Coast and the Caribbean, but also have had good trips to Hawaii, Tahiti, Peru, Costa Rica and Puerto Escondido, Mexico. Some of the spots we surfed were definitely challenging and didn’t seem surfable at first glance. Mcfrights and Meat Locker especially seemed like they were breaking right on dry reef. I asked the captain if the tide was wrong thinking we should wait, but he said “No this is perfect. Classic Mcfrights …get out there!” Honestly, it was pretty scary paddling over to these draining barrels. Definitely took my time picking out my first wave, but after that you just wanted more. We did have a lot of different types of waves. There were some nice easy take offs where the wave just walled up and you rode forever and other waves that just jacked up and barreled right away. We had good conditions the whole time and the first couple days were fairly mellow and let us get some wax under our feet.

On The Mark in Indo
Uncrowded perfection in Indo.

REAL: Be honest, when you saw the pumping surf forecast were you soiling your pants?

Mark: Leading up to the trip the forecast was huge! Each day was like 8-12 feet at 20-24 seconds and I was shitting my pants for sure. Was thinking of changing my whole quiver or not surfing. Friends that had been there before assured me to that the captain would find good surf for us even in those pumping conditions. As the trip got closer the forecast looked great with surf anywhere from 4-8 ft @ 15-18 seconds. Then I started to get super stoked.

REAL: Tell us about the quiver you took with you and what went good over there…

Mark: Deciding on a quiver was probably what I lost the most sleep over before the trip. You are spending a ton of money and don’t want to be stuck on the other side of the world with the wrong boards. I have two good friends that I surf with a ton, Craig Barker and Sean Griffin, and they both did the trip last summer and they know what I surf usually. So I talked to them about my board choices until they wouldn’t listen anymore and then I started to bother you [Trip], Matt and Tommie at REAL.

We ride a lot of different types of waves in Puerto Rico and their advice was to take boards that I would ride at Middles when it is head high or bigger and pumping. That seemed to be the right advice. I am 6’2 and 200-210lbs. My go to boards last season were a 6’1 Lost Mini Driver (34 liters), a 6’4 Lost V2 Shortboard and my Roberts 6’7 Black Thumb. I really wanted to bring that quiver, but with the forecast I worried I needed a little more volume. After talking with Tommie and checking out his Lost Rock Up, I decided it was the right choice for the trip. I stayed with the 6’1 Mini Driver and added a 6’4 (37+ liters) and 6’8 (44 liters) Rock Up. Somehow Matt [Biolos] packs a lot of volume into these and they still ride like short boards.

Rock up and Mini Driver
Mark’s Indo Quiver: 6’8″ and 6’4″ Rock Ups and 6’1″ Mini Driver.

The trip started pretty mellow and the first few days I was on the 6’1 Lost Mini Driver but also tried out the 6’4 Lost Rock Up just to test it out. The Mini Driver set up as a quad is such a good board, paddles really well, so fast down the line, but also fun when you get a chance to make some turns. I tried to be on this board as much as I could, but unfortunately the swell was coming up and soon it was in the rack. The day the swell came up we went to the Light House and I got a chance to surf the 6’8 Lost Rock Up. Swell was well overhead, clean and lined up. I was able to get into a ton of waves, the board held well and was super fun when most people were on boards a foot+ longer. Later we went to Mcfrights and it was the perfect wave for the 6’4 Rock Up. This wave jacks up quickly and is hollow. It was getting me in nice and early and I even had a few nice barrels. The next 3 days we almost surfed this spot exclusively. It was fun trying out all 3 boards here and they all worked well. Wish I could get those days over again. The last couple days we went north to Thunders and scored again. We thought the swell was dying but pulled up to pumping surf. Surfed the 6’4 Rock Up mostly as the wave had a huge face that was long, walled up and fun to make some big turns on. Had a blast and usually moved to the 6’8 when I was paddled out at the end of the day.

Indies Trader 3
Pre-breakfast snack, perfect fuel for the morning session.

REAL: Describe a “typical day” on the Indies Trader 3…

Mark: A typical day…, I would wake up around 6am to find the boat on the move to the spot of the day. We were lucky, but also had a great Captain(Eric) that pulled us up to empty waves with favorable winds every morning. The crew would already have a huge spread of fresh fruit, cereal, coffee, etc out on the table. This was not breakfast, just a little starter. Pound a bunch of fruit and we were on the waves early, always expecting a bunch of boats to show up and ruin paradise. The good thing is that this never happened and the few times a boat did show up, they were respectful and would wait until our session was over. After a few hours in the water, a quick wave back to the boat and the tin boat flies out and taxis you back to the Indies Trader. A full breakfast (eggs, bacon, etc) is now waiting on the table. Back out in the surf as soon as possible or a short boat trip to a new spot. Get out of the water for a huge gourmet lunch. Usually passed out after lunch in a food/surf coma for an hour and then back in the surf again till dark. A few beers, another unreal meal and the day is done!

On the mark in Indo
Mark Brown grabbing some shade in Indo. It’s waves like these that make the travel worth it.

REAL: Sum up your best wave and don’t be shy or modest…

Mark: Wave of the trip and probably my life was a huge (for me) barrel at Mcfrights. I had made a few small ones and got swallowed up in a few big ones. Finally all the stars aligned, dropped in, small little pump up the face and then just stood up and smiled. Seems so easy when you get it right. No photos of this one, but will never forget the wave or my friends screaming at me down the line with huge smiles on their faces.

indo reef rash
Indonesian Reef Rash

REAL: How about your worst wave and yes we want all the gory details…..

Mark: Worst waves have to be the perfect ones that I f%^&cked up. That big day at Mcfrights, had my chances for a few waves like the one I described but messed up the drop, the bottom turn, didn’t take a high enough line or just didn’t carry my speed through the barrel. The worst one for injuries was at Mutts. Got closed out on my wave to find a massive set behind me. 3-4 waves later I was rolling on the reef in a only a few inches of water with my shorts ripped up and blood from my ass to my foot on one leg, with some nice chunks missing. Lime (ouch), hydrogen peroxide, some super glue and duct tape and I was good as new.

REAL: Any lessons learned about going on a trip like this, especially for the first time?

Mark: Fortunately I bothered enough people beforehand and the Indies Trader has it so dialed that my first trip out there went off pretty perfectly. Just wish I could get another crack at some of the waves I messed up. I can’t think of any lessons learned. As long as you have the right quiver, the rest will take care of itself.

On the mark in Indo
Mark Brown throwing buckets in Indo.

REAL: Would you go back?

Mark: Would love to get back ASAP. What are you doing next summer? You can be the organizer! Just let me know when.

REAL: What’s next? What trips you got lined up in the future?

Mark: Next trip….Craig and Sean just called and are planning a trip to El Salvador this weekend. Haven’t told my wife yet. Forecast looks awesome. Can you go?

REAL: Any shout outs?!

Mark: Shout outs to my wife Laura and our kids for putting up with these trips, Mike for setting everything up, Craig, Sean and all of you at REAL for the great advice on boards, Matt Biolos and …Lost Surfboards, our Captain Eric Soderquest, our chef Rob and the rest of the Indies Trader crew, plus the other surfers that made it a fun trip, with a special thanks to Pat for staying behind to take photos and my roommate the famous John Henderson (indo pioneer and great story teller).

Need help picking out your perfect travel quiver? Contact the Pros at REAL.

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