I listen to a young Aussie yak yak yakking away as he commandeers the peak, I listen to a swarthy group of Lakey veterans reminisce latter years’ lack of crowds and kooks, and I listen to a professional photographer/writer bemoan the fact it’s just another surf trip, who cares? (He doesn’t know what to write about). And fair enough. But not for me, this is my first real surf trip, let me froth.
We arrive on a full moon, peaking tides, and no swell. It’s been flat for days. There’s whispers of a macking swell having just hit the West coast of Australia and the most ambitious estimations for Sumbawa are reaching 10ft, in a couple of days. These are Chinese whispers, mind.
The next day Huey is actually coming through and he whets our appetite with some fun sets and it’s looking pretty promising for the next day. A town full of anxious surfers listen to the waves crash onto the reef from their beds. I’ m one of them and I’m freaking out, is it going to get that big?
Tomorrow is also the day the Lakey Peak Boardriders Club has chosen to hold a competition, thus putting the peak off limits to 200 surfers and further intensifying the crowds at the other breaks.
Pat and I decide to try our luck by going for an early tuk tuk down the more exposed coast. By 5.20am we’re on the scooter sneaking out before the roosters wake the rest of the crew up. There are two recurring flash backs to that morning.
Firstly, me hooting while from behind and through the wave I watch Pat’s black t-shirt race through the fat belly of a 5ft barrel. And then I look up to this pitching farking giant and I’m drawing blanks: it’s at once beautiful and terrifying and I get licked.
After almost three perfect glassy hours in a miraculously empty line up we have reached the limits of adrenalin and are wiped out. We head back into town to see where everyone is.
The next best thing to scoring good waves yourself is sharing another surfer’s enthusiasm. While the hustle is on at pipe, the Lakey Peak locals are loving the opportunity to surf their home break in classic 4ft waves.
New Zealander Peter Slyfield admits to being a little put out by the comp. “I was a bit cynical about running a contest and closing the peak off, but when I went out to the tower and saw the kids…oh the energy was great,” he says.
Peter explains the cheering we hear from Lakey’s iconic watchtower. “They haven’t got a hooter to mark the start and finish of the heats so the judges signal the kids at the bottom of the tower and they cheer until the guys in the water hear them.” It’s grass roots stuff.
“The groms are a little out of their depth, in a good way though. It’s good that they get the chance to surf it without the tourists. But it was pretty challenging, I think they were a bit daunted…these little eight and nine year olds with these big eyes,” he laughs.
Another Kiwi, Kim Carthew helps organise the event. “The groms got the perfection of the morning. They were ripping…their standard of surfing was as good as the Under 16′s. The youngest were on short boards that looked like 6″8 guns on them,” he says smiling.
Previous comps have been judged by locals and there’s a tendency towards bias. This time round the club is stoked to have Kimbo organise a panel of judges from Australia, New Zealand and the United Sates. With an international judging accreditation Kimbo overlooks the judges as well as the event, and he is chuffed with how it goes. “There’s a real collective spirit out there with the groms frothing all day, the older guys helping out, there’s no pull outs, everyone’s ready on time…it ran smoother than the comps back home,” he says, sounding a bit surprised.
Californian judge Jay Guffey has been surfing Lakeys for 15years and is familiar with the surfers. “It was a really good event you know. The groms were going really hard…most notable was nine year old Urman who was charging the big ones. Overall the standard of surfing was definitely exceptional and there’s a great future for Lakey surfers…we were really impressed,” he says. “A few of the guys are already sponsored,” Jay adds.
As the day ends with a typically intense sunset over the Western hills of Sumbawa there is an air of excited expectancy as chairs are set up and people hang around, waiting for the presentation evening. The club’s president Mohamed Ali has managed to secure 3,000,000Rp (AU$360) for the contest. This is the first boardriders contest with full official and financial support from the regional government. And the Mayor of Dompu is coming to town.
With a classic non-western indifference to time, the Mayor arrives nearly two hours late. Under 16 contender Freeman is disappointed. “The government always like this, and corrupt, ” he quietly complains in my ear. This doesn’t stop Freeman from celebrating though, and later I see him on stage singing his heart out with his mates.
The winner of the Open, Tahir, is also grumbling. “Yeah, I’m happy to win, but not happy with the prize…too little money compared with other contests…good waves though” he admits. The misappropriation of funds is common in many spheres, but in non western countries it can run rife.
In this case though, a lot of money has been spent in putting on a good show for the Mayor. The small community gravitates around surfing and the fact that the local government recognises the significance of surfing tourism is important to the locals. They are proud and it’s an empowering step for the boardriders club.
The mayor appears quite pleased with the turnout as well. Translated by Ali, he asks us to visit other parts of the region, to feel safe and secure and to tell tall tales of our time here. He reminds us that 2010 is Indonesia’s Tourism in Lombok and Sumbawa year and it will coincide with the opening of an international airport in Lombok. The tentacles of western civilisation are relentless.
The band plays for traditional Sumbawan dancers and mock fighters and to be fair it’s quite a spectacle. The shrill of cymbals through a busted amplifier reverberate in our ears and replaces the sound of the crashing waves, but we reckon that the Mayor is impressed.
With aching arms and a hot flush from the days heat I consider Lakey Peak’s set up: the waves, the mean feeds, icy Bintangs and smiling locals. Oh sure, it’s just another surf trip.
Contest Results Under 12 – Bomar. Under 16 – Ormot. Open – Tahir