Surf Days on Rote
Sometimes, whilst I’m sitting on some airport floor somewhere, I take time to wonder.
Words by Janni Honscheid. Photos by Jason Kenworthy
Wonder what journey we are on and what we seek between all these flights and gates. People are rushing around like we are on the run, time and numbers, money and materialism. Yet what we really need is something completely opposite, something beyond what the eyes see… and then everybody wonders; why don’t we get what we were looking for?
One thing is real, one thing you can count on: something happens when it’s waves that you are doing it for. Because searching for waves, you always end up with so much more then what was expected.
So here I sit, in the airport in Bali with a great mix of a crew, like a little surf circus heading to a new stop. I look around and I have to say it’s quite the unusual circus crew: 2 little surfer girls, a photographer dad, a big-wave Surfer Lady, a cool dude with long hair and headphones, a videographer with a cheeky grin, a stylish Italian model-looking-man with a hat who looks like he came straight from a Milano catwalk, a couple who arrive with spear guns and fins that don’t speak much, and another couple -this time two ladies- one of them an action super hero, and her girlfriend, a fitness freak with incredible energy. Next to them stands a friendly American who looks like he’s just stoked to be alive. And, finally -to make the image complete- here are the Surf Bunnies, on the road now for several weeks.
I look around once again. And it’s funny. Only a few minutes since all these people from different parts of the world, different upbringings and different lives have met, and already they seem like they speak the same language. I guess that must be surfing.
But I still can’t put my finger on it. Yes, we are all here to see a new spot. We are all here to jump on a plane that will take us to a place called Rote, new to each of us. But why are we really doing this, what do we all expect of this shared time?
Then I see one of the little girls starting to smile. The big wave surfer legend, Paige, seems like she told a joke and made her laugh. It must have been very funny as the little girl is actually in tears – she is smiling from her heart, her whole being is lighting up the room.
That gives me the answer. We are seeking waves, the joy of life, sunrises, sunsets, a sky full of stars, adventure, new experiences and new friends.
Crossing the island in busses it’s got a touch of a school excursion. Dense green vegetation in the mountains. The heat is comfortable, the air dry. Somehow it feels like we are not in Indonesia any more. This is a new feeling, a different part of Indonesia.
And then, here we are: Nemberala, an idyllic peaceful resort right by the ocean. White sandy beach, turquoise blue water. A huge reef full of starfish the size of my hands. Everybody settles into their rooms and the tiredness of the travels starts kicking in as we all relax and take a little nap.
A few hours later I get woken up by the golden sun rays of the evening light dancing around the room. I sit up in bed and glance over at the sun that looks like it’s getting ready for an award winning sunset. Just in time to go for a stand up paddle right in front to see off the day. All the boards and paddles are perfectly lined up and ready to go, as if I was in some movie location and it was all set up to be this way.
The swell is small on the first few days so we all get the chance to enjoy the island and its coastline -something surfers don’t usually do when the waves are up.
We start the day with Yoga before sunrise; banana pancakes for breakfast with ocean view… explore the island by bikes. Get to see lagoons overgrown by mangroves, and little sandy tracks between palm trees. We see friendly families waving on the side of the road and we feel welcome. Farms with chicken, goats and pigs everywhere you look… We stop at markets and discover new spices and colors… so much peace… did we go back in time?
The swell starts building and we go on missions to the offshore reefs. We surf Nemberala several times; the most memorable sessions takes place off a nearby island, a really great left with a beautiful setup that we get to surf all day by ourselves for days. Taking turns calling each other into wave after wave… Rob gets a few barrels and shows the girls how it’s done. Funny to see how outnumbered the guys are on this trip.
Days go by and sunset after sunset gets better… as if it wasn’t the same sun but a different one each day competing with the last. If you’re attentive, it’s never the same; beautiful in its own way, just like people.
Sunsets end the days and start the nights. We play pool, Jenga and dance to local music. We even make up new cocktails that become so popular they’re written on the Menu. “The Janni” consists in fresh coconut water, light rum, a dash of fresh lime and ice. Pure and refreshing. And then there’s “The Yanto” .Yanto is a local legend and part of the Nemberala Beach Resort team. His drink is the same principle, just with dark rum.
So everybody drinks Janni’s and Yanto’s and has a good time. We enjoy each other’s company and celebrate life… sometimes at night we go down to the shore and watch the stars or swim, others we hit the dance floor and sing karaoke. Shawn surprises us with break dance skills,and as the glasses get empty, more talents start coming out of our little circus crew.
One night its Sylvi’s birthday, and that was a real special one:
How can you top a whole day of surfing perfect Nemberala with your friends and ending the day by a bonfire, DJ KK setting the soundtrack and a surprise chocolate cake?! Life is good at NBR.
After the swell peaked, we get out the longboards and do some cross stepping. Sam, Bella and Rob are still ripping, while all the others just switch around boards, swim, tandem surf, share waves and laugh. Basically, we are living the spirit of surfing just how it’s meant to be lived.
Different boards, different ages, different lifestyles. Limitless. Different stories, roots, different futures, genders, and gender interests. It doesn’t matter who you are. We are all timeless in the ocean, we all share a passion, and we are all part of the circus.
Since I have stopped calling physical places “destination” as I believe each is a part of a continual journey though life, I’m just going to call it a beautiful stopover. Perhaps, a stopover of a lifetime.”