Mentawai Islands

Surf Spots

The Mentawai Islands (also known as Mentawais or Ments) are known as the holy grail of endless surf breaks. Warm water, consistent Indian Ocean swell and generally glassy conditions line up to make it one of the most sought after surf trips on Earth.

The Mentawais, which lie off the coast of Sumatra, in Indonesia were first pioneered by surfers in the late 1980s and ’90s. Previous discoveries of waves in other areas of Indonesia had surfers wondering what else was out there. The first photos of the surf breaks in the Mentawais area were leaked after a surf trip in 1992 aboard the Indies Trader, with professional surfers Ross Clarke-Jones, Tom Carroll and Martin Potter. Ever since then, the Mentawai Islands have been well on the radar of surf travellers around the world.

The Mentawai Islands surf spots are broken down into three areas – Playgrounds in the north, Sipura in the middle and Pagai in the south. These are serviced by the four main islands in the Mentawai Islands Regency – Siberut Island in the north, Sipura Island in the centre and North Pagai (Pagai-Utara Island) and South Pagai (Pagi-Selatan Island) in the south.

There are hundreds of surf breaks in the Mentawais – from world famous right-handers like Rifles and Lance’s Right to hollow lefts like Green Bush and Macaronis. The different breaks have been featured in countless surf movies over the years, with professionals and camera crews being a normal sight in the Mentawai Islands. Waves break over shallow reef, and beginner surfers should take caution. Many people like to wear reef booties or wetsuit tops to protect themselves from the sharp reef.

PLAYGROUNDS

The Northern Mentawais region of surf is a cluster of islands off Siberut that make up the Playgrounds area and surrounding islands. Waves tend to be heavy hitters with some exposed sections of shallow reef. But don’t worry – while there are waves for the expert in all of us, you can find surf for most abilities. That’s because there are 25+ breaks accessible by boat suitable for a range of levels. You’ll be staying on islands like Masokut Island, surrounded by epic waves like eBay, Pitstops and Bank Vaults, or Karangmajat Island (home to famous waves Kandui and Rifles).

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Goldmines waiting to be discovered
Mick Lammers

SIPURA

Sipura, or Sipora Island as it is sometimes spelled, is about as close you can get to perfection. Imagine private and secluded beaches, world-class waves at every turn, and lush tropical forest. Sipura is not only one of the most picturesque islands in the Mentawai area, but it also has some of the best surf. Sipura offers an array of waves for all abilities but tends to lean heavily towards experienced and expert surfers. Heavy barrels, shallow reefs, and consistent surf make Sipura and this corner of the Mentawais some of the most coveted waves in the world.

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PAGAI

North Pagai is where some of the jewels of the Mentawais hide. Here you’ll find waves like Macaronis, Gilligans, and Bommies Peak. North Pagai is also known as the Nassau Islands, a name given to North and South Pagai by the Dutch. In addition to incredible waves and scenery, North Pagai is known for being a tectonic hotspot.

South Pagai, the other half of the Nassau Islands, not only boasts great waves but history and cultural interaction. Tourists come to South Pagai to enjoy nature, meet locals, and spend time in a culturally rich island. South Pagai hosts some of the highest quality and consistent breaks in the island chain. A majority of waves off of South Pagai are consistently world-class.

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SURFING IN THE MENTAWAIS

MENTAWAI SURF BOAT CHARTERS

The travel industry in the Mentawai Islands started exclusively with private surf charters. The boats are able to anchor around the various breaks, and go to the breaks which have the best wind and swell conditions. As of 2019, there are close to fifty different boats operating out of Padang Harbor, offering surf trips to the Ments. There are many Indonesian style boats as well as Australian boat Yachts and Catamarans.

MENTAWAI SURF TRIP 

A surf trip to the Mentawai Islands is on every surfer’s bucket list with thousands of kilometres of spectacular coastline and hundreds of surf spots exposed to the powerful Indian Ocean swells. This geography provides incredibly perfect waves, remarkable surfing conditions and countless surf spots, which is why the Mentawai Islands has become the best-known destination for surfers around the world. In the sections below, you will find some great tips for surfing the Mentawais.

Mentawai boat trip prices range from US$2000-$5000 per person for a trip.
→ Boat trips are 11-13 nights.
→ Boats depart from Padang.
→ Boats take 8-12 surfers.

BEST BEGINNER SPOTS

BEST INTERMEDIATE SPOTS

BEST ADVANCED SPOTS

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FAQ

Land-Based Versus Surf Boat Charters
A surf boat charter gives you better access to waves, with fewer people around to enjoy them…meaning you get a little spoilt. However, if you can’t handle days on end cruising the ocean and surfing your brains out, then a surf camp or resort is going to be the better option for you as you can hone in on one break and its neighbouring waves at a time.

Typical Costs

  • Surf camps: staying in local surf camps is your most basic option and usually consists of a shared hut, fan and communal cold shower. These start at $50USD per night including three basic meals per day, such as an omelette or pancake for breakfast, and then nasi campur or nasi goreng for lunch and/or dinner.
  • Surf resorts: for 10 nights, you can expect to pay between $1600 – $3500USD per person for accommodation. Be sure to check meals are included.
  • Surf boat charters: these are usually for 11-13 nights, departing from Padang and range from $2000 to $5000USD per person. All meals and non-alcoholic drinks are provided, and some include a number of free beers daily.
Where are the Mentawai Islands?
The Mentawai Islands are located approximately 150 kilometres off the west coast of Sumatra, Indonesia. There are about seventy islands and inlets that make up the regency.
How to get to the Mentawai Islands?
Before getting to the Mentawai Islands surfers must get to Padang on Sumatra’s west coast to meet with their transport to the Mentawai Islands. You can get to Padang via Jakarta or Kuala Lumpur. Garuda Indonesia handles flights from Jakarta to Padang with common routes to get to Jakarta via Singapore, Bali and Australia. While AirAsia offers flights from Kuala Lumpur to Padang. It is not currently possible to book flights directly to any of the Mentawai Islands, however, in the past there have been flights available through Susi Air to Rokot Airport on Sipora Island, although unreliable, but since 2018 there have been no scheduled flights available.

From Padang travellers are able to take a ferry out to the Mentawai Islands, departing daily to the three popular hubs of the Mentawais – Siberut (north), Tua Pejat (central) and Sikakap (south). There is both overnight slow ferries and the Fast Ferry, departing in the morning. The schedule for these is as follows.

Overnight Slow Ferries Timetable – Ambu Ambu & Gambolo.

Day Route Departure time Vessel Name
Monday Tua Pejat–Padang 8pm Gambolo
Tuesday Bungus–Sikakap 5pm Ambu Ambu
Wednesday Bungus–Siberut 7pm Gambolo
Wednesday Sikakap–Padang 5pm Ambu Ambu
Thursday Bungus–Tua Pejat 8pm Ambu Ambu
Thursday Siberut–Padang 8pm Gambolo
Friday Bungus–Siberut 7pm Gambolo
Friday Tua Pejat–Padang 8pm Ambu Ambu
Saturday Bungus–Sikakap 5pm Ambu Ambu
Saturday Siberut–Padang 8pm Gambolo
Sunday Bungus–Tua Pejat 8pm Gambolo
Sunday Sikakap–Padang 5pm Ambu Ambu

The Ambu Ambu and Gambolo are very large ferries connecting Padang and the Mentawai Islands. Options include air-conditioned VIP seats (123,000Rp), basic economy seats and wooden berths you can lie down on ranging from approximately 123,000 IDR – 50,000 IDR. Both ferries are usually very crowded as they provide the most economical method of travel to the Mentawai Islands and are always loaded with a lot of cargo. Both ferries leave from the Teluk Kabung port at Bungus which is south of Padang and requires a taxi to get there.

Mentawais Fast Ferry Timetable

Day Route Departure time
Monday Padang–Tua Pejat 6am
Monday Tua Pejat–Padang 3pm
Tuesday Padang–Sikabaluan–Siberut 7am
Tuesday Siberut–Padang 3pm
Wednesday Padang–Tua Pejat 7am
Wednesday Tua Pejat–Padang 3pm
Thursday Padang–Siberut 7am
Thursday Siberut–Padang 3pm
Friday Padang–Tua Pejat 7am
Friday Tua Pejat–Padang 3pm
Saturday Padang–Sikabaluan-Siberut 7am
Saturday Siberut–Padang 3pm
Sunday Padang–Tua Pejat 7am
Sunday Tua Pejat–Padang 3pm

In the peak season be sure to pre-book the Mentawai Fast Ferry and arrive at the dock in central Padang 30 minutes before the scheduled departure.

How to get to the Mentawai Islands from Bali?
From Bali, you will fly from Denpasar to Jakarta with a connecting flight to Padang, the biggest city in West Sumatra. Flights range between $100 – $300USD.
What Surfboards should I take to the Mentawais?
Most people like to bring 3-4 surfboards to suit various conditions. Surfers will usually bring one extra board in case one breaks or gets damaged, as well as a larger board for when the waves are bigger.
When is the Mentawai surf season?
April to October.

Heavy, epic waves in April to October. Expect world-class waves and hardcore frothing surfers.

December to February.

Mellow & cruisey waves from December to February. Expect smaller waves (3-4 feet) and fewer crowds.

Mentawai people
Native Mentawai culture is based on a semi-nomadic hunter-gatherer lifestyle that depends on the coastal and rainforest environments of the islands. There are an estimated 65,000 Mentawai people living throughout the islands. It is believed that the locals migrated from Nias.
Mentawai Islands culture
The Mentawai follow Sabulungan, a belief in animism – to the Mentawai every animal, flower, and piece of the land has a spirit and soul. The intense spirituality, as well as relative insolation of the Mentawai has resulted in a culture that is rich in ancient beliefs and incredibly respectful to the land. The Mentawai live simply in longhouses made from bamboo. They wear minimal clothing (loin cloth) but accessorize with necklaces and flowers. Tribal tattoos and sharpened teeth are aesthetic preferences among the people. The Mentawai live off the land: men hunt pigs, deer and primates while women and children gather wild food.
Mentawai tribe facts
  • The Mentawai are among the oldest tribes in Indonesia.
  • The culture is totally self-sufficient and isolated – only a handful of communities welcome eco-tourism, which preserves the rich culture.
  • Tattooing is sacred and is done by the village shaman.