Secluded and serene, Simeulue Island has been proclaimed as one of Indonesia’s last surfing frontiers — and for good reason. The remote tropical island, perched just off the western coast of far North Sumatra, boasts waves that are not only new to surfers, but to the world itself. An earthquake in 2005 lifted the island’s west coast by almost two metres, creating new waves literally overnight. In addition to a wealth of waves, Simeulue is blessed by its geographical location in the Doldrums, an equatorial region where near-windless waters are the norm. Simeulue’s isolation makes for minimal crowds and relaxed lineups, and it’s easily the kind of place where you and your mates could score a dream session all to yourselves.
Widely regarded as Simeulue’s most consistent wave, The Peak is a picturesque A-frame reef break offering up whackable lips and hard-spitting barrels — go left if you’re chasing tube time; go right if you’re keen on turns. If the swell’s down or the wind’s up, odds are The Peak will still have fun, rippable waves when most of Simeulue’s other spots are either too small to break or completely blown out. The wave breaks on all tides, and its relatively forgiving reef makes it a great option if you’re after something more mellow than Simeulue’s sharper and shallower setups. A high break-rate and two beachside surf resorts mean The Peak can get a little crowded, but you’ll still score sessions with just a handful of guys out, especially when the waves reach the 5ft mark.
Teabags surf spot barrels hard and fast over sharp coral reef, an equal parts frightening and dreamy righthander that’s not averse to taking some skin. Pick the right one, and you’ll be rewarded with multiple tubes on the same wave; pick the wrong one, and you or your board will pop up worse for wear. The wave breaks on the nearby Tapah Island, a short boat ride from Simeulue Island, so crowds are generally light. Having said that, if the swell’s slow, it only takes several guys in the lineup for Teabags to feel a little overpopulated. The wave starts to break at 4ft and holds up to double overhead. Wind-wise, anything from the north is favourable, but anything from the south renders the wave un-surfable.
Simeulue Island has a host of fun beach breaks, but this description focuses on one in particular — a rippable righthander that breaks just a stone’s throw away from The Peak. In fact, the two waves break on either side of the same deep water channel. Exposed to the same swells and winds as The Peak, the Beach Break (which is unnamed) is also super consistent, and breaks as a rip bowl that offers carvable walls and air-inducing end sections. The lineup is most often empty due to the more eye-catching waves of The Peak next-door, making the Beach Break a perfect option if you’re after a laidback solo-session.
The Peak: A-frame reef break.
Teabags: Reef break.
Beach Break: Beach break.
The Peak: Intermediate-advanced.
Beach break: Beginner-advanced.
The Peak: Left and right.
Beach Break: Right.
The Peak: Dead coral reef.
Teabags: Sharp shallow reef.
Beach Break: Sand
The Peak: Not necessary.
Beach Break: Not necessary.
The Peak: Standard thruster to step-up pin-tail.
Teabags: Standard thruster to step-up pin-tail.
Beach Break: Funboard to standard thruster.
The Peak: Low crowds.
Teabags: Low crowds.
Beach Break: No crowds.
The Peak:Long paddle when washed inside.
Teabags: Sharp shallow reef.
Beach Break: Shallow sand bank.
The Peak: South.
Beach Break: South.
The Peak: North.
Beach Break: North.
The Peak: All tides.
Teabags: Low tide.
Beach Break: All tides.
The Peak: All tide movements.
Beach Break:All tide movements.
The Peak: Consistent.
Beach Break: Consistent.
The Peak: April – October.
Teabags: April – October.
Beach Break: April – October.
The Peak: Mellow.
Beach Break: Mellow.
The Peak: Jackels.
Teabags: K Hole.
Beach Break: Unamed.
Paddling out at The Peak: The Peak is situated directly in front of two surf resorts: Aura and Mahi-Mahi. The resorts’ property extends as far as the sand, and it’s from here that you should walk to the section of exposed reef that drops off into an easily identifiable deepwater channel, which is where the lefthander comes to an end. Within this section of reef there’s a distinctive keyhole; paddle out here. If the surf’s solid, paddle out from the beach adjacent. Get out by catching a wave in over the reef. You’ll have to walk the last several metres, but the reef’s relatively gentle nature makes this a fairly straightforward procedure.
Paddling out at Teabags surf spot: Teabags surf break is located off nearby Tapah Island and is accessible by boat. Once your skipper has got you to the break, it’s a simple five-minute paddle to and from the lineup.
Paddling out at the Beach Break: To surf this surf break get out through the channel that divides The Peak and the Beach Break. Catch a wave to come in.
Simeulue’s beaches are pristine, featuring untouched coast that alternates between sandy white shores and exposed coral reefs. Water buffaloes relax in the shade of lush, green palms, occasionally wandering out onto the sand, and local kids kick a ball about as soon as school permits.
If you’re heading to Simeulue for surf, you’ll most likely be eating at wherever you’re staying; many resorts include three meals daily as part of an all-inclusive package, which typically features both Indonesian and Western options. Beachside warungs, like those found in Bali, are virtually non-existent, owing to Simeulue Island being well off surfing’s beaten track. You’ll have to venture into Sinabang for something that resembles a restaurant. Likewise, small stalls scattered along the coastal road sell only the most basic of goods, so be sure to bring stuff from home if you’re the type that craves snacks.
There’s a bunch of things to do on Simeulue if the surf’s not up to par, most of which are, unsurprisingly, water-based. Among them are snorkelling, diving and fishing. These activities are best experienced through short boat trips to Simeulue’s picture-perfect outer islands, which can be arranged through your accommodation. Alternatively, hop on a scooter and explore.
Like the rest of Indonesia, Simeulue is prone to earthquakes and, rarely, tsunamis. Remarkably, when the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami devastated the nearby Sumatran region of Aceh and much of Asia, only six casualties occurred on Simeulue Island, owing to local knowledge that holds that higher ground must be sought in the event of an earthquake. Today, Simeulue’s many mosques are equipped with sirens, and there’s easy access to nearby hills should a quake occur.
Simeulue is part of the deeply religious and conservative region of Aceh, meaning Sharia Law applies in full. As part of this Islamic Law, alcohol is prohibited, and modesty of dress is expected — men should wear a shirt and footwear, and women should cover up their legs and shoulders. In the surf, men can get away with just a pair of boardshorts, but women must remain covered by wearing either board shorts or tights and a rash vest. The rules tend to be laxer within the confines of a resort, and women are free to wear what they like at some of Simeulue’s more remote breaks.
Simeulue sits just north of Nias, forming part of the wave-rich island chain that runs parallel to Sumatra’s west coast.
A well-kept road hugs Simeulue’s coast, making most of the island’s waves easily accessible. Finding particular breaks may prove a little more complicated, so staying somewhere with a designated surf guide, or at least someone who can provide directions, is recommended.
Scooters (with board racks) are readily available from most resorts and are a great way to explore the island. If you’ve experienced the chaos of Bali’s roads, Simeulue will come as a welcome change — traffic on the island is almost non-existent. Police checkpoints are set up sporadically around the island’s capital, Sinabang, so avoid the area if you haven’t got an international license. Fortunately, there’s no real need to visit the city, and anything you might want (e.g. sim cards) can be arranged through your accommodation.
A boat is needed to access some of Simeulue’s best waves, most of which lie off the coasts of small islands nearby. Some resorts have their own watercraft; if yours doesn’t, speak to your hosts and they’ll be able to hook you up with a ride.
While reaching Simeulue Island isn’t a journey of epic proportions, it’s not quite as simple as a direct flight to Denpasar either.
Step 1: Fly to Medan, Sumatra’s largest city.
Step 2: Fly to Sinabang, Simeulue’s biggest town. Note that there’s only one arriving and departing flight per day, flown by Wings Air. Depending on where you’re coming from, a night in Medan — before and/or after your stay on Simeulue — may be necessary. Conveniently, there are cheap and clean accommodation options within a 20-minute taxi ride of Medan’s airport.
Step 3: Once you’ve arrived in Sinabang, it’s a short 30-minute drive to the vast majority of the island’s surf-oriented accommodation, the bulk of which are concentrated along Simeulue’s southeast coast. Airport pickup is organised with your hosts during the booking process.
Hot tip: A man calling himself Charlie lurks around the entrance to Medan’s airport. Claiming to be affiliated with surf camps on Simeulue and Nias, he scares onward-travelling surfers by telling them that there’s only a finite number of board bags allowed on each flight — the only way to guarantee your boards get on the flight, he says, is to go through check-in and security with him as your chaperone. While certainly misleading, Charlie’s operation is actually quite helpful; with a few strategic words to the relevant officials, he manages to streamline what’s usually a tiresome affair. The inevitable request for payment comes at the end of the whole process — if you’re a group of three, 100,000 Rp will do.