Sumatra

Surf Spots
As you read this, somewhere in Sumatra, a near perfect wave sits empty barrelling across a shelf of live tropical reef. The largest island in Indonesia (sixth largest island in the world) and a veritable paradise for surfers across the globe, Sumatra sits nestled into the Indonesian archipelago just northwest of Java and due south of Malaysia. Home to a wealth of world-class waves, various regions, and barrels galore, Sumatra is a true swell magnet with a phenomenal amount of coastline open to the Indian Ocean. You can expect, in fact guarantee, near-epic surf from March to November.

In recent decades, Sumatra has become more developed with growing infrastructure. Surfers today are beginning to gain access to what was once inaccessible to most including previously unexplored surf destinations. The mainland of Sumatra is broken into two main regions, North Sumatra and South Sumatra, the island hosts 52 spoken languages and a wide variety of cultures and religions. The area commonly known as West Sumatra is simply the western side of central Sumatra. This is your typical launchpad for exploring neighboring surf destinations like Nias and the Mentawais.

WHERE TO SURF IN SUMATRA

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Goldmines waiting to be discovered
Mick Lammers

SURFING IN SUMATRA

North Sumatra

The main region of surf on North Sumatra’s mainland is Aceh. Aceh is Indonesia’s most western province where you can find fun off-season conditions. You’ll find good surf in and around the surf town of Lhoknya Beach near Banda Aceh airport and south along the coastline to Calang and then the next surf town at Meulaboh. Further on, the coastline becomes a straight sandy beach with some reef breaks. December-April is the best time to go to this area as the winds during this time are primarily offshore, however swells are generally bigger from April-October. The local surfers and businesses really appreciate tourists since the 2004 tsunami destroyed most coastal villages in Aceh where over 130,000 died and millions were left homeless. The province of Aceh is the only area in Indonesia where alcohol is banned. Although it has become a little more lenient about their alcohol restrictions of late, you still need to be very discreet. During Ramadan however, (the area practises Sharia law) it’s strictly forbidden and heavily policed.

South Sumatra

South Sumatra is the more remote section of the island and is accessed via a quick flight from Jakarta in West Java to neighboring Bandar Lampung. After arriving, you’ll need to continue through a six hour hour drive across pristine tropical mountains. South Sumatra is yet another idyllic indonesian wealth of waves where you can still test your limits surfing where well over a dozen world-class waves are scattered along 100 kilometres of coastline. The main town of Krui is one of the most populous and popular surf destinations in this southwest corner of the island home to several waves within a sheltered bay. However, the exposed waves of exceptional quality are within an hour’s drive to the north or south with many accommodation options along the way. Noteable nearby waves include Ujung Bocur, Mandiri Beach, Sumatran Pipe to the south of Krui. Jimmy’s and Jenny’s Right to north and many more which should make your list of waves to explore. Ujung Bocur’s long left hand reef/point alone is sure to leave you stoked and sunburnt.

BEST INTERMEDIATE SPOTS

BEST ADVANCED SPOTS

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Ujung Bocur

This famous left-hand point break, barrels and grinds its way down 200-metres of reef. You’ll find hollow sections at the top of the reef and long speed-walls down the reef. South swell sends wide peaks around the reef that don’t line up properly missing the reef. While southwest swells line up best. On lower tides, the reef becomes shallow and very often if you straighten out or don’t make the section you’ll end up being pushed up onto the reef, therefore, booties come in handy on a lower tide. Every now and then you might be lucky enough to see advanced kneeboarders and bodyboarders charging super long but mostly unmakeable barrels up the point. It’s epic watching the travel time they get.

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FAQ

How to get to South Sumatra?

Step 1. To get to South Sumatra you’ll first fly into Soekarno-Hatta International Airport (CGK) located in Jakarta (West Java). This airport is often called Cengkareng by Indonesians, due to it being located in the Cengkareng district of Jakarta.

Step 2. From Jakarta, it is a short 40-minute flight to Bandar Lampung in the very south of Sumatra. The airport in Bandar Lampung is known as Radin Inten II International Airport (TKG).

If you are unable to line up your flights to get in and out of Jakarta on the same day, you can spend the night at the Jakarta Airport by booking a capsule hotel at Digital Airport Hotel Terminal 3. The capsules are extremely pleasant to sleep in with air conditioning, tv, power points and more. Plus they’re cheap, easy to access and some of the Asian restaurants in the airport are great.

Step 3. From Bandar Lampung it is a long but very scenic five-hour drive minimum (more likely six hours) over mountain ranges to Krui on the southwest coastline of Sumatra. Most surfers arrange a driver through their accommodation to pick them up from the airport in Bandar Lampung. Once you land and pick up your luggage, wait for your driver in the middle bay of the pick-up area outside. If you hang out alongside the airport in the taxi pick-up and drop off area you’ll be asked continually if you want a taxi so it’s best to wait in the middle bay.

It is also great to know that recently, instead of the long five-hour drive from Lampung to Krui, there are sometimes a few 40-minute flights from Bandar Lampung to Krui with ‘Wings Air’ available each week. So jump online and try your luck at flying the final leg to save some restless hours cramped in a car.

How to get to North Sumatra?
Depending on where you are heading you’ll arrive in either

When travelling to regions such as Aceh in North Sumatra or further afield to islands such as Simeulue, Nias and the Hinako Islands you’ll fly into Medan via Kualanamu International Airport (KNO), the largest airport in Sumatra.

When travelling to West Sumatra or further a field to the Mentawai Islands, you’ll fly into Padang via Minangkabau International Airport (PDG). Padang is the very well-known gateway to the Mentawais.

If you’re coming from the likes of North America, you’ll have to stop over in Singapore or other destinations in Indonesia. Direct flights operate daily from Jakarta, Singapore and Kuala Lumpur.

How to book accommodation in Sumatra?
There are a number of different cultural communities throughout the island, but all are incredibly friendly and welcoming. You’ll find more surf focused accommodation in South Sumatra near Krui but will still find plenty of places to crash throughout West and North Sumatra. Most purpose-built surfing accommodations in Sumatra are set up to take bookings directly. Simply visit their website, make contact and you can expect a reply within 24 hours. A couple of great options to consider in South Sumatra are BeOcean Krui (located in front of Leftovers and The Peak) in Krui and Sumatra Surf Resort on the point (located in front of Ujung Bocur).

If it’s your first trip to Sumatra or you’re booking last minute, a great trustworthy option is to go through the surf travel agency Surf Camp Sumatra.

Why?

  • They’ve been operating for well over a decade
  • They are Sumatra’s number one surf travel agency
  • They offer tailor-made surf adventures, with a small but dedicated team
  • In addition to land-based camps, they have access to over 20 different surf charter boats
  • They are never beaten on price
When is the Sumatra surf season?
March – November
Is Sumatra suitable for beginner surfers?
If you’re exploring Sumatra during peak surf season and you’re looking for some beginner waves, head for Aceh in North Sumatra or Air Manis in West Sumatra which is just south of Padang. This is a common haunt for those heading west to the Mentawais. A clean and simple wave, Air Manis is a great place to improve your skills and have some fun.

In south Sumatra, Bengkulu is a great area with beginner friendly waves with plenty of fun sand bottom beach breaks.

Is Sumatra suitable for intermediate surfers?
Krui is a great place to start for intermediate surfers in South Sumatra. With many nearby waves and an abundance of surf-inspired guiding services, intermediate surfers are sure to score plenty of good waves without the risk associated with some of the world-class waves in this region. Guiding services offer a local’s perspective to nearby spots. This is a great option for intermediate surfers looking to make the most of their time in Sumatra.
Is Sumatra suitable for experienced surfers?
Experienced surfers feel right at home among Sumatra’s clean, barreling, and sometimes gnarly conditions. Competent barrel riders are likely to spend most of their time in the shade while those partial to maneuvers will find near blissful conditions throughout the region.
Do you need booties for surfing in Sumatra?
It’s always a good shout to rock a pair of booties, and even a spring suit, in a new or unknown break. Despite your preparation, planning, and research, you never know when a quick encounter with the reef will turn your trip sour. That being said, just wear booties, just wear them.
Where is Sumatra?
Sumatra is the largest island in the Indonesian Archipelago. More or less sandwiched between Malaysia and Java, Sumatra is a true swell magnet for intrepid surfers searching for the next frontier.
What is Sumatra famous for?
Sumatra is famous for its natural beauty and abundance of native wildlife from Orangutans and Elephants to Tigers and Rhinoceros. This epically beautiful and tropical island has a rich history of both native and colonized communities. There are 52 different languages spoken on the island among it’s diverse population, however, for its size it is sparsely populated in comparison to neighboring Java.

But who are we kidding? Sumatra is also famous for its surf.

What else is there to do in Sumatra?
Visiting national parks, diving in coral reefs, fishing, sailing, and camping are among many of the other activities that might spark your fancy in Sumatra. We recommend taking a tour out to Lake Toba and Mount Sibayak’s volcanic crater. While also known for great surf, the neighboring Mentawais and Nias island are stunningly beautiful and worth the trip if you have the time.

Visit the historic city of Bukittinggi inland from Padang on the west coast of Sumatra. While not exactly a surf destination, this inland city at the base of active volcanoes Mount Merapi and Mount Singgalang is worth the trip. Bukittinggi is notable for the remnants of a diverse colonistic history sporting Japanese WWII tunnels and remnants of an early 1900’s Dutch fort. Not to mention easy access to the pristine Sianok Valley and Lake Maninjau.

In North Sumatra you can take a hike to visit orangutans in the wild. Treks range from three hours, to the most popular two day ‘Orangutan Trek’ or the longer seven day trek for the ultimate experience. Profits from the treks help to support the survival of these endangered species. Sadly Sumatra is home to some of the world’s most critically endangered species including the Sumatran Elephant, Rhinoceros, Tiger, and Orangutan due to loss of habitat from palm oil plantations.

How big is Sumatra?
Sumatra is over 180,000 square miles and is the largest island in Indonesia.
What are the people like in Sumatra?
There are a diverse bunch of people throughout Sumatra but as previously stated all are incredibly friendly. Many are deeply religious or spiritual people so be prepared to dress modestly and act accordingly.
Is Sumatra dangerous?
If you go looking for trouble just about anywhere in the world, you’re most likely going to find it. Unfortunately, Sumatra isn’t an exception to this, but probably neither is your home town. The island is big and there are a number of environmental and cultural differences which may pose challenges to your safety. The cities in Sumatra are as a rule very safe. As a rule of thumb, be respectful, and never be a dick.