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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SURFING IN 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 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
Exposed to open ocean swells, Mandiri Beach rarely gets under three foot and is arguably the best beach break in Indonesia. South swells and long periods tend to close out, whereas southwest swells and shorter periods are more broken up which produce more manageable heaving barrels. And with a lot of west in the swell you’ll be on for endless a-frames barreling and spitting left and right. All in all shorter swell periods create optimal conditions. Always best surfed in the morning before the onshore kicks in while during the off-season you’re more likely to get clean conditions all day. You’ll find the most consistent sand banks midway along the beach where the main road runs right beside the beach for almost two kilometres.
BEST ADVANCED SPOTS
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 and 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?
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?
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.
- 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?
Is Sumatra suitable for beginner surfers?
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?
Is Sumatra suitable for experienced surfers?
Do you need booties for surfing in Sumatra?
Where is Sumatra?
What is Sumatra famous for?
But who are we kidding? Sumatra is also famous for its surf.
What else is there to do in Sumatra?
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.