SURFING IN LOMBOK
Before I start with the adventures, here's some thoughts I wanted to share;
There is something about this island that grounds me. It brings everything back into perspective; a reminder of what is truly important.
I feel welcome, alive and enough here. Maybe it's the organised chaos and lack of structure that works well for my 'artist brain'.
Coming back to Lombok, being older and wiser than last time, plus the complete absence of external influence through (social) media, was the icing on the cake.
Nothing makes me feel richer than time & presence. This trip felt like an act of rebellion in our hustle culture, where "busy" is supposed to be an acceptable answer to the question "how are you?" and resting is seen as being lazy, something to feel guilty about.
I didn't once feel guilty about napping every day. I didn't feel guilty about not posting on Instagram or not being productive.
This is one of the million reasons why I love and need surfing. It's satisfying on a level where you simply don't give a flying f*ck if that's all you do that day. It feels like the biggest accomplishment just getting out in the sea to ride lumps of energy for absolutely no other reason than pure enjoyment and play. (And it is SO much more than that).
If you haven't read my first blog about my trip to Indonesia, click or tap here to read it. It has taken me a little while to sit down and write, and for Ant to organise and edit thousands of photos! I am now back in Cornwall, Christmas is over and we're all probably reflecting on 2022. As I write this, I am wearing 2 layers of clothes and a blanket, sitting on the floor with my back against the radiator. The contrast could not be bigger.
And how do I even begin to summarise the second half of the trip?!
I'LL START WITH BAREFOOT HILL
So, we decided to spend the rest of our trip in Lombok living by its tides and weather patterns, as the waves were simply too good. We ended up feeling blissfully settled in a quiet rural area in the hills, overlooking Mount Rinjani and the ocean. I instantly felt good energy from this place; the winding road through the rice fields of which we saw the progress as we drove by; a little wetter and greener each day as the rainy season fully kicked in. Passing by traditional Sasak families and their adorable kids, always enthusiastically greeting us, their cattle of goats, cows and buffalos and of course, the occasional feral dogs.
Barefoot Hill | swipe or tap arrows to see all images
Here at "Barefoot Hill" (as named by our friends who live next-door with four dogs), we stayed in two different places, the first one more 'basic' but with the luxury of air conditioning and a surprisingly good shower, a mango tree right outside and some interesting 'housemates'...
One morning, after a month of stretching exactly ZERO times, I decided it was a great time to roll out the yoga mat in the corner of the room and loosen up my muscles. As I rolled it out onto the floor, I literally said out loud to Ant; "I bet there's a scorpion in here." And of course, what comes crawling out?!
New friends | swipe or tap arrows to see all images
As we were too busy freaking out and filming, it crawled under the bed, not to be seen again for the next couple of hours. When we located it later that day, Ant smashed it with my sandal (I know, not very vegan is it?) and we slept in peace, knowing we wouldn't get stung.
Another morning, however, we were enjoying a lovely hot shower after a surf when we saw a spider the size of my hand crawl on the ceiling at a horrific speed. We hosed it down the drain for a good fifteen minutes, feeling 50% guilty and 50% relieved... But when Ant went to use the bathroom a while after, the fucker was just chilling on the wall again! I don't know what mutant species of spider this was, but the way it moved I sure as hell did not want it near me. Ant caught it in a plastic container and whipped it off a hill 200 metres away. Luckily it did not find its way back.
A sanctuary in the hills | swipe or tap arrows to see all images
After staying in this little house for a while we got to move into a bigger, much nicer place with a cosy A-frame mezzanine overlooking the valley and hills. A great spot to have privacy, enjoy the view with a coffee and doodle with some watercolours.
Paddling out to Heaven on Earth | swipe or tap arrows to see all images
One of my & Ant's favourite waves is a semi-secret one, which we've often had the pleasure to surf completely alone or with just a handful of people. It's a spot that provides some of the most perfectly shaped waves I've ever seen. Crystal clear water breaking over shallow reef, not a single drop out of place. It's the total package, wrapped in lush green hills and cliffs.
Surfing with Tatiana & Lucy | swipe or tap arrows to see all images
It's actually a wave that I used to avoid and fear a few years ago. But it's now the one that I probably love the most as it's one of the few lefthanders in the area. I've had some of my best surfs here and it's guaranteed barrels for Ant; an A-frame wet dream - fast, steep & hollow. So good that he sometimes doesn't know whether to surf or capture it with his camera. That's why usually, he does both.
A selection of perfection; shot from above & below the surface | swipe or tap arrows to see all images
We were both hoping to get this spot in immaculate conditions even just once or twice this holiday, but it turned out to be the wave we surfed the most. There's nothing better than surfing with friends, calling each other into waves and seeing them get beautiful rides (or laugh at each other when we wipe out.)
Mornings to remember | swipe or tap arrows to see all images
Those super early mornings, leaving the house not long after 4AM, driving under a deep burgundy star-filled sky, in anticipation of how glassy and big it was going to be - rocking up to an empty spot with all the waves to share between us. Dawn light is truly unbeatable; with its colours blending from neon to pastel to iridescent gold. Memories of those skies surely will be making their way back into my studio soon. YOU WIN SOME, YOU LOSE SOME One morning, Ryan, Tatiana, Ant and I hired boat captain Jaya to take us to this special place once again. As we loaded the boards into the bike racks, we could already a deep rumbling and flashing heading our way: a tropical thunderstorm. We chanced it anyway and headed to Gerupuk and hopped on the boat. Not long into the drive, in the middle of the bay, we were engulfed by solid grey clouds and rain, to the point where the land was invisible. Completely soaked for the wrong reason, we decided to head back and wait for it to pass. About an hour later, the storm moved away and we headed back for a second try. I was so cold and wildly unbothered at this point that I decided to just swim :)
We sometimes joke about paying 'reef tax' (scraping / cutting your skin on the reef during a wipeout or hold-under) which is unavoidable in some places. Ant had already made his contribution earlier in the trip when he fell off a big hollow wave onto the reef in ankle-deep water, whereas I didn't pay my reef tax until my second last session. I took a late drop, didn't make it and ended up slamming and scraping the front of my thigh. It ended up looking like I had been attacked by an angry cat or a cheese grater. On Ant's last session, he became greedy towards the end and took a wave too far in, landing awkwardly on his back and neck. The payments were well worth it though.
Another well-kept secret is a wave quite a bit further afield, one I had never surfed before but had heard some alluring stories about. Leaving in the dark, driving through rolling hills, past rice fields, sleepy villages and a few cheeky monkeys, we arrived at a 200-metre peeling empty wave. Not a single soul out. The only catch: to get out back we had to stumble/ crawl over a few hundred metres of reef first to paddle out through a keyhole. Somehow we made it without a scratch, and in full disbelief, we got to take turns on more waves than we could handle for the next 3.5 hours - by ourselves.
The following few days, we were joined by the most stoked person I've ever met, a Belgian surfer named Felix, and we then also took two of our friends to share the experience with. One of these days I ended up joining my friend Tatiana and Sam in the car to get to this spot, but fifteen minutes into the journey, the car broke down in the middle of a crossroads. Somehow, even at 5AM there just happened to be a random local guy willing to help us get the car started and we luckily made it to our destination for another super fun morning session with some smaller waves.
A near-failed road trip | swipe or tap arrows to see all images
Finishing each session with a big breakfast and some shell hunting at a nearby resort on the beach, made these mornings just that little bit more ridiculous. These missions are some of my favourite memories of the trip.
Years ago when I still lived in Lombok, there was a rumour of a crocodile sighting in Gerupuk Bay. We hadn't seen it ourselves, but a bunch of fishermen from the village claimed that they'd seen it. At the time I would paddle to Don Dons for a surf at least 2-3 times a week; which is a 20-minute paddle (I was trying to save money and not hire a boat)... I remember Tatiana and I were still doing this long paddle while the rumours were going on, and we never really believed that the croc was actually there.
A few weeks ago, there was another croc sighting in the bay. And this time, the rumours came from people that we knew personally, including my old boss at Banyu Surfboards. We heard that even a bunch of surfing tourists were shaken up and raced back to the beach. So, for a few days, we decided to explore some waves a little further afield, hoping that the alleged four-metre crocodile would soon head back to the mangroves. I didn't hear of any attacks, so I guess no news is good news?!
Gerupuk Bay + Mount Rinjani | swipe or tap arrows to see all images
One of my favourite spots in Gerupuk Bay is Don Dons, a super fun mellow A-frame that can get pretty powerful and heavy when it's bigger. I was hoping to get this spot in perfect conditions at least once, and boy did the universe provide! Not only did we have incredible waves for 3 hours, we got to share them with our Cornwall friends and my old boss Sudir from Banyu Surfboards. He absolutely shreds but for some reason only surfs a handful of times a year. So when I arrived, I persuaded him into making a deal that when Don Dons is working, he'd have to join us no matter what. After squeezing out every last bit of energy, with jelly arms and sunburnt faces, we paddled back to the boat feeling beyond satisfied and ready for a post-surf food coma.
Eat - Surf - Sleep - Repeat | swipe or tap arrows to see all images
HEART IN MY THROAT One day, 4 of our friends, Ant and I went to Outside Right, where only one of us was in his comfort zone (you can guess who). Within two minutes of jumping off the boat, he caught a huge wave and surfed it all the way to the inside. We were all screaming our heads off (in excitement and terror) and figured we should head to a different spot for some more manageable waves (it was f*cking solid). But Ant was having none of it and insisted we'd stay - I knew I didn't have a choice and deep down I wanted to try and push my comfort levels too. He then -literally- pushed me into my biggest waves of the whole trip, so big and fast that I let out a grunt of relief and excitement at the end! Rob also caught the best and biggest wave of his life, with a super steep late drop we didn't think he would make. Unfortunately, we don't have any shots of this session, but it will always remain in our memories. PIPES MURAL Our friend Sam was staying at Pipes Hostel so we decided to head there for a coffee and catch up, as we both know Will (the owner); he was the person to give me my first-ever mural job back in 2017!
The progress of painting this 20-square metre wall as a backdrop for their skate bowl is honestly an entire story in itself and it was a relief to see it still in great condition six years on, despite the extreme weather conditions. The pastel pinks had faded a little a few years back, so local artist Don Kemben topped up these colours with some deeper tones to refresh them.
Stay Curious mural in 2022 & 2017 | swipe or tap arrows to see all images
Our friends Doyo and Laura took us to a workshop called Ninē-Ninē, tucked away in a quiet part of Kuta. Ninē-Ninē means 'women' in Sasak dialect. This workshop was founded in 2018 as a means to empower and create jobs for local women. The ladies make beautiful accessories and homewares out of sarongs (traditional fabrics). From scrunchies and bags to kindle cases and baby blankets, this shop is a feast for the eyes with a million different options. My friend Lydia and I went back there one afternoon to purchase wallets and scrunchies and to order custom kindle cases and hip bags made of fabrics that we handpicked from an impossible pile of colourful options.
WTF Honestly, some things I just couldn't explain even if I tried. So here is a random slideshow of some funny, cute & wtf moments.
No comment... | swipe or tap arrows to see all images
After eight weeks of scoring waves, eating delicious food, lots of catch-ups and great conversations, sadly the trip came to an end. Finishing with two nothing-less-than-epic sessions at our favourite spot with Tatiana, Lucy and Doni, a little cry and a heart full of new memories, it was time to take the ferry to Bali and the long gruelling journey home to Cornwall / our reality called Winter. The return flight included two stopovers of 8 and 12 hours, where we resided to sleep on the airport floor due to a lack of better options, ending the holiday in true Ant & Zee style.
Thanks so much for spending your time reading my blog, I really appreciate it and I always love hearing from you! :)
Lots of love,