18 May, 2017 18 May, 2017

Barrel – Less In Indo

In a bid to win the Write To Surf competition presented by Billabong, Ralph De Kramer shared this hilarious story of a barrel-less, chaotic trip to Indonesia after his six year relationship came to an end. Read it and weep:

Everything was organised. Her favourite wine, that expensive Philadelphia cream cheese with the sweet chilli sauce – the works. Morgan’s Bay cliffs where beckoning for a romantic picnic, and I was planning on reaping the physical benefits later that night. My fiancé dismissively declined, choosing to rather watch the Mentalist on her laptop. That weekend was intended to revive our stale, moulding relationship but while chugging wine during a solo picnic I realised two things: 1) our rocky six year relationship was dead, I couldn’t marry her, it was over. 2) The money that I had been saving for honeymoon could be used for an Indo surf trip….

The author (left) in Indo.

“Bru it’s going to be epic!” My mate Rocco practically screamed over the phone, after agreeing to join me on our maiden Indo trip. I contacted my other friends Nils and his wife Andrea who were busy travelling near the equator for a year. The timing of the trip coincided with when they would be in Indo and Rocco and I were going to join them there for two weeks.

We travelled for a solid 50 hours before we finally arrived at the surf camp. This included a 12 hour lay-over in a desert city and a six hour taxi drive through dense jungle on a narrow road which added to the adventure. Our taxi driver chain-smoked clover ciggies and he was a master at snorting his sinuses crispy clean. He spat non-stop and “Hey Uncle” were the only English words he could muster. ‘Hey Uncle’ was a good driver though, and we used him again when we moved between towns. 

Indonesian liquid gold.

A very tanned Nils and Andrea greeted us at the base camp, smiling. They handed Rocco and myself an ice cold Bintang each and said it was on the house, our welcome drink. After that it was R35 each. We sipped them very slowly. Mother’s milk…

The next morning I woke up at 5 am – it was still dark but I didn’t care, I was in Indo! But as I finally got a view of the ocean, I saw that it was onshore and the waves were really, really kak. The eternal optimist, Nils, said that there is a spot that would be glassy, but it’s a two hour drive by scooter. Adventure and the possibility of good waves beckoned and we were on our way after devouring a deliciously sweet banana pancake breakfast. Driving a motorbike in Indo is surreal – with the palm trees and rice paddies reflecting the sky. I also saw a lightee driving without a shirt or helmet, smoking a gwaai and flicking me the bird as I gawked in disbelief.

After a blissful motorbike ride we arrived at the surf spot – it was cooking! With 4 – 5ft waves groomed by the offshore wind. It ran for about 160m and then quite suddenly closed out over a very shallow reef. The paddle out was relatively easy, but you needed booties to navigate the sharp walk over the reef to jump out. Nils, Rocco and myself moved into the crowded line up.

Crunch time.

The next wave was mine to take. I paddled hard and stuck the drop. The wave pitched, I pulled in on my backhand and for a split second I was getting barrelled in Indo! Then a heartless bitch named Reality kicked me. I had grabbed my rail too hard and managed to pull up and out through the back of the wave, while it continued to barrel merrily along without me. All of this in front of the whole crowd. Even a British kook shook his head in disapproval. Avoiding all eye contact I meekly paddled to a spot on the outside of the line-up. While longingly watching everyone else getting properly shacked. I eventually scored a superbly groomed wall with just the right angle, breaking speed, size, shape, and any other superlative you can think of. 

We later changed accommodation and boarded at Chap Chap’s homestay, situated right in front of an idyllic right and home to exceptionally spicy food. Being goofy footers, Rocco and I were frothing to get some forehand Indo barrels! There was a left about a 45 min drive away. After checking it out one could see it lived up to its description in the Stormrider’s Guide of “being a huge foamball chasing the wall. Can be powerful. Experts only!” In my ignorance I had travelled to Indo seriously under-gunned. My second hand 6.0’ firewire was as thin as three Baker’s Lemon Creams stacked on each other, but it was my longest board and my only option.

The wave that redeemed Ralph’s esteem.

Paddling out was arduous as you had to paddle 400m around the outside of the super sharp and shallow reef. The solid 8ft waves were intimidating, no lies. Over the falls I went on wave number one and as I came up and gasped for air wave number two exploded on and around me. ‘Kloops’ – I felt my extra thick leash snap. Three more waves on the head and I was completely exhausted by the time I made it out of the impact zone. There I was in paradise treading water while sporadically getting stung in my armpits and on my nutsack by fireweed, I watched my beloved board being mercilessly washed over the reef towards shore. I started swimming back against the rip. This took my tired body more than half an hour.

I saw a little thief wearing nothing but white underpants run out of the thick jungle surrounding the rural village, sneak onto the beach, grab my board and head back into Mordor. Screaming, swearing, yodelling, begging or crying from 200m away in the rough seas seemed to have no effect on stopping the little bastard who was stealing my board. By the time I landed I was drained but the need to find my only “gun” strengthened my resolve.

Nils carves it up.

 I was going to get my board back and then hand out a few backhand flatties of note! The fact that I am the average height of a South African woman and taller than any Indonesian I had seen added to my bravado and fury.

Bellowing like a raging bull I went and knocked on the doors of the houses in the village. A small, shifty looking man feigned innocence and asked me in broken English if I needed any help. He then made me sit on a stoep with glossy tiles and offered me some lukewarm water. As luck would have it a group of body boarders from Durban drove past, stopped and enquired what was happening. A proper 6’4″ Dutchman with an impressive beard was among them. They heard me out then waited with me.

Five minutes later Shifty Eyes called me and said that this guy he knows claims it’s his board, finders-keepers or something like that. I wasn’t really listening. Myself and Giant Boer-Seun followed him up one alley and down the next and eventually we got to this dilapidated shack. I asked to see my board. 100 000 Rupiah (R100)! I swore in disgust.

All the while his mate Rocco kept getting pitted.

Then a group of four short-shit Indonesian men rocked up on scooters wielding big machetes. We got the hint. Having no cash on me, I pleaded with my fellow South Africans to score me a hundred bucks, to be paid back later that day. The money exchanged hands and I got my board back. Welcome to paradise – not!

However, the rest of the trip was much better. We went to an island where Nils, Rocco and myself hunted barrels  – it was great. But I must confess, I never once came out of a barrel in Indo. I still rue the drainers that completely enveloped me in a glass cavern and yet I, inexplicably, bailed through the back of the wave. I can never forget that sheer perfection, that extreme sensation of standing tall in a wide barrel just like the posters that adorned my wall back home. Neither can I forget being the ultimate kook and bailing. Why did I do it? Why, why, why, Delilah?

Barrel dodging 101.

It’s been almost 4 years now since that trip and a lot has changed in my life. I have met and married the perfect girl. I get to surf a lot at my home break, but I have yet to catch a stand up barrel that can compare to the one I stuffed up in Indo. The way I see it, the only way to fix this dilemma is by going back there and catching that barrel. Who’s coming with me?

*Images By: Andrea Von Delft

This submission is a part of Zigzag’s ‘Write To Surf’ journo contest. 

Send your stories to calvin@zigzag.co.za. One submission will be selected every six weeks to appear in Zigzag magazine. The selected submission will also receive a hamper from Billabong. Zigzag retains the right to use any work submitted for the Zag Surf Journo competition on zigzag.co.za as outlined in the rules and terms of the competition. Zigzag reserves the right not to award a published winner in the magazine every six weeks, depending on the quality of entries. Zigzag is not obligated to run any and all entries submitted, either online or in print. Zigzag retains the right to edit all work submitted for brevity and / or clarity. Please note: Prize hampers will only be delivered within South Africa.

The Billabong prize hamper includes: 1 x Billabong Wetsuit; 1 x Billabong Backpack; 1 x Billabong Cap; 1 x Von Zipper Sunnies; 1x Billabong Boardshorts.


  1. Werner van Schalkwyk
    18 May, 2017 at 2:40 pm · Reply

    Lets Go!!! I will be your water photographer to ensure we return with evidence!!!

  2. Stephan
    18 May, 2017 at 4:02 pm · Reply

    Mooi storie Ralph! Ek het lekker gelees en gelag!

  3. len de kramer
    18 May, 2017 at 4:17 pm · Reply

    This is hillarious!!!! Hahahahaha

  4. Gerrit van der Walt
    19 May, 2017 at 6:12 am · Reply

    Laughed at the subtle name calling of note. Great story Ralph!

  5. Loekie
    20 May, 2017 at 3:12 pm · Reply

    Jy is a pro Ralph…sommer in alles wat jy doen.

  6. ralph
    21 May, 2017 at 9:31 pm · Reply

    Thanks for the lekker comments guys 🙂

    Werner, the next trip you are definitely coming with!!

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