19 February, 2015 19 February, 2015

Nailed at Nias – by Ross Solomon

Many lessons have been learned at Lagundri Bay, and Ross Solomon recalls a time when both an unsuspecting Euro journalist and himself were dealt one. ‘Nailed at Nias’ is Ross’ entry into Write to Surf – our surf journo competition with some epic prizes by Billabong up for grabs (see below for details).


NAILED AT NIAS – by: Ross Solomon


10-foot Nias is heavy. Thanks to the movement of the earth which caused the infamous Boxing Day tsunami, the reef rose at the legendary Lagundri Bay back in 2004. The wave which was the epitome of perfection to surfers in the 80s morphed into a sucking, heaving pit anything over head high. It looks like mini Teahupo’o in reverse. It is also one of those places where you really don’t want to get caught inside. It’s nasty. Guys scratch for the shoulder with full knowledge that they may be wrecking the ride of a lifetime for some poor dude who stole money out of his bond to fly halfway around the world for this exact moment. And if that dude is you, you don’t even blame them. It’s not that you’ll hit the reef, because unfortunately you don’t. Instead you just roll around and around with nothing to push off.

It’s one of those spots that just seems to hold you down forever. Long after the wave has gone, water sucking back off the reef makes sure that you are on the other end of your tombstoning board for everyone else in the lineup to see. And they’re all watching. It’s like a fun thing that everyone does out there; watch the unlucky bastard drowning and burst out laughing when he comes up spluttering and coughing water. Because we know.

There is an upside: you most definitely will get the best barrels you’ve had in a long time!


Well, I hope I’ve set the scene. Because along comes little Miss Euro travel magazine journalist, here to write an article on travelling surfers in Indonesia. She is rather pretty and yours truly gets to have an interview for said article after bumping in to her at our losmen. We chat for a while, until the spitting barrels out in front become too much and I grab my board running. A few hours later I drag myself back up to the losman balcony as surfed-out as is humanly possible, ready to devour some banana pancakes and a bong; not necessarily in that order. What I find is our journalist friend in rashvest and boardies, pasted in suncream and board under her arm.

“Where might you be going?” I enquire cautiously. Mr New Zealand has also made good friends with our new guest it appears, and has decided that no self-respecting journalist could write an article on surfing in Nias without getting a close-up look. Having known Mr NZ for the past few weeks and heard his many (mostly exaggerated, I’m sure) stories concerning exploits with the fairer sex, I don’t think her magazine article is the motivation behind all this. After failing to talk either of the two out of the crazy scheme, I scoff my pancakes and what-not down and go running across the reef to catch up.


Now the crazy thing about Nias is that even though it is very heavy when big, 20 meters deeper up the reef is dead calm. You simply step off the now uplifted reef into crystal clear blue calmness, like a postcard for some Seychelles resort. The idea is that the three of us paddle around far outside the guys waiting in the line-up to the relative safety of the channel, from where we can get a real feel for the crazy shit going down on this particularly big and cooking day. Again like Teahupo’o, but without the boats.

Ok, by now I’m sure some of you have figured out where this is going. About halfway along our sketchy journey to the channel the set of the day pulls in. The set of the whole swell in fact, peaking it would seem in the early afternoon of this day on a crash course with little Miss Euro travel magazine journalist. Oh shit, “PADDLE!” I hope the terror in my voice is adequate to portray the fear I have for not only her wellbeing but mine, as the big fokken set bares down on us. Mr NZ of course has disappeared for the shoulder along with the rest of humanity, as I flounder around trying to teach someone very quickly how to paddle around on a surfboard for the first time. We paddle up, no, we get sucked up the wall of the first wave and about halfway up I dive off my board screaming for her to do the same. She follows me quickly into the water but fatally hangs on with a one-handed death grip to what she perceives to be her lifebuoy of a surfboard.


How beautiful does a wave look from beneath with perfectly clear tropical water, an afternoon sun shining though the cascading barrel, a rather pretty petite girl with surfboard in hand stuck in the lip and about to take a wipeout that probably most surfers in the world will actually never get to experience?! Back in reality, I pop up just in time to swim my ass off and get under the next set, before grabbing my board which thankfully still has an intact leash attached. I’m now stuck in no man’s land trying to figure out if it’s safe enough to paddle in and try rescue an obviously drowning girl somewhere far below her frantically bobbing learner surfboard. I hang back just a while longer as more solid waves roll through in this super long period swell which makes Indo the Mecca it is. Finally I rush in and pull drowned rat Euro travel magazine journalist onto my board and paddle for all I’m worth through the soup and towards shore.

Her shaky legs don’t seem to be working so well as we climb back up the reef and onto dry land. She wipes her tangled hair out of her face and I can see the look of sheer relief that someone gets after experiencing a very real life threatening situation. She sits there for a while staring into space, contemplating whatever it is that she may have been contemplating. I had no idea what would’ve been going through her now permanently altered perception of surfers, travel journalism, and life in general.

Again, the more quick-minded among you probably already guessed what happens next. Mr NZ miraculously appears with some story that I can’t even remember about where he has been. He bundles our poor traumatised victim into his arms and holds her tight as the two of them walk slowly away. I stand there, non existent. Speechless.

Click here to check out all the entries so far >>


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.

For the next three issues the Billabong prize hamper includes: 1 x Billabong Wetsuit; 1 x Billabong Boardies; 1 x Billabong Cap; 1 x Von Zipper Sunnies; 1 x Set of Kinetic Racing (KR) fins. After which the hamper will get a shake-up with new product of equal value for the following three issues.


1 Comment

  1. Sheariff
    19 February, 2015 at 12:08 pm · Reply

    Haha! Classic story man 🙂

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *