7 June, 2012 7 June, 2012

Zen & the Art of the Mentawai Boat Trip – Part III: The Mentawai Feral

A Feral – a surfer who has escaped from a domestic or captive status and is living more or less as a wild animal.

He suddenly appears on the beach, just a speck in the distance really. As he clears the shadows of the palms the sun reflects brightly off his board. A surfer? W.T.F?? You and your mates are anchored off one of the most remote islands on the planet, supposedly accessible only by boat, and there’s some dude walking on the beach with a board! You watch as he strolls down to the keyhole, and then suddenly he is in the line-up with you. He smiles as he paddles past, as skinny as a chicken leg, dreadlocked hair bleached white and an old t-shirt in tatters on his back. “G’day mate!” he chimes with a wide grin.

At first you want to tell him that he is sitting way to deep, but when he backdoors the take-off bowl and threads his way through an impossibly deep barrel, you decide to just shut the f*&@k up. Rather just watch and learn: you are in the presence of a rare species: The Genuine Mentawai Feral.

He is the envy of all of us. We get 11 days on a boat before we continue the rat race with our miff job, whilst he seemingly just surfs perfect waves day in and day out, for months on end. Eish my bruddas, most of us would give our left ball to swop places with Felix the Feral. So lets see how he does it.

Many ferals are ozzies. Why? The Australian dole. They simply save up a few welfare cheques and voila! Jump on a cheap flight to Indo and off you go. So the moral of the story is that you don’t need a lot of moola. Just get your ass over there. What you do need though is time. Get the full 60 day Indo visa cause you are going to need every single day of it. And if you can do a short visa run followed by another 60 days, then so much the better.

Before you leave home, here are a few handy tips:

1. Go alone. No buddies and no girlfriend. There is a strong network of valuable info in feral circles, and it’s way easier to tap into this network if you are flying solo.
2. It won’t hurt to do your homework: Find out as much as you can prior to departure. Google Earth yourself blue and green in the face. Buy a few detailed Nautical charts and laminate them – Having a chart is often the difference between convincing a fishing captain to take you to some far flung island or not.
3. Two boards are fine, as long as they are glassed strong as a tank. Durability is the key. They must be in a bag with a comfy shoulder strap
4. A speargun is often the only thing that can get you a meal. Learn how to use one. Freediving fitness also comes in very handy, not to mention how happy villagers become when you give them a fat Spanish mackerel.
5. Take a good backpack and a mosquito net, maybe a tiny lightweight tent, but don’t bother with complicated camping stuff. Often you will be sleeping in small villages, and a good mozzie net can be the difference between life and death.
6. Medical stuff. This is a tough one as the nature of the feral is that he cuts himself off from the first world. Anti-malaria pills, especially a treatment dose of Larium is highly recommended. Most other first aid stuff including Antibiotics can be bought over the counter in most small Indo shops, so you can stock up en route.
7. Throw out any electronic device that can’t function on penlight (AAA) batteries. Anything with a charger is pointless. Cell phones are pointless – If you’ve got signal then you haven’t gone far enough you pussy!! Take only a small happy snapper and maybe a small GPS, both of which run on AAA’s. (Note to self: It’s time for one of the watch companies to make a GPS/tide watch combo and call it THE FERAL)
8. The Rambo knife. Say no more.
9. Dictionary/Local Lingo book – all those hours on local busses and ferries must be put to good use. There is a direct relation between local language fluency and perfect empty perfection.

Make sure that you can carry all your shit easily and hike a fair distance with it all on your back and over your shoulder. Mobility is key, because the last 10 kays of a new discovery is often done on foot.

Ok, so we’ve got you all fired up. Boards are packed and ticket booked. Fly as far as you can fly. Then take the bus as far as the bus will go. Then take the ferry as far as the ferry will go. Then hop a ride in a fishing boat over to that other island. Then wait for the copra boat to take you over to the very last tiny little island in the chain. There may be a village there, or not. Hopefully you will speak enough of the lingo by then to make sure that the captain of the copra boat understands that you want him to come fetch you again in a months time. Anyway, he did smile and wave, nodding his head furiously after he dropped you off in the lee of the island on a lovely white sandy beach. So why do you feel like panicking? Anyway, lets not digress. By now you will have your own machete and a bag of rice. The coconuts above your head contain all the fluids you will need. Your speargun is suddenly your most treasured possession. It’s a 6 km hike to the wild side and it takes you the whole day to get there. Will it be onshore and flat? Will there be a wave where you thought one was? Who knows, but you are out there now, looking, searching, exploring. And you will find. You will score…and…maybe you will die.

This is how many of the worlds greatest waves were first discovered: G-Land, Lagundri Bay, Teahupoo… Anyway, you get the drift. Remember: You are NOT a tourist. You are a FERAL. Act like one.

PS. Do not confuse the Genuine Mentawai Feral with the Common Fake Bali Feral. The latter imitates the former, with dreadlocked hair, twig-like body (from drug use, not surfing) and a bunch of other similarities. The CFBF often even owns a board, and he knows how to talk story. But unlike the GMF, the CFBF will never leave Kuta.

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