6 January, 2016 6 January, 2016

Life Is Better When You’re Surfing – by Jules Carey

Surfing in its purest form isn’t just about wave count and seconds in a tube. Jules Carey discusses this in ‘Life Is Better When You’re Surfing’, which is her entry into Write To Surf – Zag’s surf journo competition with epic prizes by Billabong up for grabs (see details below).




Uncrowded waves, endless barrels, and consistent surf in a tropical paradise are what we’re all after on a surf trip. We deal with the expense and tedium of travel in the hope of scoring some of the sickest waves of our lives. As we Styrofoam and towel-wrap our boards, hoping that they don’t become the playthings of pissed off baggage handlers, we try to suppress our greatest fear; that we’ve paid all this money, travelled all this way, and we’re about to get seriously skunked.

My last surf trip was no different, and it was with a mixture of excitement and trepidation that I headed off to surf some all-time left-handers. As a naturalfoot I’m inclined to gravitate to rights, but I decided that it was time to throw myself into my backside, and what better place than at one of the best lefts in Indonesia.

Indo has had an incredible season so far*.  Consistent swells have got the froth running high and I was psyching myself up to charge some gnarly waves on my three week trip. I was ready! What I wasn’t ready for, however, was the mind-blowing natural beauty and wildlife that permeates through this area of Java.


There are no houses, no paved roads, and no pounding music. The only sounds that you’ll hear are the surf, the birds, the monkeys, and the wind whistling through the prolific bamboo. Imagine living in the jungle, with all the wildlife that it holds, while simultaneously having world-class waves on your doorstep. I was reminded, that here, in nature, this planet of ours is one hell of a beautiful place.

Life other than the here and now disappears the moment that you step onto the boat to come over from Bali. Your first glimpse of your awaiting oasis renders world and personal stresses insignificant. There’s no time-management, no obligations, and no stress. There is only you, consistent surf, offshore winds, a couple of ocean-side hammocks, and the live 24hr Nature Channel that is your life.

Set on the coast of Alas Purwo National Park, the beauty of this protected area has been preserved and its rich biodiversity continues to thrive. Monkeys are up at the first crack of light and their antics and curiosity amuse until their sunset bedtime. Jumping and sailing through the canopy, wrestling, fighting, ‘monk-ing’ each other, and of course observing every movement that we make. They wait for the opportune time to sneak down and pilfer whatever food is left on a table or out in the open. They’re an endless source of entertainment and I laughed at their antics for weeks on end.


I knew that monkeys were social creatures, but I never imagined that I’d see them play with other species. One morning, I wandered down for the early morning wave check. I’d just arrived when a deer and her fawn came tearing out onto the beach. I looked behind them wondering what was chasing them (I won’t deny that thoughts of the Javanese tiger crossed my mind), but I quickly realized that they were sprinting through the sand and across the jagged reef in absolute delight. They were agile and mesmerizing. They chased and bounded as though they were running on solid, even ground. Half an hour and a quick swim later, they returned to the sandy part of the beach. It was then that I realized that I wasn’t the only one enraptured by the deer’s activities. A group of young monkeys, observing all from the treetops, couldn’t resist the urge to play any longer. In a matter of seconds they cascaded down to join the young deer and the game was on! I sat transfixed for the next 20 minutes, awed by the play of fawn and monkeys, until finally overcome with exhaustion, the young deer ambled away with his mother and the monkeys disappeared into the jungle. I realized then that I hadn’t looked up once to watch the waves.

Not only are monkeys and deer seen regularly, giant monitors inhabit the jungle as well. We watched in fascination as a monitor joined us at the dining hall, bringing with him a breakfast of his own. The struggling object in his mouth was a frog. There was no escape, and ever so slowly, the frog succumbed to being the monitor’s early morning snack. Simultaneously, the shy white crown monkeys are eating berries in a nearby tree; the braver Long-tailed macaques have made away with the remnants of someone’s fruit plate; other monkeys are chattering and playing along the pathway; and the calls of the various birds fill the treetops. Every direction that you turn, the jungle is pulsating with life.


Not to be outdone by the cacophony of the forest, the technicolour reef illuminates with infinite species of its own. To walk across the reef is to walk through fields of seaweeds, starfish, slugs, sea cucumbers, urchins, sea snakes, giant worms, angel fish, and more variations of coral than I can list. Great spearing and snorkelling can be had, and it’s not uncommon for spanish mackerel or tuna to end up as ‘melt in your mouth’ sashimi or as a perfectly prepared meal. Resident dugongs are often seen in the lineup as well. There was one day, however, when there were no dugongs in sight; the day that the killer whale showed up.

Possibly the same killer whale that has been spotted at ‘Ulus’, this majestic creature decided that it was time for a surf trip of his own and appeared in Java. Charging the best waves to the hoots and cheers of everyone in the water; it was absolutely surreal! Giant dorsal fin vibrating up a storm, more speed than you can imagine; this orca was having the time of his life. You could almost hear him hooting himself as he whizzed by. He clearly loved the sensation of surfing powerful waves, almost as much as we loved watching him. Although I’m sure that killer whales have the ability to be dangerous to humans (especially when they’re kept in captivity, isolated from their pod, and have their young calf taken from them), this orca was out to play and posed no threat of any kind. This was a ‘one-day wonder’ and no further sightings of the surfing whale have been made here again; yet.


The fact that the killer whale decided to surf here at all is a clear testament of just how good the wave quality is. Although I could go into a detailed description of the wave setup, I’m not going to. If you’re a surfer, and you know anything about the waves in Indonesia, then you know exactly where I am and how the lineup works. Suffice to say though, that the waves here can satisfy every level of confidence. Deeper sections that can hold size with a makeable take-off and a following freight train ride; sections that you had better be on your game because you’ll need to drop straight into a heaving barrel; sections that you think you can make but pick you up and remind you that you’re no Kelly Slater. Surfing here is definitely not for the faint of heart. The waves can be humbling. They can also be the best waves of your life.

No matter how your daily session goes though (thrown around like a rag-doll or a day of infinite barrels), you’ll inevitably find yourself on the beach at sunset; a cold Bintang in hand as stories of waves scored and beatings had are relived and shared. Told with equal enthusiasm are the experiences of wild boars, giant eagles, thieving monkeys, territorial woodpeckers, enormous lizards, weird-looking sea creatures, and all the other unique experiences that were seen and felt over the course of the day. To have a surf trip without the latter is to lose sight of what surfing really is; a complete synching with life’s natural rhythm. You don’t need to deconstruct this connection; you just feel it.


Surfing in its purest form isn’t just about wave count and seconds in a tube. It’s understanding that EVERYTHING is interconnected. It’s knowing that rather than fight the current, we’re better off letting it guide and work for us.

Don’t get me wrong. Surfing isn’t just a spiritual experience. There’s no greater buzz than on a wave well surfed. The feeling of connecting and harnessing a wave’s energy, and then possessing the skill to use that energy and rip is indescribable to a non-surfer. They will never get it, and we will never be able to live without it. Surfing is the best reminder of just how damn lucky we are to be alive.

So the next time that we paddle out, no matter where we’re lucky enough to be, let’s leave aggression and life dissatisfaction to those who will never know the beauty of surfing. Whether we’re surfing 3-foot crowded burgers at our local, or scoring 8-foot Indo with a few mates, there’s one thing that I can guarantee; Life is better when you’re surfing.

Click here to check out all the published stories from our Write To Surf competition.
* Story was submitted during last year’s Indo season.


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. At the end of the year, we will select and send one aspirant journalist from the competition on an all expenses paid assignment for a major feature in Zigzag. 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. *Disclaimer: Views expressed in Write to Surf entries are those of the author.

The Billabong prize hamper includes: 1 x Billabong Wetsuit; 1 x Billabong Hoodie; 1 x Billabong Cap; 1 x Von Zipper Sunnies; 2 x Da Kine traction pads.


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