In the middle of prime surfing season in Bali, Jordan Mawbey and her crew were getting skunked; not due to a lack of swell. ‘The Sound of Kuta’ is Jordan’s entry into Write To Surf – Zag’s surf journo competition with epic prizes by Billabong up for grabs (see details below).
THE SOUND OF KUTA – by: Jordan Mawbey
This was the background music to our grey, mediocre afternoon. The air was heavy, and irritated mumbles circulated the ocean-facing deck that our small group had congregated on. “This sounds like an over-played pop song,” I thought to myself, “and we’re stuck in the boring part of the music video that everyone skips.” We had been sitting on the weather-beaten deck for hours on end, watching as the rain cascaded down onto the already soaked patches of sand and grass in front of us.
This shouldn’t be happening. It’s a near freak phenomenon. It’s prime surfing season in Bali and it’s been raining for three days straight. Nothing but showers since we stepped off the small plane we came on. It’s not the light-hearted kind of rain either. It’s harsh, stinging rain that travels accompanied by its partners in causing havoc: thunder, clouds, lightning, great swell and freezing water. None of us had thought to pack anything heavier than a few pairs of baggies, a rashvest, the shirt on our back and a pair of slops. We were going to Bali after all, not Southern California. Of course, according to Sod’s damn law, the Hannibal Lector of all storms had unleashed itself on us after half a day of ideal pits.
A maid arrived while we watched the perfect sets peel across the coral reef as if they were taunting us. Everyone turned around to see her setting down steaming cups of coffee on numerous wooden side tables that were scattered around the large sheltered deck. Appreciative smiles were offered to Kadek, the friendly middle-aged Balinese woman that had been taking care of us while we stayed in an old backpackers’ beach house. We clutched the cups close to our chests and crowded the small, orange flames of a fire we had made to produce an inkling of heat. Everyone stared in awe of the moody seascape that presented itself to us that afternoon. Beautiful swells travelled over the surface of the uncharacteristically cold water. It killed us to think that we couldn’t surf due to our clueless stupidity and our common lack of neoprene.
We had tried travelling around the island to find spots that the storm hadn’t affected yet, but it was pointless. Clouds had descended over the ocean as far as the eye could see. All the lineups were either empty or packed with locals donning their seldom used wetsuits. Lucky buggers. Prepared buggers. By the time we had returned to our house we were soaked and we had used all of the petrol in the scooters we had rented to get around the island. We slowly made our way back to the deck to waste our afternoon by complaining about how seamless the dark blue waves were and watching re-runs of old surfing films on an ancient TV that had probably been around when Bruce found his Beauties.
Loud thuds that resembled familiar footsteps echoed through the old house on the dark wooden floors. Suara, ‘The Noise’ as he was commonly known throughout the small surfing village of Kuta, came to a screeching halt behind us. He was a young, energetic owner of the villages’ surf shop, with deep set shining eyes, curly black hair and bronze skin – only achieved by years of surfing under the Indonesian sun. “Well boys,” he panted, “looks like today is your lucky day.” His unmistakable voice boomed throughout the house. In his hands was a beaten up cardboard box that bulged under its own weight. As Suara opened the box, our faces visibly brightened. Inside there were seven well-loved but still usable wetsuits. Shouts and laughs of excitement bounced off the walls that were covered in tattered posters as we realised what ‘The Noise’ must have gone through to get these for our humble group of Saffas. “Well boys, what are you waiting for? There are waves to catch!” He threw his head back and laughed in a true Indonesian care-free style as we all grinned at each other. Some lighties in his family are probably still moaning about not having their wetsuits.
Everyone rushed to suit up and apply fresh layers of wax to our fluoride white boards that had been specially shaped for our trip to Bali – the island that was fast becoming the epicenter of surfing pilgrimages. The wetsuits were a bit stiff and crusted with multiple layers of salt around the edges but they would serve their primary purpose: keeping the cold water out. Seven of us paddled towards the firing lineup to catch the first wave of the day at the secluded reef that produced flawless left handers situated conveniently in front of our ancient house.
Images of Padang Padang and Uluwatu graced our minds as we watched the six to eight-foot sets start to travel towards the beach. This is the reason we came to Kuta in the first place, to have flawless barrels offered to us day after day. An experienced, surprisingly friendly local that we recognized from driving around the island joined us in the lineup. The corners of his mouth curled into a wide grin as he took notice of our newly acquired wetsuits. No doubt he had a hand in organising them for us. An 8-foot outside set rolled through the backline and he turned to start paddling. He stroked hard and quickly hopped to his feet. He got a few good turns in before the wave started to curl, forming a perfect pocket for him to slide into. He pulled into the barrel and dragged his hand across the face of the wave, channeling shades of Gerry Lopez at Pipeline, lost in the moment, his eyes glassed over with an unfaltering smile on his face as if time was standing still.
We soon learned the Suara had paddled out just behind us. Wherever he went, his loud personality made itself known. Everyone turned to greet him as he sat up on his bright red, yellow and green striped board. The smirk on his face was unmatchable as he looked around to admire his own handiwork.
A wave started to form on the horizon.
“Well boys, who thinks they’re gonna attempt to one up that guy’s barrel?”
Opinions expressed in Write To Surf entries are not necessarily those of Zigzag.
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Send your stories to firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.
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.