29 September, 2010 29 September, 2010

Rifles, Mentawaii Spot Check

The Rifles train tunnel.

Rifles on its day must be rated in the top five waves in the world. It is perfect, hollow and VERY VERY LONG. But this right hand point break does not deliver very often and easily gets blown out, as it is situated on the outside corner of Karangmajet Island. The crazy thing is that this is the same island on which you will find Kandui, they are a five minute boat ride apart! When Rifles goes it will have onlookers slack jawed. It is the longest wave by a long way in Indo, even longer than Supers. When someone takes at the off at the top they are only a speck in the distance. They will drive from tube to tube until they pass right by you and disappear from sight down the line. Three 10-second barrels on one wave is common place.

But is a hard wave to ‘get on’, and many surfers with multiple Mentawai trips under their belts have not had this wave at its full potential. The reason for this is twofold:

1. The swell has to be from the south, which is not common. Basically you need a powerful slow moving front just below West Oz.
2. No wind. If the SE trades have kicked in, forget about it. Most of the Mentawai right-handers, which are situated and the SE corners of the islands, like Rags Right and Rifles, will be blown out.

So if you wish to avoid the trades, and focus on the rights, then the statistics will dictate that you come early or late season to avoid the trades. But then you may not get the pumping prime time south swell that Rifles needs. Yup, she is a fickle bitch, and many surfers roll the dice year after year, constantly pestering their charter skippers to go check Rifles, and most of the time it’s not happening. This ‘Rifles Whore’ can become a full-blown addiction, even more so than those two famous sluts, Maccas and Ht’s (both of which handle side-shores way better).

But if you are lucky enough to be in the Mentawais before the SE trades have settled in, and a freak early season south swell is running, your skipper will know where to go. Rifles is a very long wave and like Supers the sets don’t all focus on the same section of the reef. Now that there are two or three surf camps in the area, Rifles will be a bit busier than usual, but don’t despair. The pack will be hassling each other right at the top where the wave starts right next to an underwater keyhole which vents a turquoise rip current out to sea. You don’t need to sit here. Move about 250m down the reef and wait for the wide ones, they will come, and only a few okes will be sharing them with you. The wave actually gets hollower down here, and you will have a series of train tunnels that will be etched into your memory forever.

And if you did not get Rifles? Well, that means you had a SW swell and surfed Kandui, HT’s, Maccas, Telescopes and Bankvaults, so what’s the problem?


  1. Jonesy PE
    10 August, 2012 at 10:48 am · Reply

    Jeeez dude !!!! I am at work reading this …..feel like cashing it all in, ditching my wife and kid and doing the indo gypsy feral thing ….again !!!

  2. Francois Sneedon
    12 August, 2012 at 4:50 am · Reply

    thanks for that…I might just base myself in west oz…wait for the right combo and spend the rest of my life surfing rifles…not a bad idea….

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