blurry background image
Surf safety in the Mentawais

Surf safety in the Mentawais

A guest post by a WavePark guest and friend, Stephen “Wasabi” Hall.

Christie cast his sympathetic gaze down at down at my bruised and swollen ribcage, “If you’re going to dance, you have to pay the band”.


We had arrived back to the comfort of Wavepark after a session at E-Bay. I had taken a wave and turned off the bottom to see the figure of someone much younger, much fitter and more able than myself drop from the lip in front of me and race off down the line. I had no choice other than to straighten up and jump leaving me on the inside and at the mercy of the set following, the first wave of which was being ridden at breakneck speed by a 7’ guy on a 9’ board. I had nowhere to go, no time to duckdive, the only priority being to ensure no collision with the enormous dude on the mal. I got tossed about by the white water before being dropped rib-first onto the reef ledge that anyone who has surfed E-Bay would be familiar with.

Stephen Hall surfing
Play it safe if you don’t want to spend your vacation on the sidelines.



I don’t claim a huge threshold of pain but this was excruciating. I couldn’t paddle. I couldn’t move. I could hardly breathe. I got flushed out into the channel where I sat wheezing before struggling back to the boat. It was Nurofens later, as the pain finally started to dissolve that Christie offered his dance analogy solace. The injury left me on the couch for the next 3 days while the others disappeared to come back with mouth-watering pictures of themselves surfing 4’ perfection at Rifles.


Anybody who surfs regularly would have at one stage hurt themselves, be it a fin gash to the leg, a board to the head, a torn shoulder, or a thigh to ankle removal of surface skin having been dragged across the coral after a miss-timed takeoff at Hideaways. So common are surfing injuries that judging by the number of stomach churning photos of open wounds published in various magazines and uploaded to sites on the internet, injuries seem to be a rite of surfing passage, an honour to be worn with pride.

But getting hurt is not fun, especially if it means salivating over shots of your mates getting barrelled while you were watching endless B-grade DVDs. Getting hurt badly is a tragedy. There are people who haven’t walked again after surfing accidents, indeed there are people who haven’t lived to post their photos to the appropriate website. The luxury of Wavepark may lull us into a false sense of confidence, but the Mentawais is a long fucking way from anywhere. Immediate treatment is not on hand. There are no friendly paramedics handing out the green whistle and carting you off to the starched sheets and sympathetic smiles of the nurses at your local hospital.

The first aim of anyone doing a trip to the Mentawais should be, as I heard Gerry Lopez sagely advise a poor punter who had pile driven himself head-first into a coral head and was being medi-vacced to Singapore, “Surf today so you can surf again tomorrow”. And this philosophy you should extend to everyone else in the water. You really don’t want to be sitting on an expensive boat, day one of your holiday, tearing up and watching perfection break across the reef as you head back to Padang; far less, responsible, for putting someone else in that unenviable situation.

Be gentle on yourself and even gentler to those sharing the waves. The kindness that goes around comes around. As the area becomes increasingly popular I see more and more people doing ridiculously stupid things and creating horribly dangerous situations for not only themselves but for everyone. Minor injuries end up in magazines. Major injuries are discretely not mentioned.

Chill~ you’re on holiday!