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Surfing in Sumbawa

sambawa.jpgIt’s been a long time since I was on a board and even though my desire to return to the surf has not yet dissipated, I know that once I did return it would take all my time and I would surf constantly. Although that’s not a bad thing, my wife Candika would have a few words to say about that!. Sumbawa is becoming extremely popular for surfers and I have never really investigated the situation there regarding surf spots etc.

However, I did find a fabulous website that is 100% dedicated to the surf on the island and other places around the archipelago – https://www.surfline.com/travel

Here’s what they say about surfing Sumbawa:

In Indonesia, the farther east one goes, the more distant the stereotype of a lush Asian paradise becomes, replaced instead with the harsh, dusty, incredibly rugged volcanic lands known collectively as Nusa Tenggara, the “East Islands.” The centerpiece of these is the Muslim isle of Sumbawa, its remote, swell-blessed south and west coasts seldom visited by anyone but surfers.

A core destination, Sumbawa offers several heavy world-class barrels, mostly lefts over sharp coral reef, all lying in a different swell window than that of Bali or the Mentawais. Like Lombok, Sumbawa is overshadowed by those two places; yet unlike Lombok, Sumbawa has more than one wave worth traveling to, and it’s more than likely that you’ve heard of spots like Lakey Peak and Scar Reef, seriously perfect waves for the seriously tube-minded surfer. Overland access to all but Lakey is arduous or outright impossible, hence a boat being your best bet to truly experience Sumbawan glory, because, hey, it’s time to get out of Bali and to shake the temptation of booking yet another Mentawais boat trip.

Crowds

Since there are several surf charter boats operating around Sumbawa, the remote marquee breaks can be a bit crowded, but nothing like Lance’s Right or Padang Padang, or even Desert Point. With its abundance of land-based accommodation and easy overland access from airport, the Lakey Peak zone gets stupidly crowded; with that exception, hardly anyone surfs Sumbawa’s ultra-remote, unmapped south coast.

Hazards

Thievery in the Lakey Peak area is a big problem; as locals know about the relative riches of the traveling surfer, flush with expensive items like iPods and laptop computers. (Obviously, getting ripped off is not an issue if you’re on a boat trip.) There are big sharks, malaria, sharp reefs, and a lot of aggro foreign surfers, too, so watch out–in Sumbawa, you’re a long way from help.

The Seasons

Summer

Being the official Indo “off-season,” November through February is not the best time of year for surf on Sumbawa, but being the wet season, there is the chance of some cyclone swell hitting the island, groomed offshore by the prevailing west-northwest trade winds.

Fall

A decent transitional period, when the southern Indian Ocean starts to slowly wake up, spawning some early, long-period southwest swell. The southeast trade winds start in April, and the skies begin to dry. The trades blow onshore along Sumbawa’s entire south coast, but mornings are often light offshore.

Winter

Winter (May-September) is prime surf season. All the spots on the island’s south shore can fire in winter, however oftentimes overloaded with swell and plagued by the onshore afternoon trades. These trades blow offshore at Sumbawa’s epic west coast spots.

Spring

Another transition season, still with ample swell and the chance of having very light or no wind all day. But typically the southern swell machine begins to slow down; the winds change, and rainsqualls reappear. Still a good time to surf, especially at Lakey Peak.

Directions

First you must get to Bali; from there, Indonesia’s Merpati Airlines has daily flights to Sumbawa. You can also hop aboard one of the ferries, from Bali, but it’s a real pain to do Sumbawa overland. Take the flight instead, or book a boat charter from Bali.