By Reo Stevens | Photos by Jason Wolcott
The different variables that need to come together in kitesurfing to produce a truly memorable day of barrels make even the most consistently windy waves difficult to score. There are so many combinations to get right: swell size, direction, tide, wind strength, and wind direction. To create that memorable situation is nearly impossible; much like a painter mixing various portions of different colors to form a combination that gives them just the hue and shade they were looking for.
This trip came together with the unique blnd of conditions that all wave riders search for. Just the right mixture of wind, water, waves, and friendships resulted in a spectacular showcase of all the Shades of Green Indonesian waters have to offer. Realizing the rarity of what we were experiencing, we managed to capture one of the best sessions that any of us have ever had and put together the Shades of Green video to share our experience.
Ian Alldredge and I had been traveling all summer long, getting only a few days of kiting here and there, but nothing worth writing home about. For the past four years, I have made the yearly journey to Indonesia and have come to appreciate the Indonesian culture. I’ve learned a few bargaining skills and even occasionally muster up the courage to venture out onto the busy, hectic streets on a motorbike. During summer, Indonesia is usually a safe bet for at least a few weeks of fun surf, but the previous year was somewhat of a let down after spending three weeks in a surfing paradise with hardly any swell. I had coaxed Ian into making the long voyage from Santa Barbara with promises of windy barrels, but he traveled here only to find smaller surf than he left at home and no surf in the forecast.
This year it took bit more convincing to get him to make the trip, and I think the only reason he decided to come to Indonesia was because it was on his way home from South Africa. Ian invited his friend from California, Bear Karry, a newly sponsored kiter. We figured the best way to break him in to professional kiting was to invite him on our Indo trip and throw him into a sink-or-swim situation with the type of surf most people only experience through videos. Everything came together so quickly for Bear that his new quiver of kites, boards, and harnesses went straight from the box they shipped in to his board bag. Before boarding a flight to Bali, Bear had only been out of the country one time. Not knowing what to expect, his bags were fully stocked with anything you may need to explore a third world country for the first time. He had ibuprofen, his anti-diarrhea medication, antibiotics, and even an emergency condom stashed in his wallet.
Soon after arriving in Bali, we all met up with Ben Wilson and Jason Wolcott for dinner. We arrived to the restaurant to find Ben sitting at the head of the table ready to give Bear his initiation as a pro kitesurfer. “Welcome young Bear Cub,” Ben said. “Now sack up and pound this beer you little ginger-headed girl, cause there are plenty more where that came from! Welcome to Bali! Wait till you see what we have in store for you tomorrow!”
The next morning we awoke to the piercing alarm that Jason set an hour earlier than any of the rest of us thought necessary. Jason is originally from Ventura, California, and has been living in Bali for the past year. He’s managed to become fairly fluent in the Indonesian language as well as the shortcuts through the narrow back streets of Bali making him one of the quickest chauffeurs available. “Wake up boys! Get your boards on the van, traffic’s about to start. If we wait any longer even I won’t be able to get you guys there on time!” The threat of missing our flight was enough motivation to get us up, scrambling to finish packing and loading our gear in the van.
At the airport, we grabbed as many porters as we could find to carry the immense pile of gear we had with us. The next few hours were filled with negotiations, bargaining, an airplane with parts held on by duct tape, and a bumpy van ride through a maze of badly deteriorated roads while nursing hangovers from the previous night’s fiasco. We arrived to our final destination in the late afternoon to find the expected swell in full effect. The wind was light but we could see a strong wind line around the point, so we started to unpack our bags and put boards together. Indonesia has no shortage of locals looking for employment and the traveling surfers and kitesurfers are a main source of money for the local economy. As our kite caddies began to pump up our kites, they couldn’t figure out what they could possibly be doing wrong as Ben’s kite pumped up fine while Bear’s, Ian’s and my kite were deflating quicker than they could pump.
To my dismay, each and every bladder on my kite was leaking. Confused and frustrated by the situation, I ran back to my room to grab another kite, but the second kite leaked even worse than the first! About the time I was pulling out my first bladder, Ian and Bear were going through the same terrifying realization that all of their kites leaked as well. With the first few bladders out, it became apparent that this would not be an easy fix. Each and every strut had dozens of small holes, all in tiny uniform lines. The source of the tiny holes left us baffled for hours. We went through every possible scenario; badly packed bags, fin tears, and even the possibility that Ben had secretly sabotaged us since his kites were left without a scratch.
Ben found our problems entertaining enough to video us hurriedly repairing bladders while asking us, “What happened? Why are you doing that?” It wasn’t until someone remembered seeing the local neighborhood cat curled up and sleeping in our kites the previous night that we realized what happened. Suddenly it all made sense. Each set of perforated lines came in rows of four with the spacing and size that would perfectly match up with the claws of a starved Balinese cat. Luckily, the wind line never completely filled in that day, leaving us to spend hours by the pool with the local Indo crew using anything that could possibly be used to cure the “cat
scratch fever” that our gear was suffering from. We had one roll each of duct tape and kite repair tape, leaving the three of us fighting over our limited repair supplies and the one pair of scissors that we happened to have with us.
By the end of the day, each of us had at least one kite in usable condition and there were three well deserved, ice cold Bintangs (the local beer) waiting for us at the restaurant courtesy of Mr. Wilson. The next morning we awoke to three fully inflated kites and an Indian Ocean swell in full effect thumping on a lowering tide. The conditions provided us with a much-needed surf session to wash away the bad memories from the day before. After a long morning of clean, glassy waves, we were finally chased out of the water, not by the usual suspects of thirst, hunger, or sunburn, but by the inevitable tease of a wind line coming in. We paddled in to get breakfast and talk about the plan for the day.
Both Ben and I have some experience with a filming technique known as tracking, when one rider films while riding alongside the other, trying to maintain a steady and smooth shot providing a unique view of the kiter riding the wave. Tracking isn’t something for everyone as it requires a fair amount of kite and board control as well as a reckless disregard for safety. To get the shot, you have to be right where you don’t want to be: As close to the other rider as you can get, in the direct path that they are traveling, all while avoiding their lines that are right over your head. If all of that isn’t enough to make you feel a little uneasy, add the fact that you’re trying to juggle all of this while sharing a very fast hollow wave breaking on the sharp shallow reef below.
To be honest, Ben and I were getting quite a thrill and did our best to ignore the possible consequences. We did have a few mishaps with kites crashing into each other, and Ian and I had a close call when we misjudged our speed and distance resulting in Ian cart wheeling down the face of the wave, taking me out at the ankles. In the end, despite us risking ourselves to get the shot, no one got hurt, and we managed a few good clips from the experience. We stayed at this spot for a week and had four days of wind for at least a few hours a day. We had amazing surf the entire time. Boards were broken, lines were tangled, and a few feet were left with reef wounds, but there wasn’t one complaint from any of us.
We all climbed aboard the same duct tape-covered aircraft that we arrived on completely content with the time that we had shared over the past week. All that was left to do was to sit back, relax, and try and distract ourselves from the wave withdrawals that we were going to go through by having fun with Ian’s fear of flying for the entire trip home.
You can watch Shades of Green, the movie that this trip produced at www.naishkites.com/en/videos/index.html
I hope you enjoy the movie nearly as much as we did making it!