Spring has sprung, the water is turning non-glacial and summer’s brown brown boobies, summer windswells and crowds will be on us in no time. In Indonesia though the tradewinds switch is about to flick, the groomed lines are starting to churn and the “Indo Season” is about to start. Maybe its about time you booked your ticket, grabbed some pintails and pray the plane doesn’t overshoot the runway. And if you are heading to Indo, Desert Point has to be on the top of the list.
This wave has almost a mythical following to those who have surfed it. Even in Indonesia, the home of the perfect left, it stands out as being simply the most perfect tube any surfer could imagine. This is a wave that can make a daydreaming schoolboy’s pencil case drawing of a perfect wave look like fat, flawed, closeout. On a good day, surfers have been known to be barreled for more than 20 seconds. Others Desert aficionados brag of six proper five-second tubes on the one wave. Or you could just ask Sancho (see below)
And if it all sounds too good to be true, well that’s because it kinda is. Desert’s mythical status has been enhanced, like a signed Jimi Hendrix guitar, or an Anglet tube, by its rarity. This is by no means a consistent wave, and a number of often elusive factors have to all come together all at the same time for it to turn on. A massive just right southwest direction swell has to coincide with a band of tide that happens only a few days each month. Even then, even with all of Desert’s planets aligned in some type of cosmic order, strange things can happen. Massive lulls will destroy the line-up, or one of the strongest sweeps on earth will start to pick you up, whisking you out at 40 knots past the take-off zone and into one of the world’s deepest and most dangerous stretches of water, the Lombok Strait.
But like an abusive lover, all is forgotten as soon as, like magic, Desert’s switches on. An easy take-off launches you into an ever-growing perfectly pitching wave. The razor-sharp coral gets closer and closer to your fins as you progress, leading to a point where you are either locked in for one of the most orgasmic tubes of your life, or alternatively, you cop a strafing across a live, bacteria filled cheese grater. In the early days, such was the magnetic attraction of the wave, surfers would camp at the wave for months at a time, enduring the harsh, dry landscape (it ain’t called Desert Point for nothing), the long flat spells, the malaria filled mosquitoes and the primitive isolation all for the sweet days of perfection. There were many a Desert diehard, who after many a long, harsh, season became quite proprietal over “their” wave.
However the increasing number of boat charters traveling from Bali to Sumbawa changed that and by the late 90s a “Deserts” swell, would see many boats anchored up. Also some local unrest, which culminated in some camping surfers being attacked with knives, staying on the beach eventually became less of an option. These days, it has settled down, and there are some good, cheap losmen accommodation options in the neighbouring town of Bangko Bangko. However this coupled with the accuracy of Internet forecasting means that when Desert’s is on, a lot of people are on to it. Last winter season for example crowds of 50 people were not uncommon on the good days. So is it crowded? Yes. Is it fickle? God yes. Is it the best wave in the world? Go and find out for yourself.
The perfect day: It’s six foot and offshore and without a hint of a rip or sweep. The Lombok Strait has waylaid all the charter boats and there are just a handful of you surfing the best tubes in Indo.
Best months: May to September. Like the rest of Indonesia, the southeast tradewinds blow and are offshore here.
Getting there: Fly into Denpesar Bali, then either car and ferry it to Lombok, or domestic flight into Lombok’s capital Mataram. A 4wd is a highly recommended for the drive.
Boards: No turns, just tubes here folks, so there is no need for the rhino chaser. Normal shortboards, just maybe a little narrower and pinnier, with four fins.
Essentials: Suncream, tee shirt, large gonads, first aid kit, tubesense.
Accommodation: There is losmen style accommodation in Bangko Bangko, but a new 5 star Holiday resort has been approved in the area.
Other waves: There are other waves on Lombok, but they are a long, long drive, and nowhere near the quality. You are here for one wave – Deserts.