Cape Town charger Matt Bromley was the recent standout at maxing Nias. We chatted on his safe return from a pretty gnarly trip.

How did it all start?

We were surfing the day before, and the swell was supposed to start showing signs, and I just went out for an evening surf on my smaller board. It was still small, there weren’t really any barrels coming through and everyone was a bit disappointed. Just before dark it all changed. I have never seen the waves change so drastically within half an hour. It went from being not even barreling four-foot, to a solid eight to ten-foot, and then a twelve-footer came through that doubled up, way too hard to paddle into, and sucked all the water off the reef. It was suddenly chaos in the lineup.

So you were still in the water when the swell turned?

Yes. It was the most radical thing I had ever seen. The waves were all doubled up and messed up. The energy all came at once. You couldn't even paddle into the waves.

The next day it was booming.

The next day sounded like a tsunami. Everyone was up in the dark, and there was so much water moving. It was coming into the restaurants and into the side alleys and into the lodges, and I decided to chill for a bit to see if it was doable. Laurie Towner and a few other chargers went out super early, and there were 15-foot waves coming through and bottoming out. Then the guys started getting a few, and I was like, “Oh my gosh, they’re getting some, I better get out there.”

What board?

I went on my 6’9. I was in two minds because the waves were so steep so you wanted a shorter board to not nosedive, but at the same time the waves were so big that you needed some paddle power. I just decided that I’m going out there to get a life-changing wave and I’m going on a bigger board. I was on one of the biggest boards in the lineup, and I went and sat further out than anyone. I was super patient, and just waited for a wave that looked like ‘the one.’

I got into the lineup, it was super crowded, and some of the best big wave surfers in the world were out there, like Billy Kemper and Ian Walsh, and Koa Rothman. The sets were stacking, but everyone was just paddling over them, looking at each other. There was just no way in. Fifteen to eighteen-foot double-ups, and you could see the layers of reef as the water sucked off on the sets.

The best wave you got?

I got a little one, just to get my feet in the wax, and I was feeling super nervous after that. I went and sat way out the back. This big gnarly double-up came through and I just said that I’m going, no matter what. I put my head down and as I started committing to the wave the whole crowd started shouting me in. It was one of the raddest feelings. I could feel it starting to suck me up the face, and as I got to my feet I leant forward and I was just in the air, sliding on my rail but sideways in the air, and I was just holding on with my toes, and then it felt like God just put the board under my feet.

Heavy.

I know. I wasn’t connected to my board the whole way down, and at the bottom I landed on my board, went over another little step, and then I bottom turned into one of the biggest barrels I’ve ever been in. I stood straight for two sections, and then pumped, and then unfortunately got clipped at the end. It went a bit wide on the reef and closed out. When I came up everyone in the channel was hooting, and when I got back to the lineup everyone was clapping for me and cheering. It was a pretty special moment, bru.

What was the heaviest thing you saw out there?

Just seeing the sets come through and bottom out and checking all the reef exposed was just so terrifying. Also, because the water was brown, the barrels were pitch-black inside. It was the scariest barrel.

What about the boat pitch?

So we saw the boat float towards us in the lineup and a few guys tried to paddle and grab the ropes to paddle it further out, and then everyone started shouting at them to get away from the boat, and we were just watching slow death happening. It was bobbing along and getting pushed further in, and then eventually that double-up got it. It was funny because the wave that caught the boat was an insider yet in the photos it looked like a really solid wave. Everyone just started screaming because we saw the boat pierce the lip and then go over in a backward somersault. We couldn’t catch waves for a while because we didn't know if the boat was still in the line-up. It was obviously upside down, and it got washed in pretty quickly. Throughout the day there were big logs and trees and things going through the lineup, so occasionally everyone would have to put everything on hold and wait for the lineup to clear. I think the waves were surging up all over the place and just washing debris out to sea.

Charging hardest?

I saw my mate Lucas Silveria paddle for a 12- footer and pull out and get sucked over the falls and it just looked like the end of the world. The wave was just exploding, and he got blasted all the way in.

Mark Healey blew minds in the afternoon. He was nowhere in the morning, and then in the afternoon he paddled out on a 7’6 and he suddenly had this animal-like mentality and he was on anything and everything. A big double up snuck under every one, and he spun and went under the lip on it. Some of the guys were saying that it was the biggest wave ever surfed at Nias.

How was the paddle out? Did you go the Keyhole?

The paddle out through the keyhole was soo gnarly. It was just washing through and over it. Since the Tsunami you actually walk out to the keyhole and you just hop in, but when guys were trying to walk out there was so much water surging that you would actually get sucked off your feet and sucked into the keyhole. My friend Eli Olson from Hawaii got swept off his feet on the second day and his leash snagged and he got pulled into the keyhole upside down. He reckoned he was under water for like 15 seconds and was ready to black out. He was trying to do a sit up to get to his leash and he couldn’t, but luckily his leash snapped. He got sucked into the rocks and under water and he popped up outside the Keyhole. I saw him afterwards and he was super rattled. After that we had to paddle out from the bottom of the point.

Another epic Indo trip under the belt then?

You know, when you go to Indonesia you expect blue water and clean waves, and this was brown water and black holes, and it just looked more like Mavericks than anything else.