On the 27th of August 1883, an Indonesian island was¬† vaporised in an explosion that reverberated around the world. Krakatoa, located¬† in the Sundra Straits between Java and Sumatra,¬† decided to sign off with a blast that flattened the 23 square km island and¬† then some; in fact it took off another 250 metres of land below sea level. The¬† bang, equivalent to 21,000 decent atom bombs, could be heard 4500 km away, and¬† sent so much ejecta into the atmosphere that the entire planet enjoyed¬† spectacular sunrises and sunsets for several years afterwards ‚Äď the trade off¬† for copping a global drop in temperatures of a couple of degrees.

The beautiful Lagundri Bay  and one lucky soul enjoy its spoils.  Photo: Dave Sparks The beautiful Lagundri Bay and one lucky soul enjoy its spoils. Photo: Dave Sparkes

Not unexpectedly, the explosion also generated ferocious  tsunami waves, some of which measured over 100 feet high. They slammed into  west Java and Sumatra, including one straight shot, thousands of kms up through  the Indian Ocean into south facing Lagundri  Bay, on the island of Nias.  In those days Lagundri   Bay was the main port of  south Nias, and the massive tsunami killed thousands of people in the bustling  harbour and surrounding villages. The port was never rebuilt at Lagundri,  eventually being re-established a few kilometres to the north-east in Teluk  Dalam, leaving Lagundri a quiet backwater.

That wasn’t the first tsunami to hit Nias, and wouldn’t be  the last. The island sits in prime tsunami territory, 125 km off the West  Sumatran coast in the vicinity of the Sumatran Subduction Zone, the 5500 km long  boundary between the Indian-Australian and Eurasian tectonic plates. This  boundary runs along virtually the whole of the west coast of Sumatra, the  plates meeting at a fault about 5 kms under the ocean in the Sumatra Trench, a  couple of hundred kms off the coast. Here the Indian-Australian plate is  forcing its way under the Eurasian plate. It is one of the most seismically  active places on earth, and it has plenty up its sleeve.

The Nias Eye is a mind-blowing view, let alone after a special mushroom tea. Photo: Dave Sparkes The Nias Eye is a mind-blowing view, let alone after a special mushroom tea. Photo: Dave Sparkes

Although I‚Äôd been to Nias a few times before, it had sure¬† been a while. And a good long while before the creation of the ‚Äėnew‚Äô reef. The¬† talk of the altered state of play at Lagundri had been driving me insane. I¬† knew there was a change in the wave due to uplift from the March 28th¬† earthquake, and the consensus was that it was for the better. Better? Better¬† than the most airbrushed and flawless big tube you could imagine? What would be¬† the odds? I couldn‚Äôt help but think there was more tall tale than truth to the¬† rumours, a real possibility since Indonesia is gossip central of the surfing¬† world. The intrigue was just too much. I had to know, and I managed to convince¬† a couple of mates, Joe Haddon and Ben Godwin, to come along and find out with¬† me. Both from Forster, Joe is a stylish natural footer with a perpetual grin, a¬† great traveller who is a genuinely happy person. Ben is a tall goofyfoot, a¬† lanky larrikin aerial type maniac, who has really hit a new level in his¬† surfing over the past year or so. He‚Äôs a classic old soul, busting out a string¬† of hilarious narrative, punctuated by a durry, when you least expect it, and¬† regularly bringing the house down at dinner.

Twenty two years after I first went to Nias, it‚Äôs no easier,¬† or quicker, to get to from Oz, especially if you miss out on a seat for the Medan to Gunung Sitoli [Sumatra¬† to Nias] flight like we did. Our only other option was a flight to Sibolga to¬† grab the overnight ferry to Teluk Dalam, in the south of the island. This led¬† to our first pressure situation when some Medan¬† airport urchins assured us, despite the fact that we knew it was booked out for¬† three days ahead, that they could get us tickets for the ‚Äúfull‚ÄĚ flight to¬† Gunung Sitoli. I should have known better, but we were just off our third¬† flight in 24 hours. We were hassled and harried, and melting in the equatorial heat,¬† and had to make a quick decision via my retarded Bahasa; we said: ‚Äúok, get the¬† tickets.‚ÄĚ It was corrupt Indonesia¬† after all, and full didn‚Äôt always mean full. After much hustling and running¬† around, and with the clock ticking, the urchins came back and said: ‚Äúno, we¬† can‚Äôt get on today‚Äôs flight, but tomorrow can, can!‚ÄĚ After more sweating, we¬† finally pulled the pin on it, we couldn‚Äôt risk missing out again tomorrow. The¬† boys looked as if they‚Äôd had a gut full of Medan already, but we had to get our shit¬† together; with only 15 minutes to buy tickets and get on that flight to¬† Sibolga. We were going old school.

After landing at Sibolga, as low key a shearing shed of an¬† airport as you could imagine, we went with the flow of the local grifters. It¬† felt right, sometimes it just does. Nearly everyone is on the grift in Indonesia, at¬† least when it comes to western tourists. It‚Äôs done in the mellowest and¬† friendliest way though, and they rarely rip you off, not really, it‚Äôs usually¬† just a small commission style earn. Minor, unless you are in the weird thrall¬† of the rupiah syndrome, forgetting that the thousands you haggle over are¬† actually mere cents, and the thought of paying a little more than some other¬† hard case bargainer is painful to you. These ultra tight arsed travellers do¬† turn up, and it is bizarre how much time and energy they will devote to saving¬† what often amounts to 20 cents. In Indonesia, everything costs¬† something but nothing costs much, and sometimes I think time is more valuable¬† than a handful of rupiah. Its best to just shed a steady rain of bank notes and¬† coast along ‚ÄĒ most Indonesians earn peanuts and it doesn‚Äôt really hurt your¬† wallet much ‚ÄĒ and things seem to flow smoothly. We moseyed on to a bemo and¬† eventually found ourselves at an old hotel bar, with new mate, Peter of¬† Sibolga, immediately on the case. Icy Bintangs, arrangements for tickets on the¬† overnight ferry to Nias, and even a hook up for accommodation with his mate¬† Raffiel at Lagundri, were ours in an instant.

The Bemo ride to freedom after the torturous journey to Lagundri. The Bemo ride to freedom after the torturous journey to Lagundri.

‚ÄúHe‚Äôll even pick you up from Gunung Sitoli!‚ÄĚ, Peter said¬† triumphantly, but I was shocked. ‚ÄúHang on . . . What? The ferry doesn‚Äôt go to¬† Teluk Dalam?‚ÄĚ, I pleaded. Teluk was in the south, a half hour drive to¬† Lagundri. Landing at Gunung Sitoli in the north meant a three to four hour¬† drive down the island, on top of the 12 hour ferry trip. He laughed and shook¬† his head. I just laughed too, and started looking for my Valium. Ben and Joe¬† were thriving on it, this was real Indonesia,¬† way beyond Bali, and it even looked like there¬† was a bit of swell coming. I put the old horror stories of ferries being¬† cancelled due to large swells ‚ÄĒ surely the ultimate surfer nightmare ‚ÄĒ out of¬† my mind, as we headed for

Sibolga   Harbour late that  afternoon. We’d be in Nias in the morning.

Joey Haddon in the hole, not at Nias,  but another of the quality, secret waves in the area. Photo: Dave Sparkes Joey Haddon in the hole, not at Nias, but another of the quality, secret waves in the area. Photo: Dave Sparkes

In 1987, my first sight of Lagundri Bay¬† was almost straight out of some spacey ‚Äė70s surf flick. I was travelling solo,¬† planning to meet my brother Hazy, who had arrived a week before. As the bemo¬† sped along the coast road towards the Bay, fleeting gaps in the coconut groves¬† revealed flickering, on/off movie reel vignettes of the sea. Suddenly we went¬† past a clear patch, and there across the bay, presenting as a still frame, was¬† the almond eye of a beautiful, big right hand tube. The blinding white foam¬† around it looked bleached and overexposed from my perspective in the shady¬† jungle. The wave looked at least double overhead, and it stayed around that¬† size for three weeks straight. There was an eclectic crew of 20 odd travellers¬† there. Most of them had got to Nias via drug crops or smuggling scams or other¬† shady goings on. There were a couple of professional Asian circuit types: score¬† hash up in Thailand or India, bring it down through Indonesia, selling it on¬† the way, finish in Bali for some party time, head back up and go again. Some of¬† these guys never went home, hadn‚Äôt for years, and some of ‚Äėem are probably¬† still lurking around Indo pulling the latest scams. There was a crew of mad¬† Kiwis, one of them was a freaked out industrial chemist who was making liquid¬† speed on the point. Mushies were going down like hotcakes, and the waves just¬† didn‚Äôt stop. Most of the crew were good surfers, full tube junkies on missions,¬† and the lineup was always competitive. Except for one windless five foot¬† afternoon, when Hazy and me surfed alone after a very a mild cup of mushroom¬† tea each. You reckon the Lagundri lineup looks trippy at the best of times? We¬† thought we were on Saturn, man.

Everyone was having weird dreams, and often a few guys would  have the same dreams as each other! The buzz was that the Krakatoa tsunami had  killed thousands of locals, and few of the proper burial rites had been  performed, leaving the place haunted. Years of Indo experience later, I realise  it was probably malaria prophylactics causing the dreams, but don’t get me  wrong, the vibes can get strange on Nias. There weren’t many locals surfing  then, Peruba and Sonali were about it. Even then, Sonali was the master of the  inside runner, and got the longest tubes of anyone. It seems like those  slightly smaller- than-set waves are always the hollowest, wherever you go.

Another memorable trip went down in 1994, when underground¬† Indo veteran, Zeegs and me turned up wobbling after a horrendous cargo ship¬† ride out from Sibolga during a massive swell. We showed up at the Bay next day¬† with rubber sea legs and goggle eyes, watching eight to ten foot walls reel¬† unclaimed down the point. For the first week, there were only four guys on it,¬† and didn‚Äôt that 7‚Äô6‚ÄĚ Pang do the trick! A few more locals surfing too this¬† time, with a bunch of groms ready to step up.

The signature deep, green water colour, long ramping wall and palm-fringed background of Nias blowing the back out of it. Photo: Dave Sparkes The signature deep, green water colour, long ramping wall and palm-fringed background of Nias blowing the back out of it. Photo: Dave Sparkes

‚ÄúHow will this Raffiel guy know who we are?‚ÄĚ, Joe wondered¬† as we pulled into Gunung Sitoli harbour around five next morning. We were¬† completely fried from a sleepless, hideous all night grovel on the ferry. It¬† was packed out with humans, and in eventual desperation I had taken more valium¬† and just flaked on the floor. I woke an hour later lying in a puddle of Indo¬† Mie slops and soggy Gudang Garam butts, and looked up to see Joe and Ben in¬† foetal positions, huddled in plastic chairs and preying desperately for dawn to¬† come, and with it release. Don‚Äôt let anyone say you don‚Äôt earn Lagundri.

‚ÄúHe‚Äôll know, don‚Äôt worry. When there‚Äôs an earn involved,¬† they don‚Äôt miss a trick, just kick back and let them come,‚ÄĚ I said with all the¬† airs and graces of a know-it-all arsehole Indo legend. But sure enough, we¬† weren‚Äôt even off the ship when a guy came up, patting us on the back: ‚ÄúPeter of¬† Sibolga is my friend. I am Raffiel! Mr Dabid Sparkez? We go!‚ÄĚ

The main road down the 120 km long island is much improved,  but Raffiel drove like a maniac, and that’s on Indonesian ratings. He is  definitely the most hardcore I’ve ever seen, going through narrow village roads  at a velocity that rendered the stunned passers by, from our point of view in the  van, as flashing blurs of colour. The trip down the east coast is a scenic one,  even in fast motion, with lots of little coves and headlands, bays, escarpments  and rivers, and actual bridges, not like the MacGyvered, improvised logs and  girders of the past. I was losing it at the thought of seeing the point again,  and when we finally turned to drive into the Bay, I could see Joe and Ben  straining for a glimpse of it. I thought back to that mental still frame of my  first view, and hoped they’d see something like it, and maybe they did. There  were definitely waves, and as we pulled into Raffy’s losmens, a clean five foot  wall reeled across the reef and spat out way down the end, leaving a cloud of  mist that temporarily obscured the impossibly exotic, surreal Lagundri  backdrop. Well, that wasn’t bad for a first look.

While we were marking out territory, chucking gear into  rooms and boards into piles, I heard an unmistakable Seppo voice:

‚ÄúHey Sparrrrkes, what‚Äôs up you fuckerrrr?!‚ÄĚ I looked out and¬† saw Jamie O‚ÄôBrien and his hilarious sidekick, Ruben, lounging around amidst¬† piles of food, looking like lords of muck.

Joey stands tall while a football field-sized wall awaits. Photo: Dave Sparkes Joey stands tall while a football field-sized wall awaits. Photo: Dave Sparkes

‚ÄúJimmie! Oh no, Ruben you freak, yeah boys!‚ÄĚ, I said, still¬† surprised.

I‚Äôd shot Jamie a lot back in his grom days and had seen what¬† he can get up to with a hollow wave. It was a little bonus for me¬† photographically, but Joe and Ben were even more stoked after intros were made¬† and it emerged that we‚Äôd be rolling with Jamie for a while. He would be around¬† for a week or so and had already invited the boys to go and surf another spot¬† with him right now, grab ya stuff and let‚Äôs go! So with barely another look at¬† Lagundri we drove for quite a while before checking some short but very¬† surfable reef options, finally stopping at the funnest looking three-to-four¬† foot right wedge to wall I‚Äôve ever seen. I realised I‚Äôd surfed it years before¬† from a boat, but had never seen it from the land. Maybe it had changed; it¬† seemed like a much better wave now. There was no one out. The boys were in a¬† fever, I don‚Äôt know if it was first surf froth or the thought of surfing with¬† Jamie, but I couldn‚Äôt blame ‚Äėem, it looked pretty inviting. The wave stands up¬† in a peak and then bends and slingshots down the line, throwing up tubes and¬† ramps in varied combos, and occasionally growing as it runs through the inside.¬† It immediately becomes everyone‚Äôs favourite.

Ben and Joe get on well with Jamie. They get on well with¬† every traveller we run across, and even tolerate my Steely Dan obsession and¬† old fart ‚Äúshoulda been ‚Äėere fifty years ago‚ÄĚ tales. Ruben is on fire. He is¬† about 5‚Äô2‚ÄĚ and is basically a mouth on legs. It never stops, and regularly gets¬† him into trouble; he just has to have the last word. When not in the tube or¬† the air, Jamie spends most of his time kicked back laughing at Ruben‚Äôs¬† escapades. He looks like a mini Buttons, and basically travels around with¬† Jamie, filming him and writing him off and generally mucking up. The guy is a¬† classic, he‚Äôs like a little one man party. The Indonesians love him, constantly¬† in hysterics at his endless monologue. He rips right into me, being tall makes¬† me a prime target, and we are often at it tooth and nail; the full Foghorn¬† Leghorn and Chicken Little act.

The waves stayed a steady four to five foot for the next  week, and the boys were pigs in shit, feasting on the fun walls, and getting  inspired by Jamie’s futuristic attack. At Lagundri, the change in the reef was  quite obvious. Previously at this size, the wave did break but it was a tease,  a brief gorgeous face that left you wanting more as the wall rapidly dissipated  after your first turn. Any smaller than head high and it didn’t break on the  outside at all. Now it was at least twice as long, and even offered barrels,  although they are very tide dependent. The lineup seems more complex than it  used to be, with a bit more variability from wave to wave. It is definitely an  improvement at this size, and I wondered how it would be at six-to-eight foot?  Time was limited and I just prayed we’d see it like that. It is hard to imagine  it any better at six-foot-plus than the old reef was, the odds would be  millions to one, and why would you roll on a risk like that? Huey did, and with  the reef now over a metre higher than before, so far it seems to have paid off.  The same sadly can’t be said for the best waves in the Hinakos, the outer  islands off west Nias. Ex-classic left, Asu is severely compromised, and Bawa,  formerly an epic and perfect mimic of small Sunset, as well as a swell magnet,  is wrecked. Lagundri could never be good enough for that to be worth it.

[I’d like to make it clear that all of the above conjecture  is written specifically in regard to the surf, and is not intended to compare  in any way with the losses and hardships endured by locals. It is written with  greatest respect to those Indonesians who lost homes, loved ones and lives in  the earthquakes of 2004-2005. That being said, through tourism the surf  provides a decent livelihood for a lot of locals, and any compromise of surf  breaks is bad news for them too.]

‚ÄúIT IS WRITTEN WITH GREATEST RESPECT TO THOSE INDONESIANS WHO LOST HOMES, LOVED ONES AND LIVES IN THE EARTHQUAKES OF 2004-2005. THAT BEING SAID, THROUGH TOURISM THE SURF PROVIDES A DECENT LIVELIHOOD FOR A LOT OF LOCALS.‚ÄĚ

When the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami unleashed its might on Asia, Nias got off fairly lightly. There was some  punishment on the west coast, but the tsunami was relatively minor, as was the  damage caused by the earthquake. At Lagundri, the tsunami manifest as a slow  moving swell of water, like a big tide, and damage was minimal. Meanwhile, the  top half of Sumatra had been flattened, and awesome tsunami waves had destroyed  whole coastlines around Asia and killed almost  300,000 people. Unfortunately, the Boxing Day earthquake directly influenced  the impending earthquake of March 28th. The Boxing Day quake resulted in an  alteration of the dynamic stress loading in the subduction zone, transferring  it farther south to an area closer to Nias, and increasing the already  tremendous geological strain of two immense tectonic plates fighting for  supremacy.

Benny Goldwin locked inside a chandelier-lit room. Benny Goldwin locked inside a chandelier-lit room. Photo: Dave Sparkes

The truth about Lagundri is that the place is onshore in the¬† winter south-east trade winds, and it is only the fact that Nias is so far¬† north, about one and a half degrees north of the equator, that saves it. The¬† influence of the wind is less pronounced at this latitude, and you rely on the¬† early surf and pray for the afternoon glass off. You are thankful for days of¬† good winds when you get them, and when they come on tiny or flat days, you¬† snigger jokingly at Huey and his wicked sense of humour. Even onshore though,¬† the set up demands your attention, and has you constantly checking it, wherever¬† you are in the bay. The wave looks seductive from anywhere on the point, or in¬† the water for that matter. You don‚Äôt see them, but at any given time there are¬† dozens of eyes glued to the wave, probing, scanning for weaknesses, and¬† especially for gaps in the crowd. Unfortunately this creates the ‚Äúhourglass¬† effect‚ÄĚ. It is a steady rotation, and as soon as the pack has thinned a bit,¬† the eyes are on to it and get out there, saturating the lineup in one hit. The¬† crowd eventually tapers off again, until boom! The hourglass turns once more,¬† as the latest sets of All Knowing Eyes invade the formerly quiet lineup.

The crowd increased steadily after the first week, but the¬† fellas seemed to have no trouble getting waves, and going to town on them.¬† Between missions to Jamie‚Äôs spot and another series of reef peaks [we felt like¬† we found ‚Äėem but no doubt they‚Äôve been surfed before; It‚Äôs fun to fantasise¬† though] there was plenty of surf, but we couldn‚Äôt seem to get that Big Day.¬† There are a lot of hot local surfers nowadays, I honestly lost track of ‚Äėem,¬† they‚Äôd be out there then gone, out there again on different, borrowed boards,¬† it was mayhem. Guys like Anton Dakhi, Justin and Alex Buulolo and Rahiel Wau¬† are attacking with an intensity born of having a perfect wave totally wired, as¬† well as being constantly inspired by travelling shredders.

The locals have added a very interesting dynamic to the  lineup. When the crowd is not too thick, the time honoured Indo system of  taking it in turns works pretty well at Lagundri, especially if a couple of  people sit wide and a couple way outside. However, when it gets past a critical  point, and a crew of locals are also out there, the system falls apart. The  locals enforce a fairly strict Hawaiian style pecking order, and are totally  exempt from the tourist order. Tourists settle on either crumbs or use their  nous for being in the right spot for sets. The result is a fair amount of  friction and frustration in the small take off zone, and the wildcard is  consistency. Consistent sets enable any break to handle a lot more people, but  unfortunately Lagundri can serve up notorious lulls. If the crowd increases  much more than the 30 plus I counted one two foot day, it will be close to  farce.

We had almost a two week run of four foot plus days, with a  lot of five foot days and a six foot set or two. It eventually backed off  again, and when I peered out one morning to see it two-to-three foot and still  breaking on the outside, it was more obvious than ever that the reef was  different. We were in neap tides now, a part of the tide cycle featuring little  variation in high and low tides. Previously at this part of the cycle the reef  was covered, but now it was well clear of the water through the full range of  high and low tide. Prior to this uplift, on small days the inside would run  like a soft Aussie point break, but this section is history. There is still a  fair small day option, a series of reforms from the outside break through to  the inside. Not what you’d go to Indonesia for but Ok if you’ve run  out of books.

Jamie O, up for the early and reaping the rewards. Jamie O, up for the early and reaping the rewards.
Photo: Dave Sparkes

It looked like more swell was coming [it always does in  Indonesia], so in the meantime we cruised up to the huge bluffs surrounding  Lagundri to see a couple of villages. We strolled through remnants of one of Indonesia’s oldest cultures, a megalithic  civilisation using stone and bronze a long way back; current theory has the  original settlers arriving from the Yunan area in south China around  3500 years ago. From these beginnings arose dozens of different ethnic groups  and dialects, a result no doubt of the rugged topography of Nias, mountain and  valley forming natural barriers between different villages in the north,  central and southern Nias areas. The villages feature big paved squares, with  the unique houses lined up on mall like, wide thoroughfares. The houses are  built in an original style of Nias architecture, raised, vaulted and barricaded  from the ground for military protection, and featuring a v-shaped design of  massive 45 degree timber beams at the front, almost like diagonal bracing but  made from two foot thick, smooth teak logs. These tie in with other massive  vertical and horizontal beams to create a very pleasing, chunky looking gable  wall.

At one point, the locals at the unpronounceable village of Bawomataluo started jeering us:¬† ‚ÄúTouriss! Touriss! Touriss!‚ÄĚ Hundreds of them were chanting at us with a¬† vaguely menacing air. It was a bit unnerving, and I imagined I was back in the¬† pre-Christian days on this island, when mangani binu [ritual decapitation]¬† ruled and status was measured in enemy skull counts. Marriage required the¬† prospective husband to present the family of his bride-to-be with as many enemy¬† heads as possible, assuming she had enemies. The more the merrier, and a guy¬† who turned in a massive cranial haul was considered the man and got the spoils.

We picked up the pace a bit, and kept going deeper into the¬† mountains to a waterfall we‚Äôd heard about. It was a bit of work up hill and¬† down dale to get there, most of it via very rustic but obviously man made¬† steps, embedded along the length of the trail, some of them in some pretty¬† vertical terrain. In the end, the waterfall was more of a swimming hole, but it¬† was a very cosy little swimming hole, surrounded by huge acacias and palms,¬† with good jump rocks and stationary tubes. The little stationary tubes were¬† pretty much the ‚Äúwaterfall‚ÄĚ part of proceedings, but all the same it was a¬† nice, cool interlude from the hot and humid trek. Only trouble was, by the time¬† we‚Äôd staggered back up through Bawomataluo to get a bemo, we were ready for¬† another swim. Such are the crosses to bear of the hardy adventurer.

The Raised Reef. Photo: Dave Sparkes The Raised Reef. Photo: Dave Sparkes

Going back through Teluk Dalam on the road to Lagundri, the  vehicle horns were blowing in earnest. Sometimes it is almost like mechanical  conversation, different tones and intensities of horn passing news or the time  of day, blended with the traffic chatter of bemos and trucks and bikes, like a  bunch of old metallic moles at a scrap metal yard shin dig... some are  sustained, some short, some squeaky, some staccato. All insist they are right.  If I lived in Indonesia,  I’d just rig my horn up to a two second timer, and let it rip.

The waves had picked up a little, and we had some good  sessions at another spot we called Shifty Point. The crowd had grown at  Lagundri, and for our last surfs we sought solace with more side trips. It  seems like the Indonesia  we all took for granted for so long doesn’t much exist any more. The crowds now  can get pretty intense, from Timor to Aceh,  and the days of just turning up to uncrowded perfection are numbered. There are  still empty lineups, no doubt about it, but more than ever you have to work for  them. Really work. But don’t despair, just get it while you can. With our  recent novel experience of the changeability of Indonesian reefs, what we used  to think of as solid and stable isn’t always so, and your favourite reef break  may end up only as long lived as a sandbar.

In the middle of the night of March 28th, 2005, an  earthquake measuring magnitude 8.7 hit just north of Nias. The redistribution  of dynamic stress loading caused by the Boxing Day earthquake was finally  manifest via this latest quake. In essence, it was a very belated and  complicated aftershock. Hundreds of buildings were destroyed in Gunung Sitoli  and Teluk Dalam, with around 1800 people losing their lives. Our friend, Tao,  was up at his village, Botohilitano, hanging on for dear life. While the ground  shook around him, he had one arm through his window frame and the other wrapped  around his young son and daughter, watching his walls shake.

How's the serenity. Photo: Dave Sparkes How's the serenity. Photo: Dave Sparkes

Down at Lagundri, the locals had only just become at ease¬† with being near the ocean again at night. Despite being spared the full¬† devastation of the Boxing Day tsunami, they were aware of what happened in the¬† rest of Asia, and it had taken months of¬† sleeping on high ground at night before they began to feel safe again. When the¬† rumbling started that night, Raffiel, who was one of the original local surfers¬† from Nias, was up in a flash, pulling his kids and pregnant wife out of his¬† losmen and heading up the road to nearby high ground, thankful now for this¬† feature of Nias terrain. But Raffy just had to go back: ‚ÄúAll my money in there,¬† fuck brah, I had to get it!‚ÄĚ

He bolted back to try and get his cash. It was in a huge¬† strongbox in the front room and he couldn‚Äôt get it open. In the moonlight¬† across the bay, Raffy could see the tsunami coming: ‚ÄúPerfect wave brah, about¬† 20 foot face and just coming strong into the point. I trying again to open that¬† thing, but wave is coming, I go ‚ÄėFuck! I gotta get out of here‚Äô I leave the¬† money, run across the grass, the water is already coming, I climbed up on my¬† mandi roof, stayed there all night. Water is up to here ‚ÄĒ [points to roof line¬† about three metres above the ground] ‚ÄĒ half my place is gone, my brother‚Äôs¬† place gone. When he saw his land later he said: ‚ÄėWho stole my losmen?‚Äô But our¬† family were all OK.‚ÄĚ

At least a dozen buildings were wrecked in the bay as a  result of the earthquake and tsunami, but Lagundri still got off lightly  compared to nearby Teluk Dalam, where collapsed buildings killed many people.  Tens of thousands of locals were left homeless throughout Nias. Somewhat  ominously, there is still a very large, suspect section of the Sumatran  Subduction Zone, south of the previous two large quakes, that extends down past  the Mentawaiis. The plates here are also straining against each other in a huge  build up of pressure and will sooner or later slip to create a megathrust  event, the perfect kind of earthquake to produce tsunamis due to the extensive  deformation occurring on the ocean floor. For surfers, once again the aftermath  will also almost certainly include changes in bottom topography, unfortunately  in the world’s most perfect surf zone. Looks like we’ll be trying to beat a  Royal Flush this time.

Jamie, Ruben and the boys doing it tough. Photo: Dave Sparkes Jamie, Ruben and the boys doing it tough. Photo: Dave Sparkes

THANKS TO AIR ASIA FOR  GETTING THE ENTIRE CREW TO NIAS. FOR SOME OF THE BEST DEALS ON FLIGHTS TO INDONESIA CHECK  OUT AIRASIA.COM