We decide to shoot the Sundek ss 20 campaign in Indonesia, we choose the location that since the 80s has become one of the favorite destinations of surfers around the world.
We leave loaded and armed with patience, we know that the journey will be long, being planned several stops with flights respectively of 6h, 9h, 1h (Milano Doha - Doha Jakarta - Jakarta Padang).
However, we are not prepared to deal with the local reality of padang, the capital and most populous centre of Sumatra, which has nothing to do with tourism, where it is difficult to be understood even in English and hygienic conditions leave something to be desired.
For us Westerners the cultural shock is very strong, we are immersed in the true popular Indonesia, not the one painted by postcard. We sleep here one night, and even though the comforts are not really 5stars we are so exhausted that we can rest.
The next morning at dawn we take a ferry to finally reach the desired destination, the Mentawai Islands, off the coast of Western Sumatra. The crossing lasts 2 hours, and is the end of a 2-day round trip, with all our essential luggage for shooting, in order: two giant bags with the samples, suitcases with all the photographic and video equipment including underwater housings, personal suitcases, and 4 surfboards.
From a long time, the journey becomes exhausting, a real exodus, but the reward is really the promised land, because the atoll that presents itself before our eyes is worth all the effort. The nature of the islands seems to us completely untouched, as if no man had ever been there before. The show is breathtaking, with the skyline of green palm trees that stands out over the blue sky and lets you glimpse further down a line of golden beach contrasting with the colors of the blue ocean.
The coral reef that surrounds every island, with its multicoloured fauna, stretches from north to south as to protect those precious drops of sand in the middle of the water. When the tide recedes, large portions of reefs are visible where some fish are trapped and local fishermen venture with wooden canoes and rudimentary handmade nets. They live by fishing, they are isolated from the rest of the world, but this does not seem to weigh on them.
During the high tide the waves that come from the tides that develop offshore break continuously, creating a layer of brackish air that envelops the island on which we are, like a mystical fog.
Every day, at the first light of dawn, we meet the boatman who takes us to the outer reef. It takes about 20 minutes of navigation, and we find ourselves where the best waves open up endlessly creating perfect barrels.
We jump from the boat to surf, while the boatman launches a rusty anchor to moor near where we surf, but far enough away not to be swept up by the waves. He warned us that the current can be so strong as to break the moorings;Â we try it once on our skin, when we find ourselves swimming to the boat that had moved in the meantime. A huge effort, we also see a bit bad. The sea can change at any moment and makes you understand how devastating its strength can be, you must always respect it without being careless and reckless. The conditions for surfing here constantly change, depending on the wind, the tide, the direction of the swell, creating an almost infinite variety. So we understand why, for surfers from all over the world, riding the waves of the Mentawai Islands is like playing basketball at Madison Square Garden.
The reason is simple: the incredible abundance and variety of waves, not comparable to those of any other place on earth. There are long and simple lefthanded and righthanded, rippable walls and perfect barrels, easy waves for beginners, challenging waves for experts, and any other degree of difficulty.
Return home, after 8 days in this corner of earthly paradise that seems made for surfing, it becomes even harder than in the outward, and certainly not for the length of the journey.