The REAL guide to surfing in Simeulue
Let’s be honest with ourselves, any travelling surfer visiting Sumatra is looking for one thing and one thing only – uncrowded & perfect waves. It’s what we crave for, dream about & talk about with our surfing buddies. Its the reason we’ll all travel for days on end and spend our hard earned cash on expensive flights, hotels and transfers. Its all about the lure of that perfect set-up without the crowds of your local surf spot. Its the yearly pilgrimage we’ll take to find that perfect wave where there’s no stress in the line-up and you can share some barrels with just a few of your mates.
But does it really exist?
Well some camps on the island of Simeulue claim it does. Can it be true? Scan the internet & it seems every camp, resort or charter boat will usually promise perfect surf with just a few lucky souls out but we’re all too long in the tooth to know its usually not quite true. But every now and again a new destination will make the “crowd free” claim and one of the more recent has been on the island of Simeulue in North West Sumatra.
The view from above looks pretty intriguing!
If you ask most surfers, they wouldn’t have heard of Simeulue. Many would have heard about Sumatra and of course the Mentawai islands but even with some pretty light browsing of the web, before you know it, Simeulue can have you intrigued. Geographically speaking its pretty remote & with one daily flight from Medan –it’s pretty easy to get to. It’s open to the full magnitude of the Indian Ocean, so swell isn’t a problem and combined with year round light winds, the initial signs are promising for this relatively small island of 80,000 inhabitants. And what’s more it’s blessed with numerous nooks and crannies along its western and southern shores. The mind simply boggles when you scan google maps. Travelling surfers have a seemingly endless supply of coast to explore (the island is 100km in length) thanks to its excellently kept coastal roads.
So after checking out a few of the relatively small amount of surf camps that promise the magical combination of perfect and uncrowded surf – it seems all the indicators are there. But is the surf any good and just how uncrowded is it? Well we went on a recent trip to find out exactly what the fuss was all about.
Travel to Simeulue is relatively easy, well in terms of Sumatra anyway. There are numerous flights to Medan each day from Jakarta and KL and then 1 daily flight to Simeulue from Medan. Our first destination would be Mahi Mahi Resort. The camp is beautiful and boasts some of the best accommodation available in Sumatra with each villa overlooking the islands most consistent wave , The Peak (aka Jackals). The daily sunsets are incredible, the accommodation & food are some of the best we’ve come across and the staff are very friendly. So far so good! But what about the surf? That's the real reason we’re here. Let’s start with "The Peak"...
Mahi Mahi, Simeulue (situated in front of The Peak)
By all accounts its the focus of Mahi Mahi. It’s the focus of the other two camps next door too. Is it any good? Well in short – yes, its pretty good! It breaks on all tides (bonus) – winds seem generally light and variable too. Its also super easy to get in and out and the reef is pretty forgiving. There’s a left AND a right. It can deal with a dozen guys easily. Its also a swell magnet. During our 2 weeks on Simeulue (May 2017) – The Peak was never below head high, winds remained favourable and there was never more than 15 guys out. A standard crowd was about 8-12, but there were windows when there were just a few guys in the line-up and the waves were still good. The standard of surfers was average, there are no local surfers and the vibe was friendly. The left produces longer and hollower left handers – and the right is shorter with an occasional tube. Wow sounds epic right?
The Peak doing its thing
Well, with all those positives there are some minor negatives. First up, its a little shifty. Its not a mechanical reef break like we’d expect from being in Indo. Especially at a spot which is the focus for most travelling surfers. There is a pretty large playing field where the peak will rear up (when its bigger) so you’re always on your toes. That said, it’s a wave that seems a bit more orderly on a smaller swell and although holds pretty big conditions (triple over head) – it’s just not that manageable for the majority of its visitors when its double over head. The wave being a mix of sand and rock will also have a few different moods. Its generally always fun but a few weeks of perfection can be followed by slightly funkier banks. The great thing is though is that this wave breaks year round, meaning that it really does offer uncrowded and very fun waves in the off season.
If the Peak is Simeule's funnest and most consistent option – you’ll find Simeulues best reef break, Dylans Right, about 30 mins to the south. For most, it's Simeulue's best wave. Its a legitimate quality set-up that can produce a world class right hander. It’s not the longest of waves but long enough to provide some real tube time of mesmerising quality. The wave itself has a pretty defined take off spot which demands a light footed approach. Surfers will usually have to pull in or line-up the imminent tube section ahead that is usually as wide as it is tall. It's shape is text book perfection with more of a bowly tube than a super long wall. Winds are usually favourable most mornings and it tends to deal with cross-shore winds quite well. And whats more is that there is no sketchy end section and it breaks through all the tides. Getting in and out is also pretty easy unless it gets super big which is rare thanks to a very convenient gully/key hole on the inside. There are a few local surfers who are super friendly. They’ll get their waves but are pretty generous too. It’s a natural footers dream and is a relatively easy barrel once you set your line and you commit.
Simeulue's best wave, Dylan's right
Yes Dylan's Right is the real deal but as with all good surf spots, there are some draw backs. First up, its extremely sensitive to the direction of the swell. It can be booming everywhere on the coast and Dylan's can miss the majority of the swell. It needs just the right amount of west in the swell to funnel in and everything else just doesn’t work. And it also needs a reasonable swell too. Even if the direction is just right, it still requires a medium sized pulse to break well. So usually, day to day, it’s going to be small or inconsistent. And when its fully pumping, everyone and their dog will be there as once Simeulue finally gets big, there’s less places to surf. Whats more is that it’s a fairly short wave (approx 100 yards or so), so in no time you’re back in the line-up and waiting. The pack just doesn’t spread out enough and as soon as there’s more than 8 or 10 guys, people tend to start jostling and positioning themselves deeper – and ultimately blowing waves, unable to make the first section. It can be frustrating. But it’s not all bad. Those who stay right on the point at one of the camps we offer (Salt, Simeulue Surf House & Simeulue Surf Lodges) – will get the place way more dialled than the other surfers who travel down from The Peak. Figuring out the wave over a number small (but surfable) sessions can be extremely fruitful as there’s often windows of opportunity to get a cheeky session with just 3-4 surfers in (especially around lunch time) and it seriously takes just a handful of waves to have a really good surf. Those that stay right at Dylan's will soon learn when to time a session, where to sit in the line-up and simply get more waves. One or two good sessions can make your trip, there’s no question. It just requires a little bit of patience.
Tea Bags, One Thongs, Monkey Trees & Thailands
With 2 waves seemingly passing the test and being 30 mins apart, the signs are looking good for Simeulue. But the real question remains in regards to the islands remaining waves. How good are they, how many are there & how consistently do they break? If you look at the map you’ll soon realise that there are a number of alternative surf breaks. The most documented wave other than Dylan's and The Peak is without question T-Bags, a mesmerising right hander. And from the numerous photos online, it’ll have you frothing pretty quickly. Access is pretty easy but requires a boat. The camps at Dylans are closer for sure taking about 40 mins to “put put” out to the island thanks to the local fisherman that will gladly take you to the wave for about USD 40 (up to 4 guests). From The Peak, those using the resorts speedboats will probably get there in a similar time but of course at a premium rate. Its actually a super consistent wave – especially compared to some of the other set-ups. This photogenic beast gets super perfect and for the tube hungry it can serve up plenty of opportunity to get slotted. In fact if you’re not a charger, its probably not the wave for you. For every inch of perfection that lies within the wave so does a vicious monster, on hand to imprint a fresh tattoo, thanks to the teeth lined reef that lurks below. Rewards might be high, but so does the punishments.
T-Bags; consistent, perfect and equally punishing
If the elevator drops of T-Bags aren’t exactly your cup of tea then a quick glance at any Simeulue surf guide will draw you into a handful of other possibilities. In fact the majority of camps based on this remote corner of northern Sumatra would have you think that there are plenty more good quality reef breaks to discover. The truth of the matter is that there are, but with that said, our findings certainly questioned their consistency and legitimacy. Without going into too much detail, we think it’s fair to say that there are quite a few other waves to surf, many of which actually produce some pretty fun waves. Most of them prefer smaller swells (shoulder to head high) with waves like One Thongs or Monkey Trees producing some pretty fun left handers and you’ll almost certainly score them without anyone else in the lineup. We cant think of too many places that you can claim the same. There are also another 1 or 2 waves that, on their day, can get very good from time to time. But you need to put in the time, spend hours on your motorbike and expect to get skunked quite often. These waves are painfully swell and wind sensitive and are a long way off the beaten track. One example is Thailands that is located in the southern coast and takes an hour bike ride to reach. It’s not even so much the 2hr round trip but the fact that the wave is so sensitive to swell size and direction that makes it a gamble each time you set off. On its day it’s a super fun right hander that offers long fun walls and even some tube sections and those lucky enough to time it just right will be on cloud 9. But it can easily get too big and quite often it’s too small! I guess that just about sums up many of the waves in Simeulue. But if you’re willing to put the time in away from Simeulues main 3 waves, then you can score some really fun and sometimes perfect waves with just you and whoever is willing to join you for the ride, and that’s a rare situation these days. And don't forget to consider Simeulue as a legitimate off season destination (November-March).
If you're interested in staying on Pulau Simeulue, then we'd recommend any of the camps on our site. We've stayed at them all. Pricing is mid range (approx USD 50- USD 120 pp / night). They're the best located camps and the best value on the island.
If you'd like to know more about Simeulue then detailed information on the waves, camps and travel is all here: Surfing Simeulue
Drop us a message if you have any questions!