Dreaming about a surf trip to the Mentawais?
Well before you contact the first surf charter boat you find online, check out our handy tips to help guide you along the way...
Firstly, pick a worthy leader even if it means self-appointing yourself. You need someone who's willing to do lots of research and contact endless agents and charter boats. Then, get a rough head count to gauge your group size which needs to be at least 4 but ideally closer to 10+. At this point we'd recommend creating a Facebook group page, so the group leader can post his findings there and the group can comment too.
Note: Usually surf boats in the Mentawai Islands will give you the entire vessel if you have 10 guys. Although filling every bed might drive down the price (if you bring 11 or 12 guests), bear in mind that extra surfers will cramp your space in an already tight boat and not to mention another couple of guys in the line-up. It’s not always more the merrier. Think twice about inviting those extra few blokes!
Is there anything better than a boat trip?
Picking the date for your surf trip
Choosing the right dates is tricky especially when you must consider everyone's needs and opinions. Firstly, think about your friends overall surfing ability. Peak season will be the busier times in the Mentawai Islands but will more than likely guarantee some solid conditions. If your group consists of advanced chargers then bring it on but if your group is generally not as fit as they once were or there's a number of average surfers aboard, it might be wiser to go for one of the fringe months (March/November) which typically have smaller surf conditions as well as having less charters boats around.
Note: Most surf charter boats operate from April until October, but many are running trips year-round with guests happy to accept smaller but less crowded waves.
Pick your destination
Sumatra is a big island & is home to a number of surf zones. As you probably know, the Mentawai Islands are the most expansive region with the widest selection of waves, the perfect size for an 11 day surf trip. Its's also not surprising it's the most popular destination for a surf charter trip. Although the Ments remain the bench mark, there are a couple of other regions that will suit groups looking to score the most uncrowded waves possible & for those looking for an alternative adventure. So be sure to check out the Banyak Islands as well as the Telo Islands.
With set schedules of around 10-12 days, expect to pay around USD 1,995 – USD 3,000 / AUD 2,900 - AUD 4,300 per person for your time aboard the charter boat. Check out flights and you’ll soon get a picture of a ball park figure. Deposits are usually 30-50% per person & once they're due you'll soon get a more realistic group size and who's willing to part with their dollar. Shortly after, make a list of all the boats that fall within your budget and group size. Add an update to the Facebook group page.
Choosing the right surf charter boat
Make a note of all the charter boats that are within your group size & budget. You’ll soon learn that on face value, most surf charter boats will offer quite similar experiences & generally speaking they do. But as we all know, the devil is in the detail, and so, to find the most ideal boat for your group, you’d be best off comparing the following considerations to help you decide whats the best fit for your group.
Note: Make a spreadsheet and start documenting your findings.
Size & shape
Try and find out the boats length and width. This will give you a feel of its size especially when making comparisons. Bigger is usually better for large groups. Also make a note of whether it's a motor cruiser, catamaran or a sail boat.
Note: Catamaran's & motor cruisers tend to sit stationary a little better than monohull sailing boats. Certainly, something to consider for those prone to seasickness and those who prefer less rocking at night.
The Nusa Dewata and the Moon Palikir. Both impressive but both massively different surf charter boats.
For most vessels, cruising speed is around 8-10 knots but there are some surf charter boats that claim they cruise around of 12+ knots or more. Remember speed is your friend.
Note: Sailing boats can leave motor cruisers in their wake (when the wind blows), although in reality, the sails rarely go up.
Cabins and social areas
Your priority is to find a Mentawai charter boat with as much room as possible. Outdoor spacing is as important as inside space. Check the number of cabins. Some boats only have dormitory style sleeping quarters but (preferably) you’re after 2 or 3 beds per cabin.
Note: Outside deck areas are also extremely important factors. You'll spend as much time outside as you will inside so you're looking for a boat with more than one outdoor social area as well as covered and uncovered decks.
Dormitory or private cabin? Sleeping quarters are usually a squeeze.
Your speedboat will play a big role in your trip. Ideally you want 2 boats shuttling you to the waves (speedboat as well as a small tender). Note the length & horse power. Many speedboats will have around 40-80hp but some of the more expensive operations can offer around 200hp. The more powerful boats are capable of exploring other waves, while the main charter is achored up at a spot for the day, thus spreading the crowd.
Note: A roof can be a bonus, giving some relief from the sun - especially when hunting for waves a little further away.
Never underestimate the importance of your speedboat
Most surf charters offer similar inclusions like airport collection, all meals, snacks & soft drinks.
Photography services usually aren't included (although some boats include them) so add this to the spreadsheet. Standard costs are USD 200 – USD 300 for photos per trip, per person. Also note the number of complimentary Bintang’s (beers). Most boats offer 2-3 free beers per person per night. Some will offer more. Some none.
Note: A/C usually comes as standard throughout all sleeping cabins and indoor social areas. But it’s always good to ask.
Outside deck areas are as important as the interior.
The Captain and Surf Guide
In the Mentawai Islands, only surf charter boats with an Indonesian flag can legally operate in the area. The same applies to its captain that needs to be Indonesian. Other regions such as the Banyak Islands don't have the same regulations so international captains can operate legally. Surf Guide's will usually be Australian, Brazilian, American or European as well as Indonesian. They’ll always speak English.
Either way, you want an experienced crew. And ideally a Western skipper/owner who runs the show and is ready to go that extra yard, especially those that surf too.
Note: Most of the more affordable boats are 100% Indonesian operated.
Reputable surf boats will have all the safety features in place (life jackets, rafts, radio, flares etc.) but it’s always good to do your research.
Ask your buddies which boats they've been on or can recommend. You'll soon understand that most Mentawai surf charters aren’t on Trip Advisor and it’s difficult to get an authentic review that you can trust. There's no better recommendation than from a friend who you can trust.
Note: Website reviews are impossible to authenticate. But Facebook page reviews are usually a little more legitimate, so be sure to check them out.
The Naga Laut. The bench mark of a great mid priced Mentawai surf charter.
It’s always good to start planning early. Many groups will plan 18 months ahead to guarantee the dates they want. So, there's never a better time to start planning than now!
And remember, try and book the entire boat when you can. No one wants to risk sharing with guys they dont know. For example, if you're a group of 4-6, then pick a boat of that size rather than a larger one and risk sharing with others. With that said, it's worth remembering that most boats cater for 8-11 surfers, so this is your ideal group size.
As always, we're here to answer any questions you might have.