Heels Under The Midday Sun.
The sun in the tropics is no joke. Sometimes it can be alarmingly hot and the sun fiercely intense that you almost do everything you can to avoid that midday session. However, having a frothing grom onboard for this trip, the power of the sun was never going to deter Tom from maximizing his water time during the little time he had out here.
Shooting longboarding is cool because you have more time to set-up shots and play with framing. Despite the searing solar rays, we managed to use it to our advantage by shooting low and adding it as an element into the image.
Pitstop Hill, Pulau Nyang Nyang, Mentawai Islands.
The Mentawais are one of the true surf meccas of the world and as the Pitstop Hill name suggests, on the doorstep is Pitstops, which is one of the most fun waves you will ever surf.
They are the only resort in the islands that has an elevated location and because of this they have an unbelievable view of the sunset, the islands, beautiful swimming beach and of course… those incredible waves.
All things considered, Pitstop Hill is just an epic place to come for a surf trip with your pals.
Tom Morat, Beng Bengs.
A 5-minute boat ride down the island from Pitstop Hill is one of the tastiest left-handers in the area. By no means a wave of consequence, but wildly rippable and a perfect canvas for Tom to test out a few of his interesting Thomas Surfboard shapes.
Flanked by picturesque coconut plantations and golden sand, swell lines would roll down Pulau Nyang Nyang until they hit the beng-bengs reef. Pitching nicely with a steep take-off and a clean wall for 3-4 turns.
Clearly Tom was feeling it on his asymmetrical fish and ripped the bag out of every wave which came his way.
Out front. Pitstops.
Arguably the funnest wave on the Planet and literally at the bottom of the Pitstop Hill staircase. Wake up every morning, wipe the previous nights Bintang blur from your eyes, pour yourself a freshly brewed Javanese coffee then cast your sights off the elevated front lawn straight down to this.
Having access to this at all times of the day means you never have to rush. You can grab it first thing in the morning then chill throughout the day waiting for breaks in the crowd or wind.
Pitstops has graced many Taylor Steele & Kai Neville surf films for obvious reasons. Barreling off the take-off then peeling at a perfect speed off the reef and fizzing out on the white sand under a coconut tree.
Morning commute to Pitstops.
Walk down the private staircase, stretch on the custom-built timber deck over-looking the wave, hit the sand and paddle straight out. The timber deck is the perfect place to shoot straight into the take-off spot or use it to frame your shots a little differently.
Small day fun.
Tom was blowing minds on all three Thomas Surfboards shapes he brought with him; being a round tail twin with a small trailer fin, an interesting asymmetrical fish and a beautiful log. On the smallest day, we ventured back down the island to Beng Bengs for a log session. Taking off deeper than everybody else, Tom would glide and shuffle effortlessly and stylishly up and down his log in front of the idyllic backdrop.
It really impressed me how well and easily he could adapt between boards and conditions. Always motivated to shoot, Tom was really cool to work with.
Pei Pei Locals.
Each Sunday, the closest village to us called Pei Pei would have the day off. And if the waves were fun, you’d be able to see numerous PomPom’s (small traditional boat) and dug-out canoes overcrowded with excitable young locals putting across the channel to surf the closest reefs.
Painted with smiles across their faces and the friendliest attitudes, it was a cool sight to see them sharing boards, waves and boat responsibilities so that everyone had a blast. Definitely a cool chance to get a minor taste of the culture between maximizing the surf time out here.
Tom Morat, Karoniki.
Karoniki, a.k.a Burgerworld has had the misfortune of being a wave that most traveling surfers roll their eyes at when presented as a possible wave to surf. Purely because it is the primary swell magnet in the area. If everywhere else is flat, every surfer in the area converges onto Burgerworld. However, even though it is a last resort, it has to be one of THE funnest as well. Rolling for 150m down a small coconut farmed island like a perfect point-break, it has one of the most picturesque backdrops ever.
In what is like a game of timing chess with the other camps in the area, we managed to get Tom into a few sessions here with only 3-4 other guys out.
On the other side of the island to Pitstops is another swell magnet and super fun right-hander called Nipussi. Not only is this wave incredible to shoot from water and land, but an aerial perspective shows it in a completely different light and highlights both the beauty and potential perils of surfing over reef.
When shooting from water, the three-foot deep tracks in the reef offer a safe escape for me to swim down into when evading rogue sets and avoid being pushed flat onto the reef.
Daily Surf Seeking Missions
Pitstop Hill has two beautiful, traditional Mentawai surf boats on standby at all times to help take guests to the best waves on offer or the most suitable waves for the standard of surfer. Stylish yet brutish, these surf seeking sleighs are the fastest in the area allowing us to reach many waves in the area before anyone else and maximise time in the water.
The guides and local boat drivers know the area and conditions so well, that finding waves is easy and the guests can chill and take in the sights of the paradisical surroundings.
Tom Morat, Hideaways.
After a few days on end of mainly rights, we were greeted with conditions which suited a really good sling-shot left hander a couple of islands away. Often known to be super crowded, we somehow scored this left to ourselves for a few hours and Tom absolutely went mad.
This wave is notoriously shallow with loads of fire coral and exposed reef-heads, but that didn’t cause Tom to shy away from throwing caution to the wind. Racking up the wave count, Tom minced every wave which came his way. He truly is a talented and versatile surfer.
A cliche but nonetheless beautiful sight from the water here in the Mentawai Islands are the thick coconut plantations. Its not uncommon to see smoke pluming sporadically from these plantations as they are actually farm, harvest and smoke coconuts to make Copra, an oil extract used in skin lotions, shampoo & conditioner, soaps and detergents, cooking oil and medication.
Down Time Ding Repairs.
Tom is pretty much moulded from the floors and characters of the Thomas Surfboards factory and actually works as their sander. So it’s safe to say he’s pretty handy when it comes to repairing damaged surf vessels.
Having a shaping/repair rack permanently on the Hill meant Tom could easily slip into his work routine of patching up his boards which had been pranged in the mornings session.
Tom wears the Ventura Boardshort.
Predicting wind conditions in the Mentawai Islands is damn near impossible. Because of the intense heat and humidity, micro-climates explode all over the place causing the wind to swirl and storms to erupt. However, almost like clockwork, with every passing storm leaves a trail of oil-slick and still conditions.
Tom and his buddies were fortunate enough to be given the private bungalow here at Pitstop Hill. A four-bed, private bathroom timber villa with concrete, stone and shell entry. Each morning the fellas would line up their vessels and run through the most suitable options for the day ahead. Everything from logs, twins, asym’s, single-fins and channel bottoms. It’s really cool to see a younger bloke more inclined to take an alternative path with board selection and interest rather than the mainstream route of hi-fi thrusters.
This Thomas Surfboards twin + trailer round-tail was Tom’s choice in the better, more substantial waves on offer throughout the trip and it didn’t skip a beat.
Words and photography by Marc Llewellyn