Surfing the Unknown (A Surf Travelog Day 8) – We do not seek, we find.
The next morning we were up and ready by 4.45 AM waiting to be picked up by one of John’s drivers…we ended up waiting until almost 6:00. When we arrived at the small harbor and were taken to the boat which was to take us to Indira Point, we were a bit shocked to see the boat which we were to sail in. It was simply an open boat with no shelter or cabin and was at least 10-15 years old. It was powered by two small generators. I was expecting to see a Yamaha or some other brand-name motor. It turns out that all the boats here run on these small generators because they are easy to maintain on an island where any local mechanic can fix them. A Yamaha engine would be useless here since there is no service center on the Island. For a moment, as we loaded our luggage and equipment on the boat, I was wondering if we had brought too much stuff on this trip. Would it be able to carry our stuff, two crew members and three passengers without taking us all to Davy Jones Locker? Anyway, it was already late.
We had planned to leave by 5.30 AM and reach our destination early in order to make the best out of two days. The boat eventually started at 6.30 AM. We hadn’t even gone 100 meters when something went wrong with one of the engines. We slowly made it back to the harbor and the crew took the engine off the boat and had a look at it. it is a good idea to have two engines when you are in the middle of the sea – if one fails, you have one as a backup. It took them an hour to fix the engine. We were totally frustrated – we were losing time and we only had two days to discover and surf this island. At 7.45 AM, with both engines ship-shape, the boat slowly started again and picked up some pace.
The sea was calm and clear and with the sun shining brightly, we knew it was going to get very hot soon. As we were half an hour out to sea sailing around the island heading south, we noticed the swell had increased. It was around 2 meters which was a good sign for us. We also noticed some spots just outside Campbell Bay with some good breaks with both lefts and rights. It was better than anything we had seen so far on the Island, yet at the same time, they were inaccessible too. On the land, there were no roads near that point and even a boat like ours couldn’t go in because the waves were continuously breaking and a big swell was coming in.
As our journey progressed, we started to notice how the waves started getting better. In our excitement, we were standing up and shouting at each other as we saw so many perfect waves breaking halfway through. The swell was incredibly good and was producing 6-8 foot perfect waves. This was the best part of our trip – nothing had excited us much until now. We felt as though we had discovered a gold mine of surf along this part of the island. We could also appreciate the beauty of this island. At one point, we saw a lighthouse in the distance and we guessed that this was Indira Point, the southernmost tip of India, which also has a helipad, a check post, and some forest officials patrolling. The Indian Navy Coast Guard also watches this part of the island quite often. From here it’s only 15 or 20 nautical miles to Indonesia and some other south-east Asian countries, therefore it is strategically very important from India’s perspective. We knew that the sea would be pretty rough around Indira Point because it is facing the sea directly, plus it is the tip of the island where the swell always hits straight and hard. As we approached Indira Point we were left speechless and had no words to describe what we were seeing – this place was filled with awesome surf breaks. The swell was big and blue. It was coming in and breaking so clean with offshore wind, we were witnessing the best possible breaks we had ever seen in our lives (well, maybe…). We may see some really good surf at Maldives, Bali, or Seychelles, but this was completely different than all that. The time, research, energy, and journey itself had taken so long, but now we felt that we were reaping the benefits of all that endeavor.
We had discovered an island with new surf potential amongst the already overcrowded and over-surfed spots around the world. Indira Point (the southernmost tip of India)It was around 10.30 AM when we passed Indira Point and started to go along the west coast of the island. Again, this area was filled with surf breaks and they were only getting bigger and better. It was amazing to us how there was all this awesome surf and nobody surfed these breaks or even knew about it! There was nobody on the beach and there were no more than 10 to 15 people within 30 square kilometers. We decided it would be a waste of time to go any further, as we were going to lose time and had already spotted so many surf breaks that we can start surfing. We let the boatman know about this and he immediately began looking for a place to dock. It was not possible to simply take the boat to the shore and dock because of the swell coming in and because of the huge waves. We needed a bay or a broad inlet where the land curves inward. The boat continued for another hour after Indira Point, inching along the west coast, Eventually, the boatman found a bay where it was possible for the boat to go safely dock at the beach, by that time we had sailed almost 10 Kms from Indira Point.
When we got ashore we planned to surf nearby and camp for the night and move closer to Indira Point the next day. The sun was blazing hot and any small activity made you feel tired and beaten. We grabbed our gear and told the boatman that we would be back in about 3 hours after surfing. Actually, we were already tired and felt that we already had a long day, but we continued to walk up the beach with all our gear to go and surf. We had walked a fair distance from the bay area to where the waves were breaking, but as we kept walking the terrain began to get tougher and tougher. There was a huge pile of trees and rubbish blocking the path along the bay, The 2004 tsunami had left these huge trees broken everywhere and had washed ashore tons of rubbish too. We did our best to climb over, jump over and duck under this mess to come out of the bay and reach any possible surf breaks, but it was impossible and was taking up so much time. It was already noon. We then made the decision to return to the boat and head for Indira Point. We could hang out around there to surf and camp. After eating some noodles, we set sail for Indira Point.
We were again feeling a bit disappointed at how things weren’t really working out as smoothly as it should be. We had found world-class waves but were still unable to go and actually surf them. The boat started with 2 engines but suddenly one of them broke down again and we were running on a single-engine for 40 minutes until we reached another bay close to Indira Point. They had some difficulty docking the boat inside the bay but somehow they managed it in end. This was where we would be camped for the next 2 nights. We moved all our gear off the boat and went to find some suitable place to camp. We found a place a short distance from the beach where there were some bushes which would provide us some shade from the sun. We quickly set up our tents and were ready to finally go and catch some waves. I finally got an opportunity to pull out my 100-400 mm lens, my tripod, and the video gear. The boys were ready with their surfboards and were left with two options of surfing on either side of the bay – they had lefts and rights on both sides. Of course, their favorite was rights and soon they were in water paddling to catch some evening sessions. I was ready on the shore with my gear gearing up to shoot some action.
It was around 4.30 in the evening when they started and the sun was behind them and in front of me, so it was backlit conditions to shoot, I could see that Kirtan was enthusiastic and he was going for each and every wave. Kunja was a bit more hesitant. The waves were of good size, around 4-5 feet, breaking fast and sometimes hollow. It turned out to be a good session for them as they got some surf and got used to the conditions and I managed to get some decent pictures of them. I suddenly started to get some old memories of the sand fleas that we had encountered on a first trip to the Andamans some years ago. As I snapped away with my camera, I noticed that something had started biting me. I don’t know why Kunja thought that there were no sand fleas on this island. He had told us not to worry about them – but here I was, getting bitten by them again. As we started to walk back to our campsite, I also noticed the mosquitoes too near to our campsite… The heat and humidity had made me tired and lugging all my gear didn’t help either. My feet and legs were intolerably itchy and things were only going to get worse as we found out that the place where we had set up our camp was infested with a zillion mosquitoes. Our boatman told us to shift everything near to the beach where there would be a breeze and fewer mosquitoes. It was already dark and we had zero energy. We practically hadn’t eaten anything since morning. However, the prospect of being eaten alive by mosquitos all night and having no sleep impelled us to move all our gear to another place nearer to the beach. Once again we set everything up again as we constantly scratched and sweated profusely. Although I was hungry, I was so tired that I was ready to go to bed without eating anything. Anyhow, we mustered up some energy to cook and eat something in order to gain some energy and stamina for the next day. We prepared some rice and wet vegetable curry with soya chunks. It was very filling and delicious – there is definitely a different taste when you cook a meal using firewood. After dinner, we all managed to crawl back into our tents to have a good night’s rest.