Living the Dream Life?: An Interview with Mentawai Boat Captain Jordan Heuer
I’ve known Jordan Heuer for five years, first hooking up with him on a boat trip. This guy is a top notch captain and surf guide because he puts you on the biggest and gnarliest waves. Why? Because he wants ‘em too! The guy charges! If you are willing to push your limits Heuer is your guy. But pushing limits in the Mentawai surf isn’t his only goal. Heuer is pushing limits on the land as well. With an increasing number of land camps sprouting up in the Mentawais, we thought it fitting to chat it up with a boat captain and boat owner who has his eyes set firmly on the future of surfing in this fabulous wave park. – Scott Bass
SURFERMAG.COM: So you’re 31-years-old, and from the Big Island. You’re an owner of a charter boat out here in the Mentawais. Tell us a little bit about your background on the Big Island: Where did you grow up? Where did you surf?
JORDAN HEUER: I grew up in Kalapana, a little beach community outside of Pahoa, southeast coast. I surfed at Drainpipes and a bunch of other little breaks around there. The waves were good, 6- to 8-feet. They got covered by lava when the volcano ereupted. I lived there then and saw spots disappear forever. All the surfers that used to surf Kalapana, that used to surf seven different breaks, all moved on– and now it’s just like two breaks. The surf isn’t very good so I didn’t surf much. It’s a lot of work to surf on the Big Island and the Outer Islands, so I kinda got into the Mentawais.
SURFERMAG.COM: So the lack of surf on the Big Island had you looking elsewhere?
JORDAN HEUER: It costs a lot to go surf on the Big Island, like almost as much as it costs to go here (Mentawais).
SURFERMAG.COM: Just like gas and stuff?
JORDAN HEUER: Yeah, gas, and food, and driving. You get skunked. Even when it’s 25 feet on the other islands it’s 2- to 3-foot on the Big Island. It’s really hard.
SURFERMAG.COM: How old were you when you started coming to the Mentawais?
JORDAN HEUER: I was 25, I guess. It wasn’t that long ago. I first started coming to Indo around ’92, the Mentawais in ’99. It was kind of a drop-in.
SURFERMAG.COM: So you came to the Mentawais in ’99 and what were your first thoughts about the Mentawai region?
JORDAN HEUER: It had the best waves I had ever seen.
SURFERMAG.COM: At what point did you realize, “I want to move here and own my own boat and become part of the surf culture out here?”
JORDAN HEUER: I was on my way to the airport in Hawaii, and I ran into a friend of mine who was a partner on a charter operation out here, and he’d just gone his own way and split off from that charter operation, and he offered me a job running his boat. Like five minutes from the airport I’m on my way to come on a boat charter. He was just having a kid, that’s why, and he had committed to this new boat and was looking for the right man, so he asked me to do it. And I came and checked out the boat in between charters, and it looked like a pretty good boat, and so I started trying to get some bookings for it.
SURFERMAG.COM: How did that first gig go for you?
JORDAN HEUER: Things didn’t work out. They (the ownership group) wanted me to give them way more money than my friend told me to charge, so I was going to end up paying out of my own pocket because he told me to charge a super-cheap price to get things going and the owners wanted a super-high price to start out with. So it just didn’t work out. But the same day it didn’t work out, I got an e-mail from them saying, “Forget about it, we’re over it.” And then my next e-mail in my inbox was an offer to come work for another charter company. And I already had a ticket to come down here (Mentawais) so I just came down.
To enjoy the best surf trip of your life and/or learn more about the Kandui Island Resort go to www.mentawaiislands.com
SURFERMAG.COM: How did that other e-mail come about? How did you get another offer, and who was that from?
JORDAN HEUER: It was from Good Sumatran. They were familiar with the other charter boat owner and they liked me, I’d been with them on charters before, and they were trying to warn me to not get involved with that guy because it was gonna be a big hassle and headache for me. I just went to work for them instead.
SURFERMAG.COM: So you worked the first season on one of the boats for Good Sumatran?
JORDAN HEUER: At the same time I was already starting to build my own boat. So I got here in March and starting building a boat in June and the Good Sumatran owner was going to be my partner on this boat. And he just backed out. He gave me some money down which is what we started with and then he backed out.
SURFERMAG.COM: So you hooked up with Anthony Marcotti (MentawaiIslands.com) and you guys built this boat that we’re on now, the Aileoita. And at some point some things happened in your personal life. When did you meet your wife?
JORDAN HEUER: I met Ayi in ’99 the first time I came down here. And then I kept in touch with her and came down at the end of 2000. She came back to America with me, stayed in Hawaii for a while and then went to California to visit family. We were around for like six months in America and then came down here and she was working on a Good Sumatran boat with me.
SURFERMAG.COM: So now six years later you’re on your own boat, you’ve got a fairly active charter business, and you’ve got a new baby girl. Tell us about your daughter.
JORDAN HEUER: My daughter is the best thing that ever happened to me. Beautiful, I love her.
SURFERMAG.COM: What’s her name?
JORDAN HEUER: Kaana.
SURFERMAG.COM: So it seems like a lot of people who are pushing papers, working behind a desk are pretty envious of your situation. Tell us about the day-to-day operations of a boat. Some of the headaches and some of the not-so-glorious stuff.
JORDAN HEUER: Yeah, boats are just a big money hole. I figure I could be a guest on a boat for three months each season for 15 years straight, that’s how far I’m in the hole right now.
SURFERMAG.COM: Do you regret the situation?
JORDAN HEUER: Sometimes I look at the guests and I’m almost envious. It’s nice to keep going, going, going, and get that epic, epic swell. It’s great. It’s a good life.
SURFERMAG.COM: So you get some great waves but there’s headaches as well?
JORDAN HEUER: Yeah, loads of headaches. All boats are headaches, anybody who has a boat will tell you that. But it’s a good life though. It’s a lifestyle. I’m not here to get rich. It’s a lifestyle.
SURFERMAG.COM: And speaking of lifestyles, real quick, what’s one of the most memorable sessions for you as somebody who’s out here all the time?
JORDAN HEUER: I think it was the first trip on this boat and just the best barrels I’ve ever had in my life. I’ve had lots of good sessions out there but that day in particular were the best barrels of my life.
SURFERMAG.COM: How big was it and who was on your trip? Do you remember who your clients were?
JORDAN HEUER: Yeah, it was a group of rehab guys who had met each other in rehab in California. No drinking, no nothing. We all got really good waves. It was great, surfed Kandui by ourselves, and Rifles by ourselves. Bunch of sober guys on a boat scoring perfect waves.
SURFERMAG.COM: Sounds like the exact opposite of this trip! One more thing — any advice for kids getting out of college looking at your position and wondering how they can get into it?
JORDAN HEUER: Uh, not really. Don’t do it! Stay away! I don’t know really what to say to that one.
SURFERMAG.COM: No advice?
JORDAN HEUER: No advice.
SURFERMAG.COM: Let’s continue then. I want to talk to you about the land camp you’re working on.
JORDAN HEUER: Yeah, my wife and our other partner bought some land at Playgrounds. It’s like 1.7 kilometers long.
SURFERMAG.COM: And where is that located?
JORDAN HEUER: It goes from what would be an entrance near Four Bob’s all the way to the point (out by Rifles) on Kandui Island.
SURFERMAG.COM: Do you own it outright or is there a 99-year lease like you get in Mexico?
JORDAN HEUER: We own it outright and my partners have a 99-year lease.
SURFERMAG.COM: And I know you’re building some stuff. What are you building and what are your plans for that location?
JORDAN HEUER: We’re building a small resort that has eight bungalows and a restaurant and bar, a spa, it’s gonna have amenities for girlfriends and people who don’t surf.
SURFERMAG.COM: And the guests will stay on land and surf those spots. What are those main spots around there?
JORDAN HEUER: There’s a lot of spots. The main two spots, the two best spots, probably in the world, are Rifles and Kandui, Kandui Right and Kandui Left. And there’s a bunch of other little fun waves: Four Bob’s, A-Frames, Malibu Right, Kandui.
SURFERMAG.COM: And all those spots are accessible from the land from your camp, from your resort?
JORDAN HEUER: Yeah. We have to bring you out to them because it’s kind of a far paddle, but you can paddle out to them if you wanted.
SURFERMAG.COM: And what’s the name of the resort — have you guys come up with a name yet?
JORDAN HEUER: Kandui Resort.
SURFERMAG.COM: And does anybody have the ability to purchase land on the other side of the island and compete?
JORDAN HEUER: No, because there’s a one-kilometer little window where you can operate within that distance. All the islands around us and the surrounding land on the island are in that range.
SURFERMAG.COM: So that sounds like you’ve got a pretty good exclusive land camp for that area. Will people from Christy’s camp, which is 10 minutes away, will they be able to access the surf?
JORDAN HEUER: Oh yeah, we’ll share waves.
SURFERMAG.COM: What do you see in the future for boat-based surfers and land-based surfers? Do you see them both co-existing?
JORDAN HEUER: Yeah, I just think the boats are too high in numbers right now, it’s just too much. There’s almost 50 boats. We’re gonna keep our numbers down and not allow more than 15 surfers maximum. And then if there’s any more non-surfing guests they can go snorkeling and do other beach activities.
SURFERMAG.COM: What about someone who says, “I don’t want to stay on the land, I’m afraid of malaria?”
JORDAN HEUER: It’s up to them, but if you know the facts about malaria you know it’s pretty safe. There’s no local population of mosquitoes. They have to contract it by biting someone who has malaria in their blood active and all the locals are screened, and there’s no local inhabitants on the land. Very rare, very small chance of ever getting malaria there. Other places with a large native population are where the major problems are.
SURFERMAG.COM: When do you see your camps opening for business?
JORDAN HEUER: At the beginning of next season, 2006.
SURFERMAG.COM: And I know there are other camps, there’s one opening at Macaroni’s. What do you know about that camp?
JORDAN HEUER: Yeah, Macaroni’s, I’m not sure how many bungalows they’re going to have, seven bungalows or eight. I think they’re starting out with eight and a big restaurant, kind of the same kinda deal I guess, but I haven’t seen it at all.
SURFERMAG.COM: Do they have the rights to the waterways there?
JORDAN HEUER: As Purdah — I think it’s called Purdah — Purdah law was written up and voted on by the Mentawai government, it says if there’s a support area anywhere within 1,000 meters of your resort you’re supposed to be able to claim that exclusively as your own. It would be another thing to try to enforce what’s on paper. I don’t see it happening without some major conflict occurring.
SURFERMAG.COM: Could be some major conflict when boats show up at Macaroni’s and they try to enforce a no-boat rule. It could get ugly, huh? If they are successful in implementing that no-boat law, then all of a sudden you’re going to have a concentration of boats more than likely in your area.
JORDAN HEUER: Yeah, well if it’s only Macaroni’s that does that, it’s only one wave. That wouldn’t be so bad. But if any other resort, like the one at Telescopes for instance, starts doing it we would be forced to do it too in the long run. But we’re gonna hold out and do that as the absolute last resort.
SURFERMAG.COM: And, you mentioned Telescopes. There is a government camp at Telescopes and that’s not open.
JORDAN HEUER: I’m not sure. I haven’t been there for a couple of years. It was looking pretty close to completion a couple years ago.
SURFERMAG.COM: Yeah, I think it was a couple years ago but you don’t know if there’s guests there?
JORDAN HEUER: I have no idea.
SURFERMAG.COM: You haven’t been to Telescopes in two years?
JORDAN HEUER: I haven’t been able to land there to check out the surf. It’s pretty far in.
SURFERMAG.COM: We were there last year and it didn’t look open to us.
JORDAN HEUER: I heard the reefs were falling in or something.
SURFERMAG.COM: The government doesn’t market that camp at all. Where do you even find out about it? If I wanted to stay there how would I even know?
JORDAN HEUER: I don’t know, I think they just built it and nobody cared about it, and nobody’s really in charge. It’s Indo you know.
SURFERMAG.COM: So your future as a resort owner is just that — to be more land-based, kind of move away from the boat side of things and just live on the island of your dreams and surf perfect waves.
JORDAN HEUER: Yeah, I’d like to just wait for my two favorite waves. Every time I’m on a boat I end up having to leave and it turns on when I’m not there.
SURFERMAG.COM: How would we access it if we wanted to be the first guests at the Kandui Resort? How do we go about doing that?
JORDAN HEUER: Go to www.mentawaiislands.com.
SURFERMAG.COM: And we can talk to Anthony Marcotti, your partner right, one of your partners? OK, good stuff.