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OFF THE BEATEN PATH: Daily Surf Journalism Expedition Blog

| posted on July 22, 2010

At the southernmost tip of the Mentawai Islands are uncrowded waves and some of the most remote villages in Indonesia…

Here is where our journey continues.

At 9:30 AM on July 25th, our dinghy—weighed down with eight surfers, 100 bundles of school supplies, and three soccer balls, touched the seafloor in the shallows of Siakup village. We unloaded onto a broken coral path and marched like strangers into a new land. The people stared at us, but we continued on with our boxes of supplies until we reached the schoolhouse.

The school was more of a one room shanty with the roof spilling in on itself. Its chalk board was cracking at the seams and looked as uneven as when it was first milled from slate. Luckily, we carried with us a new white board and pens. Outside the school, forty students were lined up in their uniforms and singing “If you’re happy and you know it” in Indonesian.

They were happy…and we knew it.

The students finished their songs and eagerly lined up to receive their packages of notebooks, pencils and rulers. I’ve never known kids so stoked about school, but education is a commodity here, and the closest Office Depot is a lifetime away. After the excitement settled down, the real madness began when we unveiled our three soccer balls. The kids just started running in circles chasing each other and the balls. They were so excited to be out of class and have toys to play with. After running to breathlessness, we said goodbye and headed back to the boat.

During lunch we sailed to the southwest facing coast of the island to try and find surf. We are at the southernmost tip of the Mentawai Islands—the first landfall these open ocean swells feel before grinding their way north, and eventually to Nias. From the boat, the waves looked to be 4-6 feet. Brady Clarke paddled out on his 5’11 to give it a go. After he came in to get a 6’4, I paddled out with him to be greeted by 8-10 foot glassy rights wrapping all the way around the headland and closing out on sand. No other boat anywhere within striking distance meant we had the waves all to ourselves.

Later that night the crew brought out a homemade cake covered in Beng-Bengs (Oreos), and ice cream in honor of Rachel McCarty’s birthday. It was quite a feast to come out of our small kitchen.

After a day already filled with lessons, our class began at seven. We sat around sun stroked, full of cake, and learned the ins-n-outs of surf journalism. Story telling is a big part of surf journalism – every article in any surf magazine is a story—and today’s lesson was in building content.
I’ve acquired material to write about…The stoked indo groms acquired materials to write on…Right on.