Surfing on Nias Island
Nias Island is famous for its world-class waves, and surfers still make up the largest segment of visitors to Nias. The story of how the wave in Lagundri Bay was discovered by three bush-bashing Aussies in 1975 has become legendary and has inspired adventurous surfers all over the world. The main wave in Lagundri is usually included in various lists of the best waves in the world. It is considered to be the most perfect and consistent right-hander in Indonesia. It is also extremely accessible with the entry point to the wave just a couple of minutes from the guesthouses.
With Sorake as base early surf explorers scoured Nias and nearby islands looking for waves. Soon Hinakos, Telos and Afulu were discovered, offering surfers different waves and a more varied experience. Today surfers have four different areas to choose from, each with its own distinct feel. As travel is becoming easier on Nias, many surfers visit several of these areas during their time on Nias.
So how come the amazing waves hasn’t made Nias into another Bali? Remoteness, lack of infrastructure and natural disasters have kept a lid on tourism development in this region, which is actually good news for surfers. During the low season in Sorake you may share the wave with a handful of foreigners and local kids. In places like Afulu and Hinakos you could even have a wave all to yourself in the middle of high season. Nias still has the feel of being very far away from everything else, especially in places like Asu and Afulu.
The best time to surf on Nias is between May to September, but in some years the ‘season’ can stretch from April to October. June to August has the largest swell and this is the time when International competitions have been held on Nias. In Lagundri there is good surfing all year around. During the peak season there are many ‘secret’ waves firing off around Nias which relieves pressure on the most popular ones.
In 2005 there was a massive earthquake north of Nias which created an uplift that tilted the island on its side. This dramatically changed the coastline and affected some of the waves. Incredibly enough the main wave in Lagundri Bay became even better than before!
Beginners and first-timers
Even though many of the waves on Nias are pretty hard-core there are also many places suitable for beginners and first timers. During the low season Lagundri is a great place for beginners. The waves are manageable and it is possible to stay clear of the shallow reef. During highseason beginners can simply move further into the bay, where many of the local kids play around after school. In Afulu and Telos there are also fun beach breaks suitable for beginners.
There is a surf school in Lagundri, located on the beach inside the bay. During the swell season the beach break here is a great place to learn. Once you have progressed a bit, you can move out to Kiddies Corner further out in the bay.
The whole west coast of Nias is constantly hammered by waves from the Indian Ocean. There are plenty of beach breaks for beginners here. Learner surfers can actually enjoy west coast beaches all year-around. Boards can be rented from most of the guesthouses in Sorake
Lagundri – South Nias
Lagundri Bay is located in the south of Nias. On the west side of the bay is the most famous wave and this is where all the guesthouses catering for surfers have congregated in an area called Sorake Beach.
The main break is often referred to as The Point, or simply Sorake. This is the world-class right-hander that put Nias on the map. It is good all year around and in the swell season when it’s full blast pro surfers and photographers are coming to Nias specifically for these events. The wave is extremely accessible, located right in front of the Sorake Beach guesthouses. Surfers enter the water at a break in the reef called the Keyhole, and then paddle out for a minute or two to reach the lineup.
Just inside the Point is an area with smaller waves where local kids and beginners hang out. Even though waves are not huge it is amazing to see what the local kids get up to here.
The Indicators are further out in the bay, but still very accessible from Sorake. This wave is mainly happening during the swell season and is for the experienced and brave of heart only as it breaks close to the reef. The Indicators get their name from where surfers at the Point are looking for incoming sets.
Wave hunting out of Lagundri Bay
Out of Lagundri Bay there are a number of ‘secret’ waves. Most of them require a bit of a drive and perhaps some bush bashing. A few are easy to find, while others require a local guide. This is a great way to see something different, especially for those staying longer. For most of these waves the conditions have to be just right so talk to your guesthouse or the local surfers in Sorake about this. Many of them can help you, or direct you to someone who can. If you have booked a surfing package, a trip or two to one of the ‘secret’ waves may be included. Local guide Gaya Gee (Anisa Restaurant in Lagundri) often takes surfers on trips out of Lagundri. If you have a small group and you are not on a budget the best way to get to the other waves is by boat. Several boats are available in Lagundri, for example at Raffiel Surf Camp in the north end Sorake. When exploring by bike you can always park outside someones house and ask them to look after it while you are surfing. Leave 10.000 to 20.000 rupiah as ‘cigarette money’.
East of Lagundri
Most people arrive to Nias along the east coast road from the airport. Along this road, just east of Teluk Dalam there are a few waves well worth a visit.
Rock star – Hilistaro Village
This is the best know wave north of Teluk Dalam. It’s a right-hander and it can easily be seen from the road along the coast. Rock star is one of the waves on Nias that is surfable all year.
8-frame/DP/Dipi – Hiliduha Village
Wave south of Rockstar that under the right conditions can produce some great left and right barrels. Surfers have to get close to see if it’s breaking. Experienced surfers only!
Between Rock Star and Teluk Dalam there are numbers of left and right handers that peaks during good swell. Some can be seen from the road; others require a bush bash through the jungle. Bring one of the local boys from Sorake along to show you the way, or go by boat from Sorake.
North of Lagundri
North of Lagundri there are also a few ‘secret’ waves. By boat it’s pretty straight forward, from Sorake just drive for some 8 km around the headland that is the southwest corner of Nias. Going overland is more adventurous but a lot of fun. This area is spectacularly beautiful with many wild beaches untouched by development. Surf guide Gaya Gee often takes surfers to the ‘secrets’ north of Lagundri and some of the guesthouses sometimes also arrange trips to this area. Check conditions with local surfers before heading out to these places.
Sobatu is a right-hander that is known as one of the “big wave” spots on Nias Island. This is for experienced surfers only! To reach this wave simply walk out of Lagundri bay (westward) for 20 minutes.
Walohiu (secret left)
Left hander suitable for all levels which can produce epic barrels depending on swell and wind direction. This wave is located near a river mouth and requires a 20 minute drive, followed by a 30 minute walk in the jungle, or 20 minutes by Boat. To get there from Sorake drive up the hill to Botohili village. Drive northwest on the small road on top of a ridge towards Hilisalo’o village. There is a road being built all the way down to the beach. If its not ready, park in the village and walk down. Usually you can get kids in the village to show the way.
Sunset Bay (secret right)
Right hander for all levels located a few kilometres north of Walohiu, on a long beautiful beach. A bit of a mission to get to, but a nice place to spend the day and play around in the beach break.
Check these links out to see what surf camps and web portals say about the waves in South Nias:
Hinakos – West Nias
Hinakos is a group of islands off the west-coast of Nias. There are two famous world-class waves here and a few ‘secrets’, enough to keep experienced surfers happy. The three surf camps are located on Asu Island which also has the best wave. All the surf camps here have speed boats which makes going to and from the surf very convenient. The waves here are rarely crowded and surfers have been known to have waves to themselves even during swell season. Typically surfers coming to Hinakos are experienced as there are no easy beach breaks here.
World class perfect left hander providing tubes and fast manoeuvres from 2 to 15 feet. When the southerly winds blow, Asu is one of the best waves in the Sumatran Archipelago. The wave is located off the north tip of Asu Island and the walk takes 1 to 15 minutes depending on which surf camp you are staying at.
This wave is a very spread out right made famous by Tom Curren’s “beyond the boundaries” Rip Curl videos. Bawa is never flat and never crowded. It is located 14 kilometers southeast of Asu Island.
There are some more great waves around Hinako Island such as Bombie, Hamutala and a few more ‘secret’ rights and lefts. When the conditions are favourable the surf guides on Asu will let you know.
There are some good waves in North Nias that can be accessed by speedboat from Asu. When conditions are right the surfcamps on Asu can arrange trips to Afulu, Salonako and a few other spots along the west-coast of Nias.
Check these links out to see what surf camps and web portals say about the waves in the Hinakos:
Afulu – North Nias
North Nias is a quiet corner of Nias with some of the best beaches on the whole Island. It also got some great surfing! The best known wave is known simply as Afulu, which is the name of the nearby village. Within a few kilometers of Afulu there are several other accessible ‘secret’ spots for experienced surfers and beach breaks for beginners.
Located in the south end of Walo Beach, this is a high quality left-hander offering great tube rides. Good surf at all stages of the tide, but due to early offshore winds, it’s usually best in the morning. This is an intermediate-advanced wave as it ends very close to the reef. Just around the corner at the beginning of the beach there are beach breaks for beginners to play around with. Most convenient access is from the end of the beach then paddle around the rocks towards the wave. Only a few hundred meters from the wave is Afulu Retreat, the only surf camp in North Nias.
There are a few more waves in the area; brothers Markmur and Darius Zalukhu At Afulu Retreat can help you to find these locations. Most of them can be seen from the road, but may require a bit of a walk.
Pantai Pasir Merah (Red Sand Beach)
Right hander with a soft point break, surfed by medium to advanced surfers when the surf is up. It is good for beginners as it is not too close to the reef. This wave is located 150 meters off the north end of Pantai Pasir Merah and can easily be reached from Afulu. Drive north for 6 kilometer’s, until getting to a beach right next to the road. The wave can be seen off the northern end.
Papan Tanda Putih (White Sign)
Slow big left-hander requiring medium to average skill level. This wave is more user friendly than Afulu as the water is deep here, and not as close to the reef. Access can be tricky as the coastline consists of sharp coral gravel. This wave is located off the headland between Pantai Walo and Pantai Merah beaches and can easily be reached from Afulu. Look oceanside for an old white concrete sign and follow the small track to the beach.
Pantai Pasir Putih (White Sand Beach)
Good but inconsistent right hander 200 meters off the northern end of Pantai Pasir Putih. This wave is mostly surfed by visiting surf charters, but it is also easily accessed from the beach. This wave is located 2.5 kilometers south of Afulu.
This right hander can provide challenging barrel rides. It also good on larger ground swell. While offering world-class surfing under the right conditions it is rather inconsistent. The wave is located almost 1 kilometer off the coast, in front of a small village called Salonako. Salonako is 13 Kilometers south of Afulu. Land-based surfers need to hire a boat. This wave is mostly surfed by surf-charters or day-trips from Asu.
Check these links out to see what others say about the waves in the Afulu area:
Telos – the far south
Batu Islands (Pulau Pulau Batu), is a group of Islands between Nias and Mentawai’s located right on the equator. Surfers call the whole archipelago the ‘Telos’, which is the name of the island with the main port. Telos was discovered by adventurous surfers from Sorake and for a long time was only visited by surf charters. Now there are six land based surf resorts here and a few local guesthouses. Most of the surf resorts are located in the northwest of Telos on and around Telo, Sipika and Sibaranun Islands. The one exception is the Surfing Village which is located in the far south of Telos. If you are staying at one of the resorts transport will be included and you will be travelling by either small charter planes or speedboat. Independent travellers have to make their own arrangements. Whichever way you go it is a bit of a mission to get to Telos. But once here you get why people keep coming back, despite the extra cost and the effort. This is the outer edge of the Sumatran surf frontier where it’s still possible to surf all day with just a few people on the waves.
Two types of surfers come to Telos; the seriously adventurous and/or the seriously cashed up. To get here by ferry, staying in a village and go looking for waves in a small outrigger canoes is hard-core surf exploration. Going to one of the resorts will cost a lot, but in return you get absolute top-notch service from some of the best managed all-inclusive surf resorts in the world. The guides at the resort have superior knowledge of the area and will find the best wave according to the prevailing conditions of the day. The resorts are often very secretive about the location of the waves, and often make up their own names.
To learn more about the waves on Telos check out these links from local surf resorts:
The story about how Australian surfers Lovet, Geisel and Troy went in search of, and eventually found the “Perfect Wave” in Lagundri Bay have inspired generations of surfers. Adventure is still out there and surfers sometimes try to find new ‘secret’ waves. The west coast of Nias is little explored due to very limited access. There are long sandy beaches, river mouths and headlands where the surf is peaking during the ever present swell from April to October. Adventurous surfers can hire boats or motorbikes to explore those areas. The islands off shore may also hide some secret spots, such as Wunga, Maose, Sarangbaung and the many nooks and crannies around Telo Islands. When hunting waves in remote areas remember that Nias is out there and you are a long way from medical facilities. Play it safe and bring a local guide or surfer along with you.
The whole west coast of Nias is constantly hammered by waves from the Indian Ocean. There are plenty of beach breaks for beginners here. Learner surfers can actually enjoy west coast beaches all year-around.
Surf Charter Boats
Some surfers choose to visit Nias on-board a surf-charter boat. These boats are focusing only on surfing and hardly ever set foot on land, thus missing out on a lot of the experiences that Nias have to offer. Nevertheless some surfers choose to travel this way, and in the past most tourists visiting Telos, Hinakos and Afulu did so on-board surf charters. The boats that visit Nias are usually based in Sibolga or Padang in Sumatra. One Nias based Surf Charter boat is the “Ono Niha” owned and operated by Nias Keyhole Surf Camp in Sorake.
Getting your boards to Nias
It is not a problem to check-in surf boards on the flights to Nias. Wings Air and Garuda fly to many popular Indonesian surf-destination and are used to handling over-sized luggage. Wings charge IDR 200,000 per surfboard. On Garuda surfboards are free. Long boards (anything over 160 cm) can be a problem, especially if all the flights are full. If you book an early flight, the check-in staff can usually be talked into sending the boards on a later flight. The safest option is to come to Medan a day early and ship the boards to Nias. A reliable shipping company is JNE Express which has offices in many Indonesian cities including Medan. The main office in Medan is on Jalan Thamrin 75, Sei Rengas II. The cost is based on weight and volume, as an example 20 kilo costs IDR 380.000. It takes 2-3 days to get to Nias.