Where’s Mowgli? Muddy and stoked in the Mentawai Islands.

Somehow I’ve made my way to the Mentawai islands. The Mentawais are a remote island chain off the coast of Sumatra in Indonesia’s North. I’m staying with a local surfer girl, Intan Talia in her home on the island of Sipora. As the mentawai islands are riddled with world class waves, yet still slightly isolated, it’s the perfect quiet place for me to seek some solid time in the water and enjoy the true village life. Being here is like stepping back in time, and I love it.

This is Intan. She’s 22 years old and has been surfing for nearly 7 years now. Intans life to me is like a scene out of Peter Pan’s Never Never Land. But in this version, Never Never Land has pumping surf, and Captain Hook is just a big salty Australian guy that shows up with his surf charter to share some waves from time to time. She wakes up, checks the surf, flutters from beach to beach, wave to wave, and spends every afternoon watching the sunset at the local beachside coffee shop. “I come here every afternoon, sometimes I don’t go home till 11 or 12. I’m more happy here. “ She and I seem to be cut from the same cloth. Everyone seems to like her, maybe even admire her for her fearlessness in being one of the only local women around that takes on the waves. I like her too, she’s a smart girl, an amazing host, and I already feel lucky to know her.

Today we wake up and it’s raining. We’re both really excited to surf, but we take our time with coffee and breakfast. Eventually we both clamber onto her little motorbike. She’s in the back carrying boards and guiding me through her village while I drive. She’s already told me the road to the wave we’re going to is really bad if it’s recently rained, but we decide to go anyways.

Eventually I see what she means. We are in the jungle and the road is pretty much pure mud. We’re giggling as we slide through it, everything below me is covered in thick white muddy paste, while above all I see is green. We reach a point that is looking pretty challenging. She jumps off and directs me forward, but within an instant we’ve bogged the scooter. I go to put my foot down and my leg sinks in deep, nearly up to my hip.

So here I am, one leg hiked up on the ground, one leg fully buried in mud, the handle bars are up to my head and I’m holding the bike to try to keep it from falling on top of me. We’re both nearly in tears with laughter, still wearing our helmets, barefoot and covered in mud. It’s the type of laughter where you’re whole tummy tightens up, and it feels so good. I needed this. I’ve been missing my girlfriends in Australia because of the way we could always bring one another into deep belly laughs like this. I know she would never understand the type of jokes my girlfriends and I would tell that would bring us to this type of laughter, but it doesn’t matter now. The sight of me, in her jungle, in my board shorts and helmet, with my legs buried in mud while balancing her scooter nearly on top of me.. well no matter where you’re from or what language you speak, that shit was hilarious.

Eventually we get out but can’t get the bike started. The spark plug is wet and we don’t have any way to fix it up now, so she tells me we will continue on foot. It’s about a 2 km walk to the surf spot. And I mean real jungle, like down on your hands and knees sliding down muddy tracks with nothing but dense tropical bush in sight. Suddenly I realize I’m on the adventure I’ve always dreamed of and it didn’t even hit me because I was honestly just having so much fun.

We finally arrive and the waves are small. But Intan and I have it to ourselves, and it’s bliss. I mean when is the last time you surfed a wave with just one friend to yourself? It doesn’t happen often.

We spend the next long while sharing waves. I don’t really know how long we surfed and it doesn’t really matter anyways. We were going to have to walk back through the jungle to get home too and I was actually excited about it. Where else did I have to be anyways? Absolutely no where else but here.

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