WEST JAVA

Where

1000 kilometres long, Java has a surf able coastline facing south into the Indian Ocean, lying between the latitudes of 7 and 9 degrees 30 south.

Background

Indonesias most populous island (compare its 100M inhabitants with the 36M next door on Sumatra), Java is a predominantly Muslim island although its culture is heavily influenced by Hindu and other beliefs from its pre-Islamic past. It is the centre of industrial and government activity.

Java presents perhaps the ultimate overland surfing experience, with extreme opposites like the lunacy of Jakarta traffic situated just 6 hours from the primal beauty of Ujung Genteng and Ujung Kulon National parks. Some of Indonesias most important temples, such as Borobodur, are found in Java, and a chain of volcanoes in various states of awakening stretches from east to west. Some incredible national parks such as Ujung Kulon in the west (of which Panaitan Island is an extension), and Alas Purwo in the east (where you will find G-Land clinging to the edge of the jungle) straddle the mayhem of Javas sprawling towns. There can be no mistake, surf travel in Java is an adventure.

The Setup

The major part of Javas coastline faces into the southeast trade-winds, and perpendicular to the predominant swell direction, resulting in unruly, big, wind affected surf. Happily the contortions of the coast have created areas where the set ups are perfect. This has meant that a two key areas have become established; Pelabuhanratu in West Java, and Grajagan in the east. There is little in the way of a beaten path in between, which means unhidden waves for intrepid explorers with time on their hands. As a guideline, find yourself a west (or east, in wet season) facing bit of coast and you will probably score waves.

The Waves
Cikembang

From Cimaja, take a major drive west through Cisolok and Cibangan. After Cibangan, the road leaves the coast. Follow it up into the hills and back down to Pasirandu village. There’s a left turn into a very poor track. Quite a trek. Best bet is boat ride from Cimaja.

Right poin can offer quality rights over rock base. It’s protected from any west winds, but it needs a very big south west or solid south swell if it is work. On the way, about 4 km west of Cisolok, some check out Karang Haji just left of the Ocean queen resort. Mediocre quality lefts and rights on sand and rock ledge, requiring sizeable swell. Intermediates.

Beyond Cikembang, Batu Marob is a mystical reef break to stumble across. A more extended trip may lead to Bayah village, where an enormous strip of beach and reef break is visible in all its glory from the hilltop roads. The beach rarely has any shape and is usually blown out in trade winds, although the eastern point by the village can offer a bit of protection for it’s rarely surfed lefts.

Sawarna

About 20k (2 hours on the weathered roads) west of Cimaja, this is a hard spot to get to. We recommend boat or guided trip from Cimaja.

L point of consequence. Sawarna holds as much swell as the ocean can provide; the bigger the better. Fast, lengthy lefts fold in from the outer point and wind across a table reef all the way to the inside beach section. The angle of the reef makes it magnetic to prevailing SW swells, with more west directions providing dredging powerful waves best left to experts. Uncrowded. Not to be surfed alone.

Sunset Beach (Karang Hawu)

Head 2km west from Cimaja and stop at the beach,
Fun beach-breaks when Cimaja isn’t quite lined up properly. It’s also a crowd avoidance strategy in season. Early morning off-shores or glass can result in some punchy beach-break rights and lefts on most states of the tide, with some shore-dump and rips to contend with. All levels. Consistent if not always perfect. On small days, some more fun low tide river mouth peaks can sometimes be found by veering off the main road just before neighboring Cisolok.

Cimaja and Indicators

Cimaja village and its surrounds are easily reached from Jakarta, taking the highway south to Bogor, then towards Sukabumi and Pelabuhan Ratu. Once in Cimaja fishing village, it’s a hike through the rice paddies, and a cautious hop across the cobblestone beach.

Cimaja: Long lined up right-hand point break on a rock and boulder bottom. Cimaja is generally a fun wave (think Lower Trestles), but there are hollow sections and a shallow uneven bottom to contend with. On a good southwest swell at 3-6ft it will line up and offer barrels all the way to the inside. South swells can hit it too square create sections; but it’ll still be fun if unpredictable in these conditions. Lower tides tend to be better, creating more barrels although on larger swell it is not crucial. Southeast trades are onshore; surf early morning. 2-8ft depending swell direction. All levels, but beware boulders, shallow close-outs and currents. It’s the favorite of Jakarta ex pats, a few locals and traveling all-shorts that base themselves here; therefore can get busy.

Out the back and to the west, the swell-pulling Indicators break right, over an outer reef point, but on lower tides can be a close-out on the reef. Indicators hold almost any size, and is better when there is solid swell (think 6ft plus at Cimaja). On these bigger days it is for chargers and those with the will and ability to take it’s very steep drops. Best surfed on high tide (when it is more make able and you can avoid the exposed boulders) and morning glass or a north-west wind. It’s an advanced break.

Heading west for a few hundred yards, across the river, you can check out the lefts at Karang Papak, which can be working when Cimaja is a mess. Generally the temptation doesn’t pay off however.

Samudra Beach

About 6km west from the port at Pelabuhanratu, you’ll find the main strip of losmen accommodation starting at the 3 little bridges that offer a good view of the beach. Out the front of the Samudra Hotel.

Average beach-break peaks on small swells, best surfed early morning. Normally Samudra is for the lazy, or beginners looking for a bit space. On the Northwest winds, the right corner can get reasonable, and the creeks can form good banks. 2-5ft. All levels. Consistent if not consistently good.

Karang Sari

In the north corner of the main beach at Pelabuhanratu, about 800yds north of the main harbor.
Short right-hand point style wave on sand bottom. Karang Sari is an easy spot close to town, and a good bet on big days when Cimaja might be ragged. It’s protected from unruly south-west swells, which it can filter into shapely waves. Straight south swells are a mess here, as are dry season SE trade-winds. Northwest winds or early morning glass is best, and only works on low tides. All levels. Inconsistent.

Loji
Head due south from Pelabuhanratu. After a few km, cross the large bridge at Bagbagan. After another 3km cross another bridge. After another 1km take a R at Cilangkap and follow the road for 2.5km through the paddies as it narrows into a track.

Long well shapped left point-break over boulders, peeling in 300 yards toward the beach. Pantai Loji is acknowledged as a Saviour when Cimaja is too big, or is blown off by the southeast trade winds that are perfectly off-shore here. It likes a solid southwest swell or big south, preferably in the 6-8ft range. In these conditions, Loji is a reeling left with fun sections all the way across. When swell is really pumping, tide is less of an issue.

If however, it isn’t quite big enough for here, and winds are east southeast, there are quality lefts breaking into the i vermouth about 2km up the beach. Intermediates plus. Water can be dirty; avoid after rains.

Ombak Tujuh

10 nautical miles north of Ujung Genteng, or major mission if going overland. 1 hour bike ride north from Turtles.

Deep water left-hand reef break holding almost any size swell, this is the big-wave spot in West Java. If not always perfect, Ombak Tujuh (seven waves) offers some outrages drops requiring serious commitment, and rearing walls all the way across. Make able barrels are not as regular as some spots, but this is a hard-core adrenaline wave not unlike a reserve mid-tide day at outside Nusa Dua. Lower tides are best unless it’s big, when higher tides work fine. Advanced only. Not to be surfed alone.

Turtles
300m down the beach track from Batu Besar Losmen, 4 km north of Ujung Genteng.

Quality Left-hand reef with a high power to size ratio. The slightly shifting peak is extremely steep, and the barrels are square if unpredictable. The shallow reef isn’t totally ruler-edge, meaning close-outs are a possibility, but often it will just keep on going. Lower tides produce the best, most lined up conditions, especially if combined with a south swell and east winds. Small days can be fun too, on higher tides, with the wave getting harder to predict the bigger it gets.

Advanced. 2-6ft plus. Consistent: In dry season it’s a spot that rarely fails to deliver. There’s a crew of surfer’s hangout from which you can explore Ujung genteng waves as well as the mighty Ombak Tujuh.

Mama’s & Ujung Genteng

Take the road south from Pelabuhan ratu, to the harbor of Ujung Genteng. This sleepy fishing village has a mellow if not pristine beach where you can drink coconut juice and explore.

At Ujung Genteng Harbour itself, you’ll often see huge lines wrapping in from the outer point, way out the back. Inside this, and more protected from southeast trade-winds, is another left-hander that is ridden on occasion. Southwest swells are too perpendicular for the reef here to deal with, but straight south directions can wrap and create a fast hollow left-hander. This is a powerful spot for advanced surfers only. Higher tides make the entry and exit easier, as the exposed reef is hazardous at low.

About a kilometre and a half north of the harbor via a dodgy track, is Mama’s Losmen. Mama’s is out the front! A left-hand reef break of many moods; from fat, to hollow to closed out. On some days it will produce quality; usually on southeast trade-winds, higher tides and a south swell. 2-6ft. Advanced. Sharp reef close – outs.

Seasons

Surf is subject to the Indian Ocean wet/dry season cycle. South-East trade-winds dominate from late April to October, accompanied by drier weather and increased swell peaking from June to August. November through early April is wet season, with Northwest trades and decreasing swell. A typical January might have 400mm of rain, vs 50mm in August. West Java breaks work all year round; Panaitan has waves that are off shore in both predominant winds, as does the Cimaja area. G-Land is strictly a dry season wave, with on-shores frequent from October to April.

Crowds

Terrorism, and the Sumatran feeding frenzy have helped reduce crowds across Java in recent years. G-Land will always be G – Land, but if you are able to venture away from the obvious, you can find great waves with little aggravation in the water. 1500 km of coastline is a lot of waves.

Boards

Indo semi-guns are a useful piece of artillery right across Java, although some Cimaja area breaks are more fun / performance oriented, and the Batukaras area is ideal for long boarders. There are waves for everyone. Take plenty of your own supplies because surf shops are non existent, and board repairs are really only readily available in the Cimaja area and G-Land.

Hazards

All the usual Indo hazards apply, although road and accommodation infrastructure is relatively well developed. Of the places you are most likely to surf overland, spots west of Cimaja are pretty remote, and G-Land has its own unique jungle backdrop although the accommodation is now westernized to the max.

It is a country where poverty is sometimes confronting, so there are theft hazards associated with that. Medical facilities outside of Jakarta are fairly basic; take first aid supplies.

All the usual Indonesian sea creatures abound, with urchins the main offender. Sea snakes are common, as are shark sightings though attacks are statistically extremely unlikely.

With much surf travel in Java being of the overland type, sickness and disease, including malaria and diarrhoea, is an issue to take seriously. Check the back of the book, and consult your doc about preventive medicine / shots.

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