As I gear up for my fourteenth surf trip to Indonesia (yes, I enjoy it there!), I am filled with excitement and anticipation about scoring epic, warm water waves! I am also reminded of the long list of essentials you must bring to the more remote locations there.
In this article, we will cover how to pack for surf travel to Indonesia AND we will share our proven list of essentials.
Have a question about how to pack for surf travel to Indonesia? Let’s talk about it in the comments…
Many of Indonesia’s most popular surfing destinations – the Mentawais, G-Land, the Telo Islands, Nias – are extremely remote and have no surfing equipment available for purchase so you need to bring everything.
Importantly, you have invested considerable time and money on the trip. The last thing you want to do is get there without a critical piece of equipment.
Some of this may sound excessive but if you’re spending thousands of dollars for a ten day surf trip:
“It’s better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it!”
To make the most out of your trip, you need to be equipped to endure the harsh conditions of surf travel in Indonesia. Indonesia is HOT in and out of the water, the sun is fierce so close to the equator and the reefs are generally sharp and shallow relative to what most of us are accustomed to. You will need to combat the sun, dehydration, reef cuts, malaria (in places) and more.
WHAT TO BRING
1) 3-4x Good Wave Surfboards: the waves in Indonesia are serious – big, powerful, fast and the reef is often not far below. Therefore, you need to pack serious surfboards for good waves. If you haven’t already, read this article on a recommended quiver for the Mentawais. The waves in the Ments are the most intense of the locations I’ve been to in Indonesia so you can likely scale back a bit if you’re heading to Bali, for example, but don’t underestimate the speed and power. Your fat, flat hybrid for average waves at home will struggle in the delicious, curvy wave faces over there. Depending on location, you should bring at least three boards but I recommend four! On our first trip to the Mentawais, a mate snapped two boards in the first four days of our trip…
REFERENCE: need ideas for boards to bring to Indo? See surfboard reviews for High Performance / Step Up Surfboards here. These should all handle the delicious, juicy waves in Indonesia.
2) 1x Surfboard Bag: a critical piece of equipment that can make your life easier…or a living hell. I always go to Indonesia with a ‘coffin’, which generally holds 4 boards, has wheels and protection for transit.Do a bit of research, look at the weights of the bags you’re considering (you’ll be lifting it a lot), wheels make a big difference! For the last few years, I’ve been using a Creatures of Leisure wheelie coffin pictured here:
3) 4x Sets of Surfboard Fins: the unsung hero or villain of any quiver! A surfboard fin is to your board what a tire is to your car…hugely important and specific. You wouldn’t put a formula one race car tire on your family station wagon and vice versa. Just as you need the right surfboards for Indonesia, you also need the right fins for those boards.As with your boards, bring 3-4 sets in case you lose or break a set. It’s great to experiment with different fins, too, when you have so much time on a wave. You can really dial in what works for a board AND for your surfing style.The flexy fin with lots of foil that helps you to generate speed in mushy, average waves at home won’t cut it in Indo. You need fins designed for stability and control.
REFERENCE: learn more about surfboard fins in our article, Surfboard Fins Explained. Need fins for good waves? We have some of the the best surfboard fins for good waves available for sale here.
4) 4x Surfboard Leashes: I recommend you bring 3-4 new (or slightly used) leashes, one for each board. They will get a workout in the sun, constantly being stretched by big, powerful waves. Don’t bring your dirty old leashes or you could spend time swimming for your boards, only to find them washed up on the reef and full of dings!
Also, I don’t recommend ‘competition’ leashes, which are thinner. Go for something more heavy duty. If you’re bringing a gun surfboard and like big waves, pack a special, longer, thicker leash specifically for that board.
Leash brand choice is personal but I prefer the feel of Creatures of Leisure leashes or Channel Islands Surfboards Hex Cord leashes.
5) 2x Reef Booties: I take two pairs so I have a backup in case a bootie gets lost. This is always a contentious recommendation as some surfers wearing hate reef booties! I don’t like wearing them but I like cutting my feet less so, to me, reef booties are a necessary evil…but absolutely essential when packing for surf travel to Indonesia. Even the best surfers make mistakes and it only takes one slip up to get a nasty reef cut that you’ll have to live with (keep dry, disinfect, etc.) as you surf great waves all day, every day. After surfing a wave for a while, you might find the reef is gentle and they’re totally unnecessary but, again, it’s better to have them and not need them than need them and not have them!
I’ve tried different booties from different brands but the O’Neill Superfreak Tropical Reef Booties are my personal favourite. They’re comfortable but snug so they don’t move around on your feet…as close as I’ve found to wearing no booties at all.
6) 4x Board Shorts: bring at least four pairs (I bring 6) so you always have a dry pair to wear on land. I’ve seen some disgusting rashes from waterlogged skin that’s constantly wet. I don’t generally pack any other pants or shorts as you can live in your board shorts in Indonesia.
REFERENCE: While every surf apparel brand has tried to copy them, Hurley’s Phantom 120 board shorts are still my favourite technical board shorts…but they don’t make them anymore.
7) 4x Surfing Tee Shirts & Rash Vests + Surf Hat: I usually pack two surfing tee shirts, a short sleeved rash vest AND, importantly, a long sleeved rash vest with a built in hood that you can easily pull on and off in the surf (O’Neill makes a great one – see below). DO NOT pack the regular tee shirts you wear at home to wear all day in the surf. These are rated about 4SPF, whereas actual surfing tee shirts and rash vests are generally rated 30-50SPF. The sun will eat you there, even if you don’t know it. I don’t generally like the feel of a surf hat so I opt for the O’Neill hoody when I want something on my head.
If looking cool in the water is priority one for you, this might not be your cup of tea. But on the third surf of your seventh day in the blistering sun on scorching hot day, you will be pretty happy to be able to cover up with this O’Neill Ozone Tech Long Sleeve Hooded Rash Guard. The best thing about it? The hood pulls off and on with ease and stays out of your way. Protection from the sun on the paddle out. Pull it off for the full sensory experience of your 15th barrel when a wave approaches. I call mine the sperm suit…it’s lasted seven Indo surf trips and counting.
8) 3x Sun Cream & Zinc: pack two full tubes of the highest SPF rated, waterproof/sweat proof sun cream you can find AND a full tube of zinc and use it liberally, even if the sun doesn’t feel harsh. The sun is so fierce there, sun sickness and stroke is a very real threat. You need the best protection you can find. Sun exposure also saps your energy – it’s a marathon, not a sprint so apply lots of sun cream multiple times per day!
Want an awesome, natural alternative that will save your skin? Check out Surf Yogis All Natural Zinc Sun Cream!
9) 4x Tropical Wax: pack four full blocks, just in case as you do not want to run out and you will not be able to buy wax anywhere remote (not to mention, it costs a fortune in Bali). I like the Tropical Sex Wax in the blue box. Anything that says ‘Basecoat’ will likely work, too. In generally, the harder the wax, the better for hotter temperatures. More pliable cold water wax will come right off of your board in the heat of Indonesia.Importantly, if you are bringing surfboards with cold water wax on them, strip that wax off before you go! Hard, tropical wax won’t stick on cold water wax…it will rub right off.
NOTE: some guy on your trip won’t bring any wax and will need to borrow some, don’t be that guy.
10) 2x Polarised Sunglasses: bring two pairs so you have a backup if you lose or break a pair. Polarised lenses, in my opinion, are essential for cutting down glare in the bright, sunny weather you will encounter all day, everyday.
11) DSLR Camera and/or GoPro / GoPro Equivalent: to capture the trip if you are into that sort of thing. There is so much wave eye candy in Indonesia and the sunsets are breathtaking every single day!
12) Basic First Aid Kit: for treating minor reef cuts, sore muscles, runny tummies, rashes from surf tees and board shorts. ‘Silic 15’ (available in Australia) is a little known ointment that helps to prevent rashes if you know where you get them. Bring ibuprofen, sea sickness tablets if you’re on a boat and get sea sick, insect repellent (really important if you’re in a malaria risk area).For any stitching up or more serious treatments, the camp / boat should have equipment aboard (I’ve been stitched up twice on a boat trip to the Mentawais, it’s a straightforward exercise for someone with basic training, which most captains, guides and land camp owners have.For any serious injuries…
13) Travel Insurance: most boat trip / land camp / surf travel agencies require travel insurance with the emergency medical evacuation option. Unfortunately, serious accidents can and do happen in the big, powerful, shallow waves of Indonesia. Don’t go on a surf trip to Indonesia (or anywhere) without it! You could be up for an enormous bill or worse…
REFERENCE: I have always used Columbus Direct Travel Insurance. They have competitive rates (MUCH lower vs. domestic Australian insurers) and review well…and they’re underwritten by Lloyds of London, which is one of the most established insurers on earth.
14) Hydralyte + Multi Vitamins: a little known trick to maintain wellbeing while you surf your brains out all day everyday is to maintain your electrolytes, vitamins and minerals. You should be drinking tons of water, you’ll be vigorously exercising in the sun and this will sap your body of many things it needs. Start taking Hydralyte (or equivalent) to replenish electrolytes and multivitamins from the start. Double up on electrolyte intake a few days into the trip through to the end. Trust me on this one, it makes a world of difference.
15) Basic Board Repair Kit: for minor dings and dents. Your boat or land camp should have someone with the skills and desire to make a couple of bucks on more serious repairs.
16) Portable Speaker & iPod: not essential but it is nice to have a little speaker you can listen to as you and and your mates enjoy a Bintang at sunset after an amazing day of waves!
17) Malaria Medicine: many surfing locations in Indonesia have a high malaria risk. That said, the first time (in 13 trips) that I will take Malaria medication is for my upcoming trip to Simeulue. Research before, talk to a doctor and make the call.
18) A Good Surf Backpack: to carry all of the above! Look no further than the awesome – it has space for everything a surfer could possibly want to carry – Channel Islands Essential 42L Surf Backpack! It is mighty…
Oh, bring a few tee shirts to wear at night. I always end up wearing half of the tees I bring! Here are some cool tee shirts if you’re in need of a refresh.
Did I miss something? Tell me in the comments…
Don’t waste money and precious time on your overseas surf trip by forgetting to bring the right equipment! We hope this guide on How You Pack for Surf Travel to Indonesia will help to get the most out of your next tropical surf adventure!