A GSN Postcard from NIAS by Vanessa Cook.

A GSN Postcard from NIAS by Vanessa Cook.

After spending a week in beautiful Samoa, Vanessa and her fiancé Michael headed back to Sydney to re-group, before jumping on the next plane to Indo. This voyage was to be, for them, a ‘last wave’ of sorts. A few months of letting loose and surfing their brains out, before returning to ‘reality’, getting hitched, and perhaps producing a few frothing grommies of their own.


Words by Vanessa.


YEW! With a quick turnaround in Sydney, we are re-packed and off, jet setting to Indo for a few months of solid surfing. Our first leg is an early morning, eye-rubbing flight from Sydney to Kuala Lumpur. Michael takes the window seat, hoping that this “giant flying sausage”, as he puts it, isn’t going to crash. Already frothing on our newest adventure, we are both like giggling school kids. We can’t believe we pulled this off! This is our last hurrah before we get married and hopefully make some of our own groms (fingers crossed). Here’s to surfing our brains out as a formidable duo, one last time!

Short stop in Kuala Lumpur, then it’s straight to Indo’s capital city, Medan, and a decent night’s, 4 star stay. The last time I ventured from KL to Sumatra, it didn’t go so well. My friend (who will remain nameless), with all our travel info, missed our flight and I landed in Padang by myself. To top my accidental solo flight off, my mobile was stolen in KL airport, brilliant. So, you can imagine, it was with great delight that this time, Medan was a comfortable stop!


If I could sum up my first sight of Nias in one word, it would be “green”. It is definitely a jungle! The towns are quite charming and seem much less poverty stricken than some Indo islands I’ve previously been to. The houses are quaint, some even Medieval style!

Nias Indonesia Map


We arrive at Keyhole Surf and Timmy our surf guide greets us with a huge smile. Eager to get wet after our whirlwind trip home, we unpack and scramble out into the water for a long overdue surf! Getting out to this wave is tricky. First is a walk across the sharp coral reef to get to the keyhole. Imagine for a minute, a pack of elephants doing ballet, that is what one looks like as they try to walk across the reef, and I can’t help but giggle as I watch everyone who crosses, perform this clumsy ‘reef dance’.

cookie and michael

In certain spots, it’s seems as though the reef is breathing. Imagine a drain hole filling; with the water rising and falling, accompanied by a gurgling noise, this is what Keyhole is like. We paddle over to the pack, smile, say our hellos, and meet all our new surfing buddies! Today, 2-3 glassy right-handers are coming through. I’m on my 6’0” Marsh rounded tail and my Go Loopy Surfkini. Everything is as it should be. Jus then, I was there, in the moment. It was bliss.

We take a breather out in the line up to learn the markers, the sets, and when to paddle for your life. For the smaller ones, it’s a strike mission – Stick to your markers and paddle like crazy, pop-up and WOOSH, off you go. There is enough room on this wave to spread your wings and get in a few big turns, before stalling for cover. I got my first decent sized barrel! It was 4-6’ glass, and I will never forget it.


Checking the forecast after an epic session, the charts were lit up! We were looking to get solid 8-10ft over the next few days. Everyone was frothing, the line-up was packed at first light and the forecast did not disappoint. Yep, it was a solid 8-10ft and the bigger sets were about 15 minutes apart, giving the pack enough time to regain themselves before the next onslaught. But, with over 40 people out there, and only 4 waves in a set, not everyone was getting their fill, and things were turning ugly.

The Big One

I was sitting at the peak on my Al Merrick 6’6” board, a lot bigger than I’d usually ride, but you definitely need that extra foam to get onto these ones. A bomb started to line up, I watched it rise and started paddling for my life. It was massive, a late takeoff, and I felt like I was free falling down the face, landing like a cat in the trough. I didn’t dare stall! Instead, I get a few turns in and pull off as the wave fattened out. Michael was hooting me the whole way from the shoulder, and as I pulled off the wave, a few of the local photographers swam across yelling “Big wave! Big wave! I have good photos! Ah yes!”


As the day draws to a close, the surf builds even bigger, and after already having a massive day in the water, my arms feel like spaghetti. I’d had my fill and was quite happy sitting with the locals, watching the waves come in. Some of the local girls had seen my Surfkini, Girl Surf Network and Sambora board stickers earlier and hung around asking questions, and wanting to play. I got my Sambora nail polish out and treated all the girls to a little mani-pedi. They loved it! ☺

Sambora Nail Polish

As we sat painting nails and telling girly stories I started to hear the screams, hoots, and whistles coming from behind me. We turned to check out Indicators, a right-hander 500m up the reef. It was going off, and behind that, on the horizon was … “The Wave”.

We all watched as the horizon moved slowly to the peak. The 10 surfers out there had no idea that this monster was on its way. We watched on and hooted with delight as this thing approached, it looked to play out like a David and Goliath battle! Hehe! The surfers watched the first wave start to drain off the reef and quickly dug deep, paddling to the horizon to get behind this beast, before it detonated on the reef. One surfer turned to paddle, took the drop and scored the ride of his life!


This Monster grew and grew and grew. In the dusk light, it was getting hard to see, and at times, it was just like a 10-12ft mountain of water was steam-training to the reef. This wave is mean. As it draws near the shallows, it sucks up, stands tall and heaves a heavy fat lip over onto the shallow reef. To see it is like you’re watching footage of a wave being played back in slow motion.

Thankfully, everyone survives for another day!


The next morning Michael got up for an early surf. I kissed him goodbye, wished him good waves and sat up on the rooftop balcony in the dark. I had a little chuckle watching him perform the usual ‘elephant ballet’ when entering the keyhole. I made my way up onto the roof for a morning yoga session, with dawn breaking and roosters crowing.

Enjoying a moment of peace and serenity, I hear Michael’s voice. “Come on, there’s no monsters out there!”, he says, as heads in with only two fins left on his 7’2. A few quick repairs and we headed out. I sat on the shoulder for a set and then scored a nice 6’ glassy wave. The next set came in, a 10ft bomb roaring through right along with it. I scratched for the horizon, thinking I had barely made it through, only to see a surfer turn and takeoff just 2 meters next to me. Big Balls!

After gently easing myself into it, it was time to hit the main peak. “Michael turns to me with a determined grin, and says, “Let’s go get you onto a big one”. And so, like a scene straight out of Blue Crush, I was there, in the line up. The swell was a solid 8ft. “Sit right next to this guy and you’re up in 5 waves time” commanded Michael. “And, when I say paddle, you paddle your heart out!”

Oh, dear God!! I was going to die! Michael made sure I stayed next to this random guy in the line-up. Then with my heart pounding my chest, my hands shaking with fear, I heard that immortal word… “P A D D L E !”
Oh f###!!! I paddled…I paddled my heart out. I heard the pack start hooting and cheering me. I looked left and right (not that I wanted to see my death wave coming). I saw the wave rise up and felt my board lock in. I popped up, made the drop, and surprisingly, found myself going along the wall for a few moments of absolute stoke. I could see the shoulder, the exit, safety, it was right there!

Cookie Nias Right 2

Then, I felt it. My back foot was way out of place and stalling me in the trough. My board spun out of control, I slam into the wave face and was sucked over the falls. Sucked into a seemingly endless free fall before slamming into the water below, I thought, ‘It’s not over yet!’. If you could only see what happens under the water when you’re being worked by a wave like this, it would make for entertaining viewing, for sure. Equal parts good laugh, and spine-tingling cringe.

Cookie Nias Right 3

Post endless free-fall, the wave kindly delivered my board to me somewhere underwater, and after what seems like an eternity, I climb up my leggie to the surface, just in time to see the next wave detonate in front of me. Surviving the blast, it was then that I felt the pain in my knee. I looked down to find it was still attached. That’s a relief! I paddled in and iced it up while consulting our German Physio neighbour. He assured me it was only soft-tissue damage and strapped it up nice. No more surfing for me today, though!
30 minutes later Michael came in with a snapped board and only 1 reef boot. Followed moments later by the local ding repairman, who promised to fix it by the next morning. Michael changed the fin on his 7’2 and was out again. 60 minutes later, he was back with a cut foot, and called it a day.

We’re off to Bali tomorrow for the next leg of our adventure. Hopefully the reef there is more forgiving! ☺

x Ness x


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One Comment

  1. google play February 8, 2014 at 3:40 pm

    Great article.

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