Hunting Waves on the Outskirts of Indonesia
While contest surfers get the glitzy trophies, the photo ops with super models and the oversized checks covered with zeros, there are those wave riders—with world-class skills and world-beating daydreams—who leave behind the traditional path of professional surfing and light out for the territory ahead. Armed with maps of third world countries, stamp-filled passports and beefy first aid kits, they pack their bags and fly half way around the world in search of dream waves—the type of hollow, grinding fantasy barrels that you used to draw in your notebook during high school math class.
While pay checks do occasionally find their way into the pockets of these modern day Marco Polos, at the end of the day it is the reward of risk-filled adventure and never-before surfed, picture-perfect empty waves that spur these young travelers on. Their stories are the stuff of underground legend, parking lot storytelling sessions and the occasional surf magazine feature. However, tonight, February 1 at the Arlington Theatre, the Santa Barbara International Film Festival is offering up the world premier of The Forgotten Coast—the awe-inspiring tale of a few of these brave souls and their late May sojourn into the outer isles of Indonesia.
“It was more a feral mission than an organized surf trip,” explained the film’s director Justin LePera earlier this week. A Colorado native but current Southern California resident, The Forgotten Coast is LePera’s first surf film and—as anybody who has ever stepped off the well-beaten tourist routes of the South Pacific and ventured out on his or her own knows—the young movie maker picked quite a bold and challenging location for his first attempt. However, as inexperienced in the surf film industry as LePera may have been, the surfers he traveled with last spring were about as well-versed in Indonesian travel as any in the business. With the likes of Kerouac-esque big wave charger Brian Conley, Huntington Beach legends and de-facto Indo residents Travis Potter and Micah Byrne, and Australian ripper Daniel Thompson on board, the crew had more than their fair share of experience. As LePera put it, “It’s absolutely amazing what these guys are willing and able to go through to get waves.”
Described by the director as being “more about the struggle to find waves” than the actual reward, The Forgotten Coast details a 20-day tour through the outer islands near Sumatra to a place that no one in the crew—not even the hired Indonesian boat drivers—had ever been to before. Through monsoon rains, sleepless nights packed into a modest 30-foot fishing boat, far flung villages, dry reef tube rides and a broken vertebrae for Thompson, the crew soldiers on, cameras rolling the entire time. Hinting at the treasures they caught on film and with a sly grin on his face, LaPera practically whispered to me in the bustling lobby of the Hotel Santa Barbara, “We got a point where the swell just kept coming—straight open ocean swells from the roaring 40’s—and we just couldn’t leave. The guys just kept paddling back out each morning…You know, just perfect incredible waves.” And tonight, for the first time on big screen, those treasures will be laid bare for all to see.
Tonight’s screening is the first and only during this year’s film festival.