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Blue Tomato

Stormrider Guide to surfing West Sumbawa

Indonesia, EAST ASIA

Scar Reef, Paul Kennedy


+ Consistent swells - SE trade wind restricts choice
+ World-class waves - Slow overland access
+ Semi-crowded - Lack of alternative activities
+ Exploration potential - No direct flights

The next surf zone of West Sumbawa has been surfed for decades, but due to lack of good transport links, it has remained a boat itinerary for most. Scar, Supers and Yoyo’s are firm favourites, but cruise around the corner and a wave wilderness opens up along the south coast for 180km (110mi). Once again the charters are in a hurry to get to the name breaks and safe anchorages so few spots are regularly surfed. The predominant coastal angle would favour NW wet season winds, but there are many deep bays backed by high coastal ranges that funnel winds down valleys to meet the sea at rivermouths and reef passes that are going to work during the dry season. Remoteness, rough seas and no roads are going to keep this coast off the maps for years to come.

When to Go

Sumbawa receives all the normal Indonesian swell trains and the 6-12ft (2-4m) swells from April-Oct are needed to penetrate the western bays. Statistically, the Western Sumbawa Alas Strait doesn’t quite get the same amount of long period, bigger swells that hit Bali and Java and 5 star days are rarer. Slight variations include less swells from a due S direction and W swells are blocked, so only pulses that are 15º either side of SW will get in. The E-SE trades can be reliable (80% of the time) and very strong, averaging 25km/h (16mph) in July, but mornings can still be offshore as cool mountain air descends to the coast before convection brings the sea breeze. During the off-season the wind shifts to a W-NW direction, starting with W predominance and moving around to a NW direction towards the end of March. This is a good time to check the south coast or head to Lakey Peak. Download the diurnal tide chart so you know when the big tide is going to give the shallow reefs enough cover.

Surf Spots

Northern Rights is a treacherous angle of reef that needs the biggest, straightest SW swell, mid tides and a rare N wind to make the journey up the channel worth it. There are other waves around if the swell is pumping, but generally the coves and bays of reef-protected beach hold little more than straighthanders. This theme continues down through Serewah Bay to the harbour and rivermouth at Labuhan Lalar, where once again a massive swell is needed to refract onto the reefy beach at Fly, hitting a right triangle and a few easy peaks along it’s length. Somewhere for improvers to escape the swell, but not the zillions of flies attracted to drying fish and the polluted river. Downtowns becomes the default wave when Scar is too small or crowded and offers less critical peaks, including a nice right that sucks in swell and peels off the northern extremity of Jelenga Beach. This stretch has better coverage at mid to high tide and is an easy option paddling out through the keyhole if staying in the beach accommodation. Scar Reef is the main attraction in West Sumbawa, offering multiple barrel opportunities for advanced surfers willing to take a risk with possibly the sharpest reef in Indo. It starts off fast with a throwing take-off, then constant tongues of the lip flick out to swallow you as a series of backdoor sections demand high speed and clear positioning to thread the wave to the sketchy inside closeout. It’s personality changes constantly as low tide madness becomes perfect mid-tide bowls, before giving way to fast sloping walls and envelopes at high. Can pick up quickly without warning, sometimes bringing cool, deep water from the channel and will handle triple overhead. Only 5km down the coast is Benete, a major containership terminal and port, which gives you a clue as to how protected this deep bay is. Big NW swells have to bend plenty to create another classic left over a shallow shelf beneath cliffs. This one is top to bottom from the peak to the final section where it closes-out and there’s nowhere to go if caught inside by the shifting peak. Inconsistent because E trade winds bump it up, while S-SW is offshore and it’s only safely surfed at high tide. Maluk Bay is the home of Super Suck, which continues the West Sumbawa pattern of a deep, cliff-lined bay, waiting for a bigger SW-W swell to show it’s world-class colours. The name says it all, especially at low tide, which is usually only surfed by bodyboarders or the very best tube technicians and depth is measured in inches. Take-offs are beyond critical and require an angled, straight into the barrel approach, which briefly lets up before increasing speed towards the inevitable straight reef shut-down. A resort and some cheap losmens hold the bulk of the keen, patient crowd, bolstered by boats descending when this fickle wave finally fires. Crowded and intense. Sekongkang Bay is a swell magnet, with a couple of exposed slabs referred to as Yo-yo’s thanks to the refraction off the cliffs. The Wedge does just that as smaller S-W swells bounce off the towering cliffs to form a steep but easy drop into a short punchy right that sucks up nicely before it ends abruptly. The Hook sits further down the reef where it curves into a proper channel and is more likely to hold up and spin off some makeable barrels. Neither spot handles SE trades nor major swells, so small, glassy mornings at mid tide are best. Around the headland the coast begins facing south around Sejorong, which is over-exposed to swell and wind. Off-season NW winds combined with smaller ground and windswells will hit a long reef pass, shaping up some sectiony, speed walls to shoulders that are rarely ridden by passing boats. Bad currents may also bring tailings from the massive Batu Hijau open cut copper and gold mine that reputedly dumps into the ocean and rivers around here. Further west is an even better right reef pass and then miles of wilderness waves waiting for the SE trades to die off.


dominant swell S -SW S -SW S -SW S -SW S -SW S -SW
swell size (ft) 4 5 6 7 5-6 4
consistency (%) 60 80 90 90 90 70
dominant wind W -NW E -NW E -SE E -SE E -S SE -NW
average force F3 F2 F3 F3 F3 F3
consistency (%) 65 88 74 80 79 72
water temp (C) 29 28 28 27 27 28
wetsuit boardshorts boardshorts boardshorts boardshorts boardshorts boardshorts

Travel Information

Warm to hot temperatures, regular sea breezes and some overnight rains temper the dry season from May-Oct. The average temp is 28°C (82°F). Nov-April is wetter, cloudier and hotter. Jan-Feb suffers from heavy rains and stifling hot temperatures. Warm clothing is needed for forays into the mountains. West Sumbawa is drier than the eastern end of the island and the brown, scrubby hillsides explode with greenery during the wet. Water temps are a stable 28°C (82°F) year-round. Boardies and a rashy plus a shorty and booties for protection against the nasty sharp reefs at Scars and Super Suck.

Lodging and Food
Charter boats; Sri Noa Noa is an Australian owned 46’ twin masted schooner ($900/6d – Freeline). Moggy is a 46ft cat and runs all year. There are many smaller Bali-based outfits that offer various vessels like Dreamweaver and Indocean – shop around for price vs safety. Cheap, land-based losmen accommodation is available at Jelinggah (Scar), Maluk (Super Suck) and Sekongkang (Yo-Yo’s) from $5/n. Supersuck Hotel starts at $30/n. The upscale Tropical Beach Club in Sekongkang caters to the ex-pat mining community, next to the charter airstrip.

Nature and Culture
Boat charter flat day options include good fishing and snorkelling, otherwise take a long book. Sumbawa is not as culturally rich as Bali. There are some great buffalo races in the rice paddies, but most of the more interesting sites are a long way from the waves.

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