Sofia Mulanovich, Lance's Right.
Fourteen years ago, the word “Mentawais” was unknown. At the time, of course, we’d all seen videos and magazines showing guys like Tom Curren and Kelly Slater ripping epic, palm-fronted waves, leaping into fantasy lineups from Martin Daly’s big blue-and-white steel boat, the Indies Trader I. In 1997, only surfing’s royalty knew of the Trader’s coordinates.
But a year later, we were all scrambling for maps and travel-agent phone numbers, because by 1998 the secret was out—we had to do a Mentawais boat trip like Curren and Slater and the rest of the big-name pros, and we had to do it in style.
One major reason was this: In August 1997, captain Daly, armed with his new, plush Indies Trader II, had floated New-Schoolers Slater, Pat O’Connell, Ross Williams, Taylor Knox, and Chris Malloy through the Mentawai chain, and the voyage was documented for 1998’s No Destination, a Quiksilver film and Surfing magazine feature, essentially the first luxury “surf star” Indo boat trip tailored for public consumption.
“No Destination happened at a time when the U.S. magazines were really starting to blow the Mentawais apart,” Daly said. “It was a great surf movie which launched the world’s first high-end surf-charter boat.”
Before No Destination, Daly and journalist Nick Carroll had collaborated on several Mentawais projects, stirring the surf-world’s interest with imagery of celebrities in unidentified tropical perfection, totally off-limits for the rest of us. According to Carroll, 1994’s Surfers of Fortune film and article came from the first real “knockout” trip.
“I distinctly recall the whole ‘Indo boat trip!’ fascination thing erupting as a result,” he said. “But the hang-ups were: a) we weren’t publishing the locations, so a lot of people didn’t really know where it was; and b) there weren’t many boats doing the Mentawai run. Most people thought Martin was the only captain in town, so the numbers of surfers doing trips there remained quite limited. This definitely whetted many surf star—and magazine editor—appetites, because the big lure of the Mentawais, other than the secrecy and beautiful waves, was always that you could be assured of exclusivity.”
Things changed in 1998.
“There was a sudden increase in charter availability and the inevitable publication of location names,” Carroll said. “This happened around the same time as No Destination’s magazine release and so appeared to occur in concert, but, really, the post-1997 Mentawais blowup had been years in the making.”
And so the Mentawais reality in 2011 is a far cry from 1997, when the islands truly were “no destination” in particular. Besides the new upmarket resorts, today there are several high-dollar Mentawais-based yachts, easily booked through a number of surf-travel companies worldwide. If you want to go and surf the Mentawais in style, you can—just like the surf stars.
“It has enabled people to experience the ‘ultimate’ in surf travel,” Ross Williams said. “Lots of people surf now, and they all need and want to go on an Indo boat trip.”