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No Hangover

True perfection rides the coattails at Nias.

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In late summer of 2018, the Indian Ocean was juiced up with back-to-back swells on the immediate forecast and a giant one flirting with the long-range charts. So I booked my first trip to Nias and boarded a plane packed full of big-wave surfers, including Mark Healey, Koa Rothman, Billy Kemper, and Nathan Florence, among others. It seemed more fitting to be traveling with this group to Jaws or Nazaré, not an island off of Sumatra. I didn’t know much about the wave, but I did know that such a group of people wouldn’t fly halfway across the world for an average few days of surfing. Something special was surely in store for us.

Everyone remembers the day the big swell peaked: tripled-up set waves, hectic currents, a boat going over the falls, rain, deep and dark tubes. The lineup was filled with anticipation as waves sucked the water off the reef and went below sea level. There was no shortage of power. It was exactly what that group of big-wave psychos went there for. But while that day was great for photos, half of it was just completely unrideable. 

Because that session was so dramatic, it’s easy to forget how perfect Lagundri Bay was as the swell dropped. Over the next few days, front-lit, green barrels ran nonstop with a ruler’s edge down the reef—school-notebook-drawing-type waves reeling over and over and over again. Yes, guys got the rides of their lives with their hearts in their throats during the swell’s peak, but, as a photographer, it was those following sessions of consistently perfect surf that have been seared into my memory. This was one of the few strikes I’ve been on where all the elements came together for an entire week as opposed to a single afternoon, which is what typically happens.