Sumatra is an exotic destination that every surfer needs to visit at least once. With its rich culture, rugged beauty and top-notch surf breaks, it provides a once in a lifetime experience to those that visit. Once out of reach, Sumatra is now the go-to destination for all surfers.
Located south of the Malay Peninsula and west of Java, Sumatra is the largest island located entirely in Indonesia and the sixth largest globally. The west, northwest and southwest coasts of Sumatra are surrounded by the Indian Ocean, this combined with its unique location, produce arguably the best waves in the world; it’s one of the most wave dense regions on earth.
With a population of over 50 million people, Sumatra is not overly populated due to its vastness, however it is considered the fifth most populous island in the world. A long history of foreign explorers visiting its shores, along with its remote location, has created an incredibly distinctive culture with 52 languages spoken throughout the island.
The Bukit Barisan Mountains, containing several active volcanoes, are the foundation of the island, with the north-eastern region featuring large plains and lowlands containing swamps, mangroves and complex river systems. The equator crosses the island’s centre through the provinces of West Sumatra and Riau, making it hot and humid.
During the 19th century, European writers found that indigenous inhabitants didn’t have a name for the island. However, it was once known as Swarnadwīpa or Swarnabhūmi, Sanskrit names meaning "Island of Gold" and "Land of Gold" respectively, due to gold deposits in the island's highlands.
Sumatra has high economic value for Indonesia, it’s known for its world-renowned coffee, palm oil production and petroleum. These factors, along with its growing population are putting strain on its hugely unique ecosystem. Its wildlife is found nowhere else in the world and includes critically endangered species like the Sumatran ground cuckoo, tiger, elephant, rhino and orangutan. It has lost almost 50% of its century’s old tropical rainforest in the last few decades.
It is a highly tectonically active region, with the Great Sumatran fault and the Sunda megathrust running the entire length of the island along its west coast. In 2004, a tsunami caused by a long earthquake devastated the region; more than 170,000 Indonesians were killed.
Sumatra surf is world-renowned. Idyllic surf conditions and mostly unexplored breaks is what draws surfers from around the globe. Now, much more accessible to travellers, the dream of visiting this secretive destination has now become a reality. World-class surf camps and surf boat charters provide visitors with local knowledge that is invaluable, making for an authentic experience. With such an array of surfing options, the possibilities are endless. Don’t miss out on your opportunity to travel around one of the world’s most visually stunning and culturally rich places.
With a median temperature of 25°C, (both in and out the water), Sumatra is a tropical paradise like no other. If you’re searching for an endless Summer then Sumatra is the place to visit. The best season to surf in Sumatra is the dry season, which is from May to September. Between March and November there is consistent 6-12ft swell with 3-6ft swell the rest of the year. The wet season is from around November until February. High rainfall is experienced during this time so road travel can be impeded, keep this in mind if you’re planning to travel during this period.
Sumatra surf is mostly suited to intermediate and advanced surfers. With large swell, reef breaks and big waves, often in remote locations, it’s not for the faint hearted. You will need to be a strong swimmer, have a good knowledge of ocean currents, be able to read the waves and most of all, know your limits before heading out to any of the surf spots.
To fully experience the surf breaks, you must be able to duck dive and hold your breath, paddle quickly and for an extended amount of time and surf waves over 6ft. If you can’t, then you may want to consider the beginner breaks that are dotted around Sumatra’s surfing regions. Having a local guide is key to getting the most out of your experience and ensuring that you surf within your ability. Your guide will use his knowledge of the area to take you to surf spots best suited to your ability, ensuring that you have awesome and safe surf sessions.
The Sumatran surfing regions include the West coast and surrounding islands, and South Sumatra. Accessible by air, each region has countless surf spots with several surf camps and boat charters to cater to all types of travellers.
Within the surfing regions, there are six main surfing destinations that offer distinctly unique experiences, namely:
This remote town offers countless top-class surf spots, reaching about 1 hr each way along its rugged and untouched coastline. If you’re keen to get away from the crowds and travel off the beaten track, then this is a destination you don’t want to miss. Local knowledge is crucial to getting the most out of your visit to this region. With a large selection of surf camps and surf boat charters, local guides will take you to the best hidden breaks in the area. Mostly suited to intermediate and advanced surfers, there are a few breaks that are suitable for beginners.
Read more about surf in Krui - South Sumatra
This cluster of islands is one of the most wave dense regions on earth, producing consistent, quality swell. Light winds provide glassy conditions with numerous reef breaks scattered throughout this remote archipelago. The area is made up of 4 main surfing areas, namely: Playgrounds, North Sipora, South Sipora and Pagai. Mostly suited to intermediate and advanced surfers; hop on and off your surf boat charter to make the most of this remarkable region.
Read more about surf in the Mentawai Islands
With 15 world-class waves within 20 minutes of each other and one of West Sumatra’s least crowded surf spots, the Telo Islands is a must visit. With breaks that have been graced by pro surfers to spots with gentle swell that suit beginners, it has breaks suited to all levels. Cruising around the islands on your surf boat charter will be an unforgettable experience.
Read more about surf in the Telo Islands
Off the beaten track and less visited than the other areas in West Sumatra, the Banyak Islands are made up of 99 sparsely inhabited islands. Perfect, glassy swell is to be expected, incredibly groomed waves frequently break on the shores. If you’re an intermediate or advanced surfer who’s keen on right-hand reef breaks, calm year-round winds and uncrowded line ups then this is the place for you.
Read more about surf in the Banyak Islands
This area consists of 100 kms of unexplored and rarely surfed spots. It’s the most northern island off the West coast that surf camps and surf boat charters will operate. Impeccably positioned so that swell coming up from the Indian Ocean has the longest reach of any island in Indonesia, and perfectly formed waves consistently arrive at its shores, makes it any surfers dream location. There are 12 high quality surf spots in the area, as well as many other unnamed breaks, all suited to intermediate and advanced surfers.
Read more about surf in Simeulue
The Hinako islands provide consistent, high quality left and right-hand waves year-round. Located off the coast of Nias, an island off the West Coast of Sumatra, this region is worth a visit at any time of the year. Made up of a group of 8 islands, its location allows it to collect almost any swell that the Indian Ocean delivers. It’s harder to get to than other areas in the region but well worth a visit. Both surf camps and surf boat charters are an option when visiting the islands.
Read more about surf in the Hinako Islands - Nias