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Drifter Journals - June 2024

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"Iwas in love at first sight. It felt almost fake or surreal as if you were traveling through a dream…” recalls Kristyan Stjerne.

“That trip re-ignited my drive to go find new waves and feel the magic of Indonesia,” adds Curtis Lowe. “It was a good reminder that there is still a lot of magic here. This country has such incredibly nice people and beautiful waves that I’m in love, again…”

Such sentiments were the unanimous vibe recounting Drifter Surf’s recent team jaunt to a destination off a certain National Park, somewhere in the archipelago. Kristyan and Curtis were just two of six that had the pleasure of traveling to this special place and, well, absolutely scoring a variety of pumping waves (thanks to photog Nate Lawrence) upon arrival. While we could sum up the tale in a short story with a few images, we felt it was best to have the team that was actually there paint the picture with their own inspired words.

And so here they are…

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Katie Kealoha: As soon as you land in that part of Indonesia you drive six hours through the jungle. There’s signs for tigers crossing, telling you not to get out of your car, or at least that’s what we thought they were saying. The air gets fresh as you go up a mountain and we stopped for durian towards the top from a sweet man at a roadside fruit stand. Usman picked one and I think Kish picked the other, both of them claiming to have picked the best one. Of course, the local boy got the best one and I was sneaking pieces of it for days. I have this belief that durian is the fruit of the gods and when someone enjoys it the gods are within them.

Usman Trioko: It’s such a beautiful and peaceful region. It has beautiful energy. It feels like a second home to me over there because there are so many perfect waves and the people are so friendly, always making it feel like you’re right at home.

Kristyan Stjerne: It was my first time going to that part of Indonesia so I didn’t know what to expect. It is so beautiful and lush out there. Green monkeys everywhere, stories of tigers and orangutans beyond a couple hills over — it felt like I was in a different world, or a real-life safari park. Beautiful, empty, shallow reef breaks scattered about with gorgeous coconut fields… I was in love at first sight. It felt almost fake or surreal as if you were traveling through a dream. Each island I have visited in Indonesia is so different but this island felt nothing like Bali, yet still there is an underlying magic that feels so familiar. The crew we were with was as good as it gets, so I knew right from the start no matter where we ended up we were going to have a full beam-off.

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Usman and Brian on the daily commute, Indo style.

Curtis Lowe: The zone feels waaaay more out there than Bali and has a bit of a remote feeling to it. I mean, it takes a whole day to get there with flights and long drives and stuff. There’s also this cool feeling of being wrapped in a blanket of green. I think it’s because it is sandwiched between the sea and a big national park. There’s a wall of jungle rising up out of the ocean everywhere you go and when you look at the map, you can see that the park is huge and those mountains are so big.

On the drive in, we were passing through a coconut grove and saw this man looking up into a tree. He was talking to someone and coconuts were flying out of the tree onto the ground. The person he was talking to turned out to be a monkey. It was a really strange moment and everything started to feel surreal. We finally noticed that the surf was just a little ways away and walked over to see big lines barreling down the reef and no one out.

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Arriving to a scene like this is what dreams are made of.

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Katie realizing all that travel was worth it.

Katie: We were there for six days, I think. Curtis and I would roll out of bed every morning around 4:45 but the rest of the boys would already be outside the room at 4:30 drinking coffee, all stoked. We’d pile into two cars each, bringing all of our boards on top and Nate, our fearless leader, would take us somewhere. I’d be sitting in the middle seat getting rocked back and forth around the turns and we’d have no idea where we were going. Then we’d roll up to some epic new spot that was going off each time. Somehow, we got every wave with basically no one out!

Kristyan: We showed up on a big swell during the holy holiday of Ramadan, so the locals were fasting from sun up till sundown and in a very happy celebratory mood. Everyone had warm smiles and great vibes. Overnight, the swell marched in and we woke up in the dark to big, raw out of control swell. We drove up the coast at first light to a reef that would be able to handle the conditions and saw mutant waves and foam balls outrunning faces making it challenging to even mind-surf the ocean. It had a mean, powerful feel to it and I could feel my surf-anxiety build. The next couple days, the swell settled and that Indonesian perfection started to become a reality. Every spot we went to started lighting up: vibes-unlimited.

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Katie: Trekking through the jungle and journeying up the river was definitely the most unforgettable moment. Nate had been encouraging us to collect a huge amount of mushrooms throughout the week, and I had been skeptical like, Why do we need to accumulate so many mushrooms? But then Chris, our new friend, took a big jar of them secretly and blended them with some lemon into a shake for each of us. Kopral, Usman, and I had to stand on the boat for a photo shoot so all the other boys got off and stood in the shallows of the river. We came around the corner and I saw the boys all standing there waist deep in the marshes and I couldn’t keep it together for the shot.

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Kopral, Kristyan, and Usman harvesting the daily crop.

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Usman feeling right at home in a deceptively heavy right-hand pit.

Usman: The best moment for me in the water was at a certain righthander. It was perfect peeling barrels. Outside of the water was truly the best and hard to pinpoint one top moment, but the stoke we felt when we first saw the wave was pretty unforgettable. I had one not so great moment at a wave where I got smacked the entire time. I would love to come back when the swell isn’t maxing-out at this wave. Then I’ll be back and smack this wave like it smacked me. But for now: That wave: 1, Usman: 0.

Kristyan: The whole trip was special, plenty of special waves and beautiful moments but the soul connection between friends are always my favorite things about these surf trips. There is a special kinship that surfers have through the sharing of waves; a deep dream-time connection that you get to experience when you go on surf trips. Those moments and waves just last seconds, minutes at most, but the vibes and feelings last a lifetime.

Curtis: We you get the call from Nate, you just go. It was extra epic because the crew was some of my favorite people to surf with — old friends I’ve known for years like Kopral and Brian and Kish and Usman — plus my girlfriend Katie. I think we were there for about one week, maybe a little more, but it felt like we were on an epic, long surf trip because we surfed sooo much and everyday was a new spot, diving or surfing or floating down a big river through a jungle.

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Those classic Indonesian hues.

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Curtis threading the tube on his Cuttle Fish.

Kristyan: My favorite wave we surfed was this wild righthander. The first section was a super fun, beautiful barrel section but the second barrel was nuts over pretty much dry reef.

Curtis:
That one left…it was like a dream come true. I don’t think I’ve ever been on a surf trip and really scored like that. We rocked up to absolutely pumping waves, perfect hollow tubes wrapping into the bay and no one out and we got to surf that, just us, for hours.

Usman:
The main wave we surfed which I really loved was directly in front of where we stayed: a pumping beach break with a ton of power and a steep takeoff. I got so much adrenaline from this wave and have a hard time falling asleep when I’m thinking about it! The other one was a perfect barrel breaking over reef with a totally rippable section after the barrel. Big barrels and going left always feels like home to me.

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Usman reminicing on his countless tubes this session.

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Usman doing what he does best, going left and getting barreled.

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Kristyan connecting back to the Source.

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Katie: One of my favorite things about that zone was the locals. You could tell there was a little Rasta vibe in the air. Even in the main city on the way from the airport, the people we talked to were cool and not super religious or surprised by us outsiders. When we pulled up at one of the surf spots, Usman got out of the car and said there’s a monkey up there on a leash getting coconuts for a guy. We thought he was joking but got out of the car and couldn’t believe it. The guy said it only took a year to train the monkey. He would point at the next tree and the monkey would move over. At one point, the leash got stuck and the monkey turned back to unstick it. We watched for 10 minutes bending over laughing.

Kristyan: The community over there is amazing and super friendly. Everywhere we went we were welcomed with smiles and good vibes. Most of the time we surfed alone or with just one or two people out. Getting those empty, perfect sessions, party-waving with your friends is what we live for as surfers. It’s mind-bending and so beautiful when it all comes together. There are so many empty waves out there in this big, blue beautiful planet of ours. What an exciting time to be alive while worshiping the living Gods and Goddesses in the temples of the open sky.

Curtis: We barely surfed with anyone else! The people were so nice, and there is definitely a bit of a surf community there. Yet, somehow, we surfed alone most of the time, so I didn’t get to meet most of them. Plus, I was pretty sick feeling and so I was just trying to stay hydrated and stay alive. There’s a cool mix of Westerners who have moved there and the local surfers who grew up there, it’s got a magic vibe for sure.

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Usman leading the charge on a journey up river and into the dense Indonesian jungle.

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Katie: I just love Indonesia. I love how there’s a never-ending bucket list of spots to visit and how much of it is untouched by tourism. Even within Bali you can find epic villages in the clouds and rainforest walks where you don’t see a soul. Something in me feels connected to this place and it’s cool to travel with other people who feel that same connection. I always think about how some people feel that connection to Mexico or South America, and they must be so stoked in the same way across the world.

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This photo speaks for itself, mind surfing all day long.

Usman: ⁠It’s my dream to continue to travel around new and familiar spots in Indonesia. We live in a paradise full of perfect waves, so it’s heaven for us surfers to live in this area of the world. This was my second trip to that zone and even though I’d already been before, I still got to try out some new waves here. We are so lucky to be able to travel to places nearby with so many waves to choose from.

Kristyan: The Indonesian archipelago is filled with something wild, like, 1,900 islands. Earth’s own Garden of Eden. One lifetime is not enough to see even a fraction of it. I love the feeling of being completely detached from the outside world surfing out on some little island reef break with other humans that share like minded goals and values. I know when I’m In that space and time another universe opens up. It’s like a portal to another space and time away from things that don’t make sense to me, but surrounded inside and out by love. In those moments I know what it feels like to be home.

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Curtis putting his Drifter Cuttle FIsh on rail.

Curtis: That trip re-ignited my drive to go find new waves and feel the magic of Indonesia. It was a good reminder that there is still a lot of magic here, it’s just out of sight from the airport. This country has such incredibly nice people and beautiful waves that I’m in love, again.

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All photos shot by the camera wizzard, Nate Lawrence.

It’s been utterly on the cook lately in Indonesia. We put together a video of the past few swells that graced our blessed archipelago and here’s what the team’s been up to in the water. Watch. Mind-surf. Dream. Enjoy.

This is Drifter Surf - The Art of Surfing

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