By Hunter Jones.
March 17th, St. Patrick’s Day in America, was a day supposed to be filled with beers with friends where you can act like fools while wearing way too much green. Last year it was the day society shut down in Southern California.
I was working a shift as Shop Manager at Alternative Surf when I got a notice on my phone that stores were to close immediately and everyone was supposed to head home. Covid-19 had arrived in California and people were starting to get infected. The news networks assured us that we were to stay home for 2 weeks and then things would go back to normal.
Well over 14 months later, things were not normal. In fact, there was a new normal. Masks in public. Restaurants opened for indoor dining again but only at 25% capacity. People stopped being friendly to strangers. No matter where you looked people were angry. Social media was filled with people arguing over masks, the local news showed shooting after murder after shooting. It was suffocating. Half of society was still exhausted from one of the hardest years of their life, while the other half was all wired up and ready to party.
With a majority of the population slowly getting their vaccinations, things were slowly getting back to this “new normal.”
It was too little, too late for me. I was over it. In fact I had been over it since before even Covid started.
Living in Southern California has a ton of perks. Great weather, great food, beautiful women. But unfortunately everyone knows that. The place is crowded. The roads are crowded. The beach is crowded. The line up is crowded. One of my go to breaks, The Wedge in Newport Beach, had somehow gotten even more crowded. With kids schooling from home indefinitely, Youtube “surf” videographers practically sprinting to their car after a session to upload footage first, and every local surf brand/news site or Instagram page (Catch Surf, Surfline, WSL, Stab) same day posting Instagram videos from the wave of the day; a place that you think couldn’t get any worse, had gotten worse. You had kids out there with a board straight from Costco (or Huntington Surf & Sport, the Costco of the surf world) and a pair of dive fins sliding out, bailing boards, dropping in on Tanner McDaniel. It was bad. Zero regulation. It was too much for me, I had to get away for my own health.
I had been in talks with a visa agent in Bali asking about when Indonesia’s borders would open since January of this year. Originally she said February, but February came and went and nothing changed. Then April came and I got an email, “Good news. You can apply now. Offshore visas are back to normal since this morning.”
“Holy shit. It’s actually happening,” I thought and started to make life plans for uprooting everything and moving to a 3rd world country for the next 6 months to chase empty barrels. I quit my job, moved out of the room I was renting, and booked my flight.
Some people thought I was insane.
They also thought I was insane back in 2019 when I flew to Indonesia solo after finding an insanely cheap flight that was too good to refuse. I asked all my booger friends, no one could join me. I asked my family, no one could join me. So off I went, by myself, to Indonesia via some Chinese airline that I’d never even heard of.
When planning which waves were a must for me, that epic Javanese left with the headland in the back was at the top of the list. I learned it was in East Java, in a small fishing village from Mr. Jeff Hubbard himself back in 2014 when he and his brother were doing a tour promoting their Hubboards Movie, which featured some unreal footage of both Hubb and Dubb absolutely tearing apart the left (and right). After asking around and doing some more research I found out the name of that village, Watukarung.
During my 2019 trip, my journey from SoCal to Java consisted of a 13 hour flight to a Chinese city that I couldn’t even pronounce. Followed by an overnight 10 hour layover in an airport where I was the only white person and Google and Instagram didn’t work because the Chinese government said so. Then another 8 hour flight to Jakarta. Followed by another overnighter. Then a 2 hour flight to a smaller Javanese city. Then finally a bumpy, winding 4 hour drive through the Javanese hills to this little slice of heaven, Watukarung. After my first session, I knew the journey was totally worth it.
Fast forward to now. Take that experience and add a handful of Covid tests, a government-mandated 5 day self-quarantine in a hotel in downtown Jakarta and an Indonesian citizen to be your visa sponsor (oh and $500 USD for the actual visa).
Still worth it.