It was mid way though the eighties, with the acquisition of Sri Gaya Baru, that we seriously started the exploratory push east: usually one big trip a season for three to four weeks. The M.O. was to send the boat and crew out from Deserts or Benoa and fly out to the nearest airport to meet them at the designated harbour. They would take the calmer route on the north side of the islands which was still a beat into the wind but much preferred with no SSW swell. We could fly in fairly fresh, having just avoided the three to seven day boat ride. We did this many times flying into Bima, Waingapu or Kupang. For the Raijua trip it was a Kupang rendezvous with the boat. The plan was to supply up in Kupang and then head west to Roti, Savu and Raijua. We had pretty good charts at the time, but very little info and absolutely no swell or weather forecasts, no radio or GPS. We were bold, mainly going on the charts and our crew’s limited local knowledge of this area. We sailed out of Kupang Harbour with the wind at our backs and high hopes for a major discovery. By the time we rounded the corner of Roti, a day later, the wind was howling 30-35 knots. We could see surf potential but just no swell. We anchored up for one night. It was quite rough: no real protected anchorage. The following morning we decided to move on to Savu, another days sail out to the west. We got there late and found a fairly safe, calm anchorage. The wind died. The following dawn we could see on the SW tip of the island a left point, covered in Lontar palms and a little swell rolling in. Motoring out there for a closer look, there was potential but it was a little slabby, sectiony on the almost dry reef. We decided to cruise south to Raijua Island about four hours away. While crossing that channel the trades kicked in a bit and it was obvious the swell was building. As we approached Raijua a small local boat passed by and they seemed friendly yet cautious. At least we weren’t the only fools out there. Within a kilometre of the island, looking through the binoculars, there it was: a fairly solid left reef break barreling at four to eight feet, offshore breeze, no one out.
Not seeing any real good anchorage the four of us just jumped off the boat with our boards and proceeded to surf all afternoon in beautiful backlit conditions. By sunset we needed to anchor and settled for the only possible place, in front of a small village by one corner of the island. The swell was much diminished in this area but was wrapping the island from both sides. It was rock and roll all night long, not much sleep. The next morning we went ashore to meet the local villagers. They were pretty blown away as I think many of them hadn’t seen white men before, and certainly not surfers. It turned out Raijua was a kingdom and very few people spoke Indonesian, be we were met and hosted by friendly locals, traded for incredible ikat weavings, and might have even met the King.
Over the next three days of swell we surfed some outstanding waves at different spots along the 1.5km stretch of reef, depending on swell and tide. As the swell finally dropped, we knew it was our window to head back to Deserts. Downwind all the way!