The Best Destinations for Surf Trips – Mentawais (Intermediate – Advanced)

For most, it’s been a long couple of years, with the ability to travel all but removed and our choice of surf destinations subsequently drastically limited. For those of us fortunate to live near enough to a quality surf break or two that might not have been such an issue, but nonetheless being able to take to the air in search of an overseas surf trip will be something that is welcomed back with open arms. In this series, we’ll take a look at some of the best surf trip destinations around the planet for surfers of all abilities, and it all starts with the beautiful Mentawais. 

The Mentawais are an island chain sitting just off the west coast of Sumatra, which is itself an island in Western Indonesia. If you look at its location on a map, it’s immediately obvious why there is so much high-quality surf in the Mentawais – the next piece of land to the south is Antarctica, to the west it’s Africa, and to the southwest is thousands upon thousands of kilometres of unimpeded Indian Ocean in which swells can develop and march towards this island chain.

The beauty of this picturesque part of the world is matched by the quality and consistency of its waves, with many believing it to be home to the best selection of world-class surf on the planet. And with so many islands packed so tightly together and such a hefty assortment of waves, the Mentawais have unsurprisingly become one of the most popular destinations for surf trips in the world since they began to garner global recognition in the 1990s. 

Getting there

The remote location of the Mentawais means that getting to them isn’t as simple as heading to your nearest major airport and jumping on a single flight. 

The first step is to find your way to Padang, the capital and largest city in West Sumatra. With a population of nearly one million it’s a decent-sized city, but there isn’t all that much in the way of direct flights there from faraway lands like Australia. If there is then great, climb aboard, but if not you might need to go via somewhere like Bali, Kuala Lumpur or Singapore. 

From Padang, you’ll need to hop on a boat to access the Mentawais. There are a few different options; the easiest is to get the fast boat, which is fairly inexpensive and takes between three and six hours depending on the day. It does, however, leave early in the morning, so you’ll most likely need to stay in Padang for a night upon arrival unless your plane lands in the wee hours of the morning. To cut out this night in Padang, you can take an overnight boat to the Mentawais, which is a little more expensive but will see you arrive bright and early the next day. The final option is a private speedboat, which will be quick, easy and mighty expensive.

These boats will take you to Siberut, the largest of the Mentawai Islands and the point from which you can access the rest of the island chain. There are plenty of speedboats whipping people from island to island once you arrive – often these are organised by surf camps if you’re staying at one, although they can get pretty expensive if you’re organising it yourself.

It might be a little bit of a process to get there, but hey – at least that helps to weed out some of the crowds.

The waves

Now to the important stuff – the waves themselves. Though there is the prospect of surf throughout the year, the best conditions typically occur between April and October, when solid swells and light offshores produce picture-perfect waves. The majority of these break over coral reefs with a hefty dose of palm trees in the background, just to complete the postcard-esque image. Most of the best waves break around the four main islands in the region, those being the aforementioned Siberut, as well as Sipura, Pagai Utara, Pagai Selatan, which sit in that order to the south of Siberut. 

These islands are home to enough world-class waves to write about for days, but we’ve all got other things to do so I’ll keep it brief and stick to the top five in the region.

Bank Vaults

Bank Vaults is located off the southern tip of Masokut Island, which is a tiny landmass just barely separated from the main island of Siberut. The wave is a heavy, barrelling right-hander, able to produce quality waves up to double overhead. With its geographic position exposing it to the full brunt of the Indian Ocean swells and a reef not as far underneath the surface as you’d like it to be, this is a wave best left to those with plenty of experience.


Back up on the main island of Siberut is Rifles, a long, big and fast right-hander which often attracts quite a crowd. Often referred to as Kandui Right, you’ll be racing this wave down the line for a long time, and with numerous potential barrel sections it has provided many a surfer with the wave of their life. It’s also pretty heavy and can end on dry reef though, so this is another wave for advanced surfers only.


A couple of islands to the south on Pagai Utara is Macaronis, a wave which many believe to be among the best in the world. This one is a left, and though the take-off is hollow and heavy in equal measures, the rest of the wave offers a little more room for creativity. After the take-off, a long wall extends out in front of you, giving you the opportunity for seemingly endless carves along the way.


E-Bay sits right in front of one of the Mentawais famed surf camps, Beng Bengs, again on Masokut just off Siberut Island, and though it doesn’t boast the same level of consistency as some of the aforementioned spots, when it’s on it more than makes up for it. This is a fast, hollow left-hander which requires plenty of skill to properly navigate, but at its best it’s one of the highest quality waves in the Mentawais, and has the added bonus of being in one of the most picturesque locations.


We round out the list with another wave on Masokut, just up the east coast of the island from E-Bay. While the aforementioned breaks all share a strong desire to break boards and require plenty of talent to negotiate, NiPussi is a little bit more user-friendly. A fun right-hander, it can be surfed on all tides and is relatively well-protected from the wind, meaning that on days with less than ideal conditions it will often be among the best options in the region.

The very nature of surf trips demands a multitude of good waves within a relatively confined section of the planet, and the Mentawais epitomises this pre-requisite. It might be a little difficult to get to initially, but once you’re there, the plethora of world-class waves at or near your doorstep makes this island chain one of the most popular places to head for a surf trip.