100% Documentary - West Java
Rumours of a black sand bottom right hand point break in the Pandaram Region of West Java had gently tumbled over and into the imagination of the inner sanctum of Indonesian Surf Explorers since the early 70s. Soon overlooked by most hardy surf veterans looking for more powerful reef breaks and hollow tubes with the advent of the legrope, until recently Batu Karas has remained a sleepy little seaside village self relying on agriculture and fishing. Currently as we swim towards the 2020’s, Western tourism is booming in Batu Karas mostly due to the ‘beginner surf break’, currently noted as the best place to learn to surf in Indonesia by Lonely Planet.
Each year drawing on thousands of surfers internationally to try their hand at this popular pastime, Batu Karas is also synonymous with attracting Indonesian crowds from across West Java for the celebration of Lebaran. Daily, from 4am first morning prayers to dusk, hundreds of Muslim Javanese, ankle to waist deep barely avoiding the ‘peeling rights’ and sweeping rip, feast in the cleansing oceans goodness for two weeks of Lebaran. A unique scene in itself but not nearly as impacting until you consider the aforementioned multinational eclectic assortment of beginner surfers. Throw in an uber talented stronghold of local surfers and a half dozen giant rubber inflatable ‘rides’ begripped by screaming joy riders being towed by speed boats through the lineup and you start to get the picture.
What’s not translated through this vision of seaside mania is an underlying cultural depth epitomized in the joy that the local community commonly relates to their sense of pride in place, simple living, and strong ties with their natural and very beautiful surrounds, in particular the ocean. Pare it all back, what remains is the essence of a very surf stoked community that's thriving. The local community has numerous initiatives to repay the stoke through caring for this unique albeit chaotic environment with cleanup campaigns and raising awareness for this next generation. Throughout transcends a spiritual awareness and sense of gratitude in the local community of the bounty that they have been blessed with.
Images and Words by : Dean Dampney
Batu Karas, West Java, Indonesia. Photographer Dean Dampney - July 2017.