It’s a fraction past scorching but not yet beyond sweat-dripping-off-upper lip o’clock and the tide’s rolling in. We’re at a beach called Sorake which is a pin dot on the map of Nias; a tiny island to the West of Sumatra. Here, tourism isn’t on the agenda. There isn’t a Marriott or Hilton in sight nor is there a beach bar lurking for a few tourist dollars. All that’s here is the elusive “World’s best right hander” which is famously known to the surfing community.

There are other destinations that receive bold accolades such as the one Sorake is known for. Skeleton Bay on the West Coast of Africa scores a place on the top 5 list of Worlds best left handers as does Bali’s Uluwatu. In Nazare, Portugal, the Worlds largest wave ever surfed was documented by a surfer names Koxa in 2017. But unlike those breaks, something unique happens at this precise moment of each day at Sorake, when the scorching sun begins to wind down a notch.

Nias indonesia
To bring the happenings of Sorake into perspective, Nias isn’t a wealthy place. Here pigs are used as currency with which more educated daughters can be bought from their fathers to a bidding husband or with which land can be bartered. A common, respectable profession of local men is to pend days managing the vegetation which is preferred as pig food; a healthy pig is more valuable. In Nias too the dust filled streets are lined with litter and homes are little more than tin sheds with inadequate facilities attached as outhouses. Sorake fares a fraction better than other part of Nias, due to the lure of the infamous right hander, but even so it’s not a destination brimming with local opportunity. Potentially it is these attributes that make the happenings of this precise time of day even more intriguing.

Like a ritual born of observing foreign travellers to the area, at exactly this time of day, local kids flock to the break from every direction. Like seagulls swooping in on an empty fish n chip packet, scores of Indonesian locals between probably 6 and 16 years wearing their trendy pair of board shorts and armed with their own surf board gravitate to the sets of the World famous right hander. From out of nowhere, they’re ready to practice turns which are self taught from what they’ve witness; they share between them something special. At complete ease, content within the moment, they join one another bobbing up and down above the tide line, and weaving in and out of rolling waves. In this break, local kids outnumber surf mad tourists.

At this time of day there is no etiquette like you might find at Bondi or Sunset. Most likely that’s because there hasn’t been anyone around to teach the behaviours commonly practised in the World of surfing, but equally, here it doesn’t matter. This moment is about much more than a solo achievement. Dropping in on one another, they grin from ear to ear, and paddle around those who may be in prize position to reach the wave first. To these kids the concept is simple; get in amongst it. In spectacular acts of team work the grommets can even be seen stopping mid paddle to cheer on their comrades who are whizzing by on a new wave.
surf nias
Some even perform quirky dances in an display of personal pride at accomplishing something new. To the local children of Sorake, this is a unity of something deeper than sport. As kids run past ready to jump in, they cheerfully say hello or offer words of encouragement to join in the fun. It’s clear that despite being one of the most famous surf spots in the World, this is no place for ego or division; gratitude is the winner out here.

In a place where you won’t find a Quicksilver store or Rip Curl, nor is it likely the kids have had their boards delivered after shopping on the net. Gratitude is imbedded from the very ability to be able to enjoy being the waves. With minimal income generated in the town, the only way these kids can participate in surfing is at the hands of generous tourists. The boards they ride are individually marked in bright abstract spray paint. They’ve been either washed up on the shore, left behind my tourists, or in most cases, after being found broken were glued back. To life by an Aussie expat living in the area.

Most likely the very reason why at this moment of each day, in the sizzling heat of the World famous Sorake surf break, a ritual of local kids gathering in the ocean is not the same as noticed at Portugal or Uluwatu. At Sorake, another surfers leftovers becomes a local child’s most precious item.