The season began as the best we had ever known. The Camp was immaculate when I returned from an offseason in Bali. The crew had been there all offseason keeping everything neat and tidy, the passion flower vine was overflowing with flowers and fruits, banana and papaya trees blossoming and fruiting all over the property, the facilities were gleaming and the kitchen was sparkling. Everything worked!!! Water pumps, water heaters, ACs, fans, refers, generators…it was all tip top. Our bookings were up, the new website was doing its thing, and it was shaping up to be the best season ever…
I arrived in early March and rolled right into our first group of 4 Aussies. Wind was west and we scored right handers all week long from small and fun to large and charging. It was March 15 and ‘Corona’ times officially started rolling out…
The Aussies were lucky, they departed from Asu and made it into Australia just 24 hours before the mandatory 2 week home quarantines were imposed on all returns to Australia. I lucked into a week of offshore wind in the front yard and had Asu all to myself. The first of many weeks like this to come.
All alone out at Asu, paranoia set in. With my family still in Bali and news flooding in from China about the seriousness of the Novel Corona virus, I booked them some tickets from Bali-Nias. I ordered 4 months stock of rice for the camp, filled up the diesel and petrol storage cans. Informed the crew that we were not likely to get any more guests for a while, that we didn’t have money to pay wages, and that everyone could stay on, eat and sleep, and enjoy what the island had to offer us, fishing, surfing, swimming… island life.
With no guests, we couldn’t justify running around to surf the other breaks in the area when winds were not offshore at Asu. We just hung and made the best of it, family time. It was a dream to have my family in our family home that we had designed and built over the last 3 years. We had 2 beautiful bungalows ready to accommodate any guests that might be able to make it. It almost seemed to good be true, we had made it, our dream was built, we just didn’t have anyone to share it with.
We organized boat trips to Sirombu, Nias once a week to buy fresh supplies. We often took the kids over and started to explore the beach break that we had always overlooked passing by on arrival and departure from Asu. It is an absolute heaven for kids or beginners. We brought our local kids Miser, Oli, Klever, and our son Noah to sharpen their body boarding skills over the friendly sand bars. The kids loved it!!!!
‘Happiness is only real when shared’, a phrase made popular by the book “Into The Wild”… Well, the reality rings true. Many surfers have this dream of having perfect waves all to themselves, but the truth is that it’s waaaaaay more fun to share the goods than to hoard them. Paddling back out after a good wave and watching others get the set waves behind yours, the hoot from a mate in the channel when pulling into that tube or smacking a lip, these little bursts of stoke are not to be taken for granted. Surfing alone, is, well, lonely…
I found myself losing the craving to be out there. On days that were too big for my wife to accompany me, it felt selfish to leave my wife and son on the beach and go out to get waves. Watching it for hours, searching for information on the beach where we could acquire cellular internet reception from the cell towers on Nias. Watching perfect waves rolling by and thinking that it will be better in an hour when the wind changes just a few degrees.
Our level of surfing standards out here is just ridiculous. Our standards are through the roof and we just get so accustomed to surfing perfect waves and seeing perfect waves that it just seems silly to go out if it’s not absolutely flawless.
The Corona dilemma was real. By the end of April they closed the Nias airport. For 2 months we were locked out there, safe from Corona, but financially in a downward spiral. Surf camps are a labor of love, there is very little profitability to be squeezed out of taking people surfing and supporting a family of local workers and the problems that arise mechanically and medically among the facilities and crew. If we could get our occupancy up to 70-80% per season, we would be doing great, but historically we just can’t rise above 50% and 2020 topped out at 2%. Our savings were depleting and we were facing a year of unknowns, obstacles and expenses.
Setting all of that aside, we were in paradise, with no way to leave, and no way to control or adjust our situation, we just had to enjoy it. So it was a cycle of surfing, playing, snorkeling, biking, swimming, and worrying.
One night in July I couldn’t sleep and wandered out to the beach in the middle of the night. The sky was spectacular, the stars were amazing, it was as clear as it gets. Jupiter and Saturn were up there looking down on me, Scorpio and Orion too in their guarded stances, and looking up at that sky I was reminded of the simplicity of being human, the here and now, acceptance. Something so many of us are working through in 2020. Keep your heads up out there. This will pass, we will prevail.