Ultimate Guide to Mentawais – From Beginner to Expert Tips

Whether you are a first timer to veteran, get some of our top tips on having the best possible time as you travel to the Mentawais, surf, and enjoy your time in surfing’s paradise.



Trip Preparation

  • Visa
    • Visa on arrival
    • Make sure your passport has at least 6 months validity – this is enforced in transit as well as in Indonesia
    • Israeli Citizens cannot come to Indonesia


Board Selection

Bring 3 boards

  • Two shortboards that are your standard boards e.g. 5’10”
  • Bring one step up board for if it gets bigger

Rounded pin is good, a few extra inches which will let you paddle and move around when more water is moving around. A few inches makes a huge difference between simply not being able to get in to the wave, and getting in time that you are under the lip

Rent boards ? If you are traveling across the world for surf – make sure you have good equipment, its silly to spend thousands of dollars and show up with an old board


Surf Accessories / Your surf kit

Leash Tethers – These are worth their weight in gold only when you don’t have them, bring 5

FCS Keys – Again, expect these to go missing when you leave them out and about, so bring 4 or 5, that way you don’t have to stresss, can leave them on the tin boat, can leave them on the surf deck, one in your board bag and a few hidden in your room

Leashes – Get good leashes – ¼” Don’t get comp-lite. Last think you want is for your board to go into the reef. It’s a huge pain, especially if you don’t have booties, you will get cut up, and your board will also get destroyed. You want the confidence if you have to ditch your board that your leash wont snap

Sun screen (face)– Headhunter or some super extreme sun screen. Don’t worry about how you look. You are near the equator and the sun is extremely hot. You will want the most cakey hardcore stuff you can.

Sun screen (body) – For body you might want some more generic stuff, avoid banana boat which has oxybenzone and octinoxate which kills the reef – Link

Surf Shirts / Rash Guards – I prefer tee shirts, they may get sun damaged but they seem to rash less than rash guards. Keep in mind you will be paddling, surfing, chafing etc more than you will anytime in the year. Tee shirts seem to be the best for this

If you suffer from intense rib issues, consider a wetsuit vest or something specific for “kook ribs”

Vaseline / Rash Cream – Headhunter makes rash cream use it preventively in arm pits, nipples etc if you start getting chafed. Treat it like a marathon runner – last thing you want is to be to cool and end up with a rash that turns into a staph infection.

Small Day Bag– pack all your surf stuff, easy pop into the tin boat, dissuade others from taking it. The wax, sunscreen etc will become communal faster than you can think, and that’s all good, but sometimes you want a little more control over what goes communal


Harder the better, carbon fiber fins

Obviously best if all your boards are the same system, but if not, you probably want minimum 2 sets of each system, or enough to have two operational boards at any point and so you wont be pooched if you lose a fin

Wax – tropical – again this will become communal very quickly, bring more than you think you need, (6 bars for 2 weeks) if you have extra leave them on the boat

Remove your cold water wax before you pack your boards

Clothing & Personal Items

  • A few pairs of trunks
  • nice comfortable shorts for when you come in and want to be dry
  • Tee shirts you can use for surfing or hanging out
  • Long sleeves, light color tee to keep the sun off and bugs in the evening
  • Your only long pants, jacket and shoes should be your travel gear
  • Sunglasses – polarized, must be sun protective, not cheap
  • Hat
  • Toiletries – basic stuff, maybe some basic pills, advil, Tylenol, pepto

Most boats and resorts can do laundry – make sure you know if that is the case ahead of time, if that is true, you really don’t need much at all, they can wash your travel outfit and clothes prior to leaving

Bonus Packing

  • Cliff Bars / specialty bars – nice to have a stash for yourself
  • Supplements – The Vitamin C Emergen-C packs can really help for cramps / electrolytes. I take them every day
  • Sore muscle management – advil after a heavy hit, tiger balm for sore muscles. Try to stay ahead of any lingering injuries or pains.
    • You will be putting your body through lots of stress, especially the first few days as you acclimate to surfing 5 hours a day in intense tropical sun
  • Cigarettes – if you smoke these are gonna go really quick, whatever you think you smoke, bring twice as many. On boats, cigs go quick and will also become communal real quick with friends, crew etc if you leave them out. Duty free lets you buy cartons for cheap.
  • Recreational Drugs – You must have never seen the signs that say “DEATH TO DRUG SMUGGLERS” in Singapore, KL and Indo. Really, don’t.
  • Cash – Bring cash for tipping the crew – its standard to tip 10% of your accommodation cost. Americans may feel this is standard or even tip more, Aussies have trouble wrapping their heads around this sometimes.

Be ready to go…

Don’t be the guy everyone is waiting on… its not a good look

Be in the mindset that you are in paradise and anything you get is better than anything back home, be a frothing little kid, you’ll thank yourself when you get home and are sitting around in a cold lineup with tons of angry locals. Have your standard short board locked and loaded – waxed, finned, leashed, ready to go

If you hear rumblings that a tin boat is about to head out to the surf, make ready to get on that. Pound your coffee, your cliff bar etc, put on your boardies and be ready to jump on. You walk up to the back deck in your boardshorts, with your surf tee shirt on. You have your board ready to go (waxed, leashed, finned). Have some body sunscreen on your legs and arms. When the tin boat pulls up all you have to do is slam some face sunscreen on with your board and your are good to go.

Travel – How to get to the Mentawais, Indonesia

You are Headed to Padang, Indonesia, and there are a variety of ways to get there – mainly via Singapore or via Kuala Lumpur

Route 1 – Singapore, Jakarta, Padang

Jakarta to Padang will be on Garuda Indonesia

Your Singapore to Jakarta can be either on Singapore or on Garuda, their or advantages to either


  • Your board will be checked through Singapore to Jakarta if you are on Singapore
  • You fly on Singapore Airlines which is one of the best airlines
  • There is a direct flight from LAX and SFO to Singapore (premium economy + business + first) this is a great plane, great service
  • You stay in the Singapore airport on your layover (no need to exit and re-customs)
  • Customs in Jakarta is less of a hassle, more straightforward than padang


  • You have an extra flight compared to going through KL (if you look at a map you are going slightly out of the way to get to Padang)
  • Jakarta you will have to transit from Arrivals to domestic check in, on a different level – it’s a huge terminal, lots of walking, not good for last minute, don’t dilly dally if you have a tight connection


Transit Hotel

If you have a long layover in Singapore, get a transit hotel room. They have a number of transit hotels. Rent a private room ($75+) for 6 hour time chunk. This will at least allow you to get horizontal for a bit, take a shower, change your clothes so you can start your next day fresh. The long part is over and you will have felt like you’ve been flying for 17 hours.

In Jakarta you will need to collect your board bag, clear customs, then re-check it back to the domestic terminal


There will be porters offering to help you, if you feel like paying one of them $5 -$10 (indo 100,000 rupiah) feel free, they will carry your board for you. Some of the higher ups will even cut the line and rush you through customs. They can be aggressive, if you don’t want to tip or don’t have money, make sure you tell them no from the start. If someone helps you, feel free to tell them $5 from the start so there isn’t any bargaining after the fact

When you arrive in Padang, the same will happen with porters. Just know what you are getting into, be friendly and let them know if you don’t want their help, or let them know or ask how much ahead of time if you do

Generally speaking your surf resort or charter will greet you outside of customs, make sure to hold onto whatever forms they give you as you leave. Sometimes they might try to ask for a fee as you come into the country, this isn’t needed, make sure you see what your group is doing, if they are being charged

Kuala Lumpur to Padang

Fly to KL via Narita or other major airports


  • You will have a longer overnight in KL, where you can exit the airport and stay at the attached transit hotel. You actually leave the “ariport’ but can walk to the hotel very close. Nice rooms and privacy, can take a taxi into town if you feel like it
  • You will get on Air asia in the morning and fly directly to padang – very quick flight (this is quicker than having to fly to Jakarta then Padang)
  • Very cheap


  • Air Asia is an economy airline – nothing is included – meals drinks etc
  • Make sure you pay ahead of time for an upgraded seat, as well as for your board bags – you will save tons of money pre-booking the sporting equipment
  • Youll clear customs in Padang, the customs guys can be rude or ask for fees that don’t exist – be aware
  • KL is a huge huge airport – make sure you have plenty of time when you check in, Air asia is very much a self service airline, leave time in case you literally have to walk a mile.

Batam – Via Ferry from Singapore

  • Arrive into Singapore and take a quick nice ferry to Batam
  • Ferry will take you directly to Batam airport, where you can check into a Batam – Padang flight.
  • Lion Air – Batam to Padang
  • Cheap $60 each way

Once you arrive in Padang

If you are on a surf charter, your troubles are over, you’ll get in a van, be greeted by staff and taken to your boat. All the travel headache is behind you. It is about a 45 minute drive from the airport to the harbor.

You’ll get to the boat and get settled in, waiting around for the rest of the group. Its normal to wait in Padang all afternoon as your group fills in. Because everyone is waiting – the earlier the flight into Padang the better. Don’t be the guy arriving at 5pm.

You’ll do the crossing that night to the Islands, its an all night thing – if you are prone to sea-sickness this will be the night that gets you, can be rock and rolling as you cross. Don’t worry most of the next nights you’ll be sleeping in calm anchorages.

You’ll wake up in the Ments, and be surfing before lunch

If you need to take a ferry

Slow Ferry – Ambu Ambu & Gambolo

  • These leave in the evening from Bungus
  • You’ll take a taxi to Bungus Harbor
  • About 300,000 Rupiah ($20-30)
  • Probably best to book an upgraded seat, these can get very crowded.
  • Make sure you know the correct ferry destination
  • Tua Pejat or Sikakap or Siberut

Fast Ferry – with overnight in Padang

  • Overnight at a hotel in Padang
  • Mercure Hotel Padang is the most recommended
    • New with pool and bintangs
    • There are cheaper that aren’t too bad, check reviews online
  • Bat and Arrow – close to the harbor – has decent rooms and bar –
  • Taxi to Bungus in the early AM to get on the early AM fast ferry
  • See schedule, make sure you have this coordinated with your surf resort or camp prior to booking
  • Fast ferry only goes to one location per day

Tip – might as well grab an indo SIM card so you have coms during your transit, you’ll even get cell signal in Tua Pejat and Sikikap

  • One way from 300k rupiah ($20)
  • 230k Rupiah (~ USD$17) Board Bags 10KG-15KG
  • 460k Rupiah (~ USD$33) Board Bags 15KG-25KG
  • 690k Rupiah (~ USD$50) Board Bags more than 25KG

Surf Tips

Use your eyes

  • check out breaks for a bit, either from the tin boat or the shoulder
  • Look for the reef, really dry / shallow sections – don’t throw yourself into unmakeable ones if that’s waiting for you
  • You can usually find deeper water take off spots where even if you fall its okay, you won’t hit bottom.

Shoulder hop if you are in doubt

  • You will find there are dedicated take off zones though where its actually easier to get into the wave than if you are paddling on the shoulder

Extra paddle or two

  • Waves in the ments sort of allow an extra couple paddles to get you into them, they don’t break out of the deepest of deeps like Hawaii, they kind of glide. If you are struggling to get waves, take a couple extra paddles to really push into the wave
  • Paddle Hard (duh), but this makes getting up easier

High Line

  • The waves really allow for that high line to take you down the line
  • Aim the board up and trim toward the top of the wave
  • Keep your board in the top 1/3 of the wave if you are racing a section, you’ll be surprised how much ground you can cover keeping it high and tight
  • This also allows you to finally drop down and make it around a section if you have to

Watch your nose as you drop in

  • On critical drops, keep your eye on the nose of your board
  • This stops you from looking to far down the line and forgetting to stick the drop
  • Channel your inner Kelly slater and slow down time as you watch that nose glide vertically down, being sure to not pearl

Don’t be a barrel dodger

  • Pull in , sometimes the best is grabbing that rail and forcing the barrel, keeping it high and tight
  • You won’t get barreled on the bottom of the wave like in some sand bottom waves
  • Barrels are almond shaped, they favor the high line

Leave the airs and suicide pull ins for the final days

  • No need to get hurt on day 1 or day 2

The best buy out is the guy having the most fun

  • Stop being competive
  • Enjoy yourself
  • Enjoy that other people are having the time of their life too
  • Enjoy the warm water and beautiful islands
  • If you think you are tired and only want one more, consider getting two or three more, push hard you are in paradise, especially on the final days

Surf Etiquette

  • Things are different than at First point
  • Don’t back paddle people
  • Take turns, generally there is a number or lineup of people 1-5 kind of taking turns
  • If you are in pole position and don’t want a wave, make sure you tell everyone else loud and clear so they have time to get it
  • Occasionally announce the order with your bros
  • Hands up means , I’m not taking this one
  • Communicate and be happy and allow the true experience of surfing to come out – where the good wave finds you in that perfect spot, and you don’t have to deal with that crowd factor
  • If there is doubt, announce that you are going, last thing you want is an injury because you and your bro ran into each other off a miscommunication

Surf Breaks

We’ll cover the most consistently visited (aka crowded) ones here, any good captain has places they will go to avoid the crowds

  • Rifles – Least chance of getting a set wave
  • Thunders – Cell Signal here and a swell magnet, so plan on it being flooded with boats. Deep water peak
  • Macaronis – interesting wave, it punches back with so much energy as it wraps into the bay
  • Greenbush – Great barrel but can be a closeout on the inside section – not for beginners
  • Lance’s Right – World class wave, watch out for the surgeon’s table on the inside – it can creep up on you and you’ll be bloodied up


Wiping out

Its inevitable and the reef is indeed sharp

  • Cover your head
    • Rule number one of any wipe out, cover your head. This protects you from hard impact with the reef as well as from your board or someone else’s board which might be flying around under water with you
    • Keep at least one arm over your head bracing until you are up and can see your board.
  • Don’t panic
    • The water is warm and nice, you can even open your eyes and see whats happening, see which way is up
    • Take the Brian Keaulana tip and sing yourself a nice song – link
  • Don’t flail your feet around, keep them nice and steady, how many little reef cuts can be avoided by not kicking your feet
  • If you do hit bottom, chances are you have a couple minor scrapes
    • Make sure you do the typical “lime rub” on the boat (it stings)
    • Do the 2019 version of lime rub and use hibeclens to wash out any coral remnants
  • Deeper cuts you may want Betadine
    • Anything that happens – your captain has probably seen worse, just ask their advice, keep an eye on it

Cuts and Injuries

  • If you get some open cuts or rashes it is important you keep an eye on it, staph infections are common
  • When you are out of the water, wash them off with fresh water and wear dry clothes, allowing plenty of air when you can. You may want some band aids or bandages for dressing if you are sleeping at night, but keep things flowing in air during the day when you can.
  • Medicated powder can be really good to keep things dried out / Antiseptic First Aid Powder or even Gold bond / baby powder
  • Have some antibiotics prescribed to you ahead of time in case things start turning infected – again ask your captain for advice if you are in doubt but infections are going to look like dark areas around the cut, and if you feel pain in your groin or armpits then you should really ask for medical attention (means the infection is spreading)
  • Have medi-vac insurance – doesn’t matter if your resort or boat demands it or not – pay what you need to have medi-vac insurance. If you get a fin to the head or gnarly staph infection you want to be able to get to Singapore ASAP, don’t cut corners with this. DAN offers good worldwide coverage, also protects you from trip cancellation etc

Time on board your boat / at the resort

  • Read a book, watch surf videos, chat with staff and crew
  • The Indonesians are truly some of the nicest people on earth, make friends, make jokes
  • Take naps
  • The recharge of a Air Conditioned dark room during the middle of the day is necessary to prevent burnout. Recharge with a bit of time in bed so you don’t end up sun parched and frazzled by the end of day 1
  • Drink water (not just beer)
  • Especially on day 1 after your 2 days of flying, this is really important
  • Pass out early and wake up early
  • Enjoy stories with your captain, crew and guests – these surf sessions and meals can be some of the most bonding things, you’ll come away from your trip with lifelong friends

Return to Civilization – by boat

  • You’ll return to Padang overnight the same way you cam out
  • Arriving very early in the AM on your charter
  • Don’t book your flight out of padang any earlier than 11am, its important to allow for delays and transport to the airport, if you reserve an 8 am flight you may miss it
  • Generally speaking, wether you fly out of KL or Singapore, you’ll have an overnight, so there isn’t a major rush
  • If you are coming back on a ferry, you’ll likely have a night in Padang, as the ferries get in late afternoon. Its better to give yourself the extra buffer
  • Overnight in KL or Singapore

Kuala Lumpur

  • Again the transit hotel is a good place to stay if you have an overnight
  • You may be able to get a late night flight from KL back to USA / AUS but leave plenty of time, the airport in KL is huge, you literally will have to walk sometimes a mile or two to get to the right place.
  • If you have plenty of time, you can take van or taxi into town
  • Good Driver –
  • If you have time during day and want to do some tourism – Batu caves is very cool

Overnight in Singapore

  • Youll fly through Jakarta and then to Singapore and have an overnight in Singapore
  • You can either take the subway or a taxi into downtown Singapore to your hotel
  • High End – Raffles
  • Amazing colonial style hotel, close to lots of malls and things to see
  • Low End – Plenty of hostels and cheap hotels, take the subway direct from the airport into downtown and can take busses around town easily.
  • Singapore is a very nice place, you could easily spend a couple nights here before returning home – very clean and safe

Return Home

  • Enjoy your trip home, hopefully you are on business class and it can actually be relaxing
  • If you are in economy, a seat upgrade is definitely worth it for the long haul flights
  • Make sure to check seat availability before check in to make sure if you can snag a better seat (aisle, exit row etc)
  • Make sure to request a specialty meal if you need it, on the long flights you depend on those meals for your sustenance!
  • If you have a quick stop in Narita (united / ANA), go grab a sushi / sake and make sure you are back within the hour. Don’t fall asleep on the ground, you have to be back at your seat within the hour
  • Last chance for Duty Free, load up on goodies on your way home

Post Surf Trip Blues

  • Yes, it’s a thing
  • You’ve just been to the most heavenly place on earth
  • Youll have a new found love of surfing and want to continue, but the waves at home will be constant let downs. It will also be cold
  • You’ll want to chat about indo and boats and adventurous stuff, but not many people will really get where you just were or what you just experienced particularly if you had one of those life changer barrels.
  • Keep in touch with your mates, start planning the next trip, relax about surfing the crowded cold waves back home, and know at any time of year there is probably another perfect wave going unridden in that indian ocean as we speak.