The Mentawai Islands have to be on just about every surfers bucket list. If you've not been, you absolutely need to make it a priority to get there. The promise of picture perfect tubes, palm fringed white sandy beaches and bath-like crystal clear waters makes it a pretty obvious surf destination for an experienced surf traveler.

But what boards will you need in your arsenal to tackle some of the planets best waves & what is the ultimate Mentawai surfboard quiver? To answer these questions, we recently reached out to Indo explorer Dave Blackburn from Surf Camp Sumatra. He kindly offered more than just a few comments but instead gave us some detailed feedback with regards to his ultimate Indo quiver.

Mentawai surf charter
Medium sized Kandui left in the Mentawai Islands, looking mighty tempting. You'll be glad of some extra length on any day here. Pic @SurfCampSumatra 

Over the years I've certainly dabbled with varying trends and subsequent hybrid designs, but in more recent times I've gone a little more old school and reinvented my quiver to better suit my needs. And if truth be known, as the years have rolled on, I'd begun to pick and choose waves a bit (lot) more, especially on the bigger days. I was no longer that keen to backdoor a solid peak or take a chance and hope it would work out like previous decades in Indo. It was bugging me slightly if I’m honest but I was also comfortable enough to reason this lessening of confidence against being the wrong side of forty with a few ongoing injuries. I was still surfing the ‘A list' breaks throughout Sumatra, but it was mostly with my handbrake engaged somewhat. However, in more recent times, my quiver has reinvented itself into a collection of uncomplicated, practical thrusters, made and designed to cope with a variety of Indonesian conditions, not that dissimilar to what I was riding 15 years ago. And it seems to have made a big difference to my overall surfing, wave count & fun factor.

Its not always a tube fest in the Ments. "Four Bobs" in the Playgrounds surf zone. Pic: @KanduiResort

Its worth noting that I'm a relative lightweight at 150 lbs / 68 kg, of average height and certainly beyond my prime, since I'm in my 40's. You won't be surprised that my boards have increased in volume over the last 10 years. This is where I’m currently at with my "Indo quiver"...


Small wave board (Head high or less)
5’10 x 19.25 x 2.35 Round Tail Thruster

I certainly buy into the 'shorter and wider’ theme currently popular with small wave boards however I've found a standard fish or something similar in plan shape has too much tail area and width to be a starter for me in the boat trip board bag. The round tail gives it good control at speed and I ride it with a set of medium sized future fins without too much rake. I particularly like this board if its hollow and sucky as its shorter length fits comfortably in the barrel and it's easy to negate any twists and turns in there. Its curvy outline also gives good rail to rail transition with a high performance feel. For me its a great ‘average day’ board in Indo for turns and a few cheeky barrels. 

Beng Beng surf
Beng Bengs. Another of the softer options in the Mentawai Islands, ideal for a short and wide board. Pic @SurfCampSumatra 

Small to moderate day Board (Head high and a bit bigger)
6’0 x 19.25 x 2.35 Rounded Pin Thruster

In all honestly this board is not a great deal different than my smallest board which is what I wanted as its great to have a back up in case one or the other becomes a casualty. Its pretty easy to break one or two boards in quick succession in Indo, so I like having a quiver that overlaps slightly. This board is a couple of inches longer however and slightly narrower which does pull the template more parallel. This board also has slightly better down the line speed due to the straighter outline but at a slight loss of rail to rail transition. We are talking pretty fine margins however. 


It's also slightly flatter throughout therefore a touch better paddler than the shortboard. Its tail is more pulled in and this board is geared up for the head high to head and a half range. I’ll ride this also with a standard medium set of futures as its still essentially for the average to moderate days. 

Nipussi Mentawai
Nipussi, Playgrounds - perfect for your bread and butter shortboard

Moderate to pumping days
6’3 x 19.25 x 2.35  Rounded Pin Thruster step-up (Head high and a half to double overhead range)

Certainly something for the solid days and rather ironically the board that I essentially had sacked off for a while. Not sure what I was thinking to be honest? On any trip to Indo this should be your 'comfy sofa’, something you feel confident with and it will hopefully give you the best moments of the trip. I’m still keeping the width of this board around the same as my shortboards as I know it floats me adequately and more importantly I don’t get a ‘hangover’ swapping between boards in my quiver with varying widths.


If the waves are pumping I think your 'step up' should feel essentially no different to your normal ‘go to’ board apart from a touch more length in front of you, a little extra thickness under the chest and maybe some extra rake in your fins for control at higher speeds on a larger wave face. I wouldn’t recommend however increasing the size of the fins as your step up will have a narrower tail area and you don’t want increased drag on a day when your trying to get from A to B quickly. This board is a complete essential in the board bag from April to October in Indo and most weeks should see a swell worthy of riding a 'step up’. Its a board that I thankfully have re-recognised as essential in the Indo Quiver! 

surfboard quiver
Wade Carmichael's impressive Indo quiver. Maybe a tad over kill for the average surfer!

XL macking days
6’10 x 19.5 x 2.5 Pin Tail Thruster (Double overhead plus)

A bit of extra length isn't a bad thing. And even more length can be a really good thing! In almost all conditions in Sumatra, you'll be able to catch waves further out and pass others on the inside struggling to paddle into the waves. If you get back on the tail of a board this size it still turns well and it will carve better than anything on the open face. Sure, some trips you may use this board regularly and other times it may collect dust but it's a great insurance policy if things get hectic with the swell or you surf a wave that requires a ‘Paddler”.  Most waves offer both speed and power and so you'll be surprised just how maneuverable a larger board can be.

Green Bush
Green Bush, South Mentawai. Not for the faint hearted. A bit of extra length here is always a good idea!

So this is where I’m at with my Indo quiver currently. It's nothing new in terms of design but going back to basics with a more tried and tested formula has increased my confidence in moderate to large Indonesian swells. I’m sure the surf industry will create new and improved models and there's no doubt I’ll continue to dabble in new designs in the years to come, but this current quiver combo feels like a real winner.  



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