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Windsurfing

Catch perfect waves in this secret Indonesian reef break

Join pro windsurfer Jason Polakow as he searches for the perfect wave breaks and embarks on new adventures in Indonesia.
Written by Jason Polakow
7 min readPublished on
It's been a while since pro windsurfer Jason Polakow embarked on an Indonesian adventure, with so many islands it's hard to figure out where the best location for that perfect wave to wind ratio lies. But on his latest trip he was introduced to the perfect break. Watch his ventures in the player above and scroll down to hear his account of the trip...
After four flights, a car ferry and a long taxi drive I finally arrived at my secret Indonesian destination after four days of travel. My first view of the ocean did not come until I was dumped on the road from the airport bus in a remote village. It was low tide and I could see about 700 metres of dry reef with tiny waves breaking on the outside.
Jason Polakow drags his windsurf in Rote Island, Indonesia on June 6, 2017
Scoping out the beach
The local people who help out surfers in this area were not used to all my oversize bags. All the surfers rent scooters with side racks for there surfboards but I needed something bigger. After walking with my gear along the road for about half hour, one of the local stores had a three-wheel motor bike with a loading box on the back that I later found out was used for garbage runs. It was perfect solution for transporting my gear and after negotiating with seven local Indonesians, I had my ride for the week.
Jason Polakow rides motorbike in Rote Island, Indonesia on June 6, 2017.
Sweet wheels
The next obstacle was trying to find a boat big enough for all my equipment and that could motor outside the reef. All the small boats stay inside the reef so I had to find a large fishing boat that would be willing to venture outside the reef and close to the surf.
After about an hour of paddling and chatting with the local fisherman we found a fishing-boat big enough that would accept my terms. The boat itself was super sketchy and probably about 40 years old. The guy would spray a fuel cocktail into the carburettor to get the old girl fired up and the captain steered the boat with two pieces of rope that were tied to the keel. I was loving it!
Jason Polakow catches a lift with his windsurf in Rote Island, Indonesia on June 6, 2017.
Heading out to the break
The next day before the swell we spent the day looking at passes in the reef and trying to figure out the best location to windsurf. By the end of the day I had picked about three possible locations including one of the main spots the surfers go to. We also had to consider where to put the photographers to keep them safe as the exposed reefs on low tide fill up with water quickly, especially with a pumping new ground swell. I went to sleep that night nervous and hoping it would all work out.
Jason Polakow looks at the waves while sat on motorbike in Rote Island, Indonesia on June 6, 2017.
Concentrating on the waves
By first light I could see the swell hitting the outside reef. We motored straight to a location that was on the top of my list. A few surfers were already out and I could see instantly, there was no need to check my other locations. Perfect six- to eight-foot waves peeled for an eternity down this reef and there seemed to be three main sections to this wave. Surfers were getting sick waves but they had trouble connecting all the sections to this wave, primarily due to the speed and distance between each of the sections. I was basically looking at the most perfect windsurfing wave ever. I could not believe my luck. This almost never happens. I started to freak out on the boat and I could not wait to hit the water.
Jason Polakow windsurfs in Rote Island, Indonesia on June 6, 2017.
Jason Polakow windsurfs in Rote Island, Indonesia
I rigged on the boat, jumped into the water and was in the line-up in minutes. I could instantly tell that it was almost straight offshore making conditions very gusty. This coupled with very light winds made this location a battle all day long to catch the right waves, but I’ve sailed many locations around the world like this, so for me it was just another day.
Jason Polakow gets air while windsurfing in Rote Island, Indonesia on June 6, 2017
Taking to the skies
To consistently catch waves, I found that one of the best ways was to be out of my straps and wait right at the bottom of the breaking wave. I would get sucked up the face of the wave and as it broke I would then air drop down the wave and shuffle my feet into the straps. It sounds impossible but the wave itself was quite a soft wave, so doing this type of take-off was actually super fun. The only drawback to this was you had to be in exact perfect spot. If you were too far outside and the lip did not catch the board you would peel out the back or if you were to far inside you would get hit, resulting in a very long swim and even longer walk on the reef to get back out to the channel and into the line-up.
Sequence of Jason Polakow as he windsurfs in Rote Island, Indonesia on June 6, 2017.
Seeing triple...
The best waves were the ones that had a long wall that looked like they would close-out. The best set-up was to catch them at the top of the reef and if your speed and timing was right you could make all the way down the reef, passing the three sections and gybe safely into the channel
I had my mojo going by midday and I was getting a few turns at the top section of the reef then I would blast about 100 metres down to the mid section where the wave had its best wall and shape. You could bust a few airs and hacks, then blast another 100 metres down to the last section where you would still have a good wall to air or slash off a few times. I had so much fun trying to time each of the sections perfectly so I would arrive at each part of the wave at exactly the right time.
Jason Polakow at the top of a wave as he windsurfs in Rote Island, Indonesia on June 6, 2017.
Getting the most of the wave
Some of my rides were so long I was getting tired towards the end of the ride and once you pulled off into the channel the top of the reef was at least 500 metres away. Due to the offshore winds I could hug the line-up all the way to the top of the reef and tack at any point along the reef to catch waves that would pop along my journey upwind. It was actually so offshore I could sail from the channel to the reef starboard tack. Not ideal wind direction but still good enough for me to have a blast.
Jason Polakow and his broken windsurf in Rote Island, Indonesia on June 6, 2017.
Tough conditions were hard on the kit
At one point during the day I was almost able to catch every big set and then get back into the line-up within minutes. This is one of the reasons I love windsurfing. We can catch so many perfect waves and put ourselves in the perfect spot every time. When you only get one epic day you want to maximise your time and windsurfing is the perfect tool for that job. Some of the view-points I had during my day would never be seen by a surfer. Being so deep and looking way down the line to your next point of entry is the best feeling in the world!
Jason Polakow seen from the beach as he windsurfs in Rote Island, Indonesia on June 6, 2017
Lift off
At times I was the only person in the line-up, watching these perfect waves go unridden. Equally as weird is catching any wave you want at anytime. I'm so used to jostling for position with paddle surfers, SUP guys and kite surfers it's really is a big component to what we do on the water. But here on this lonely reef all that is gone. It's such a great feeling to just concentrate on waves alone.
Jason Polakow at the bottom of a wave as he windsurfs in Rote Island, Indonesia on June 6, 2017.
Enjoying the empty line-up
By the end of day I had put in six straight hours on the water and there was still enough light to catch more but I was just too tired. We all celebrated that night with a couple of Bin-tangs at the bar and very happy we scored epic conditions.