To understand the iceberg that is Made Winada Adi Putra is to reverse your thinking about icebergs. Do not fear what is below the surface; beware what is above it. Particularly when Adi Putra is surfing on the face of a wave in that way of his. That matador way. His way. To watch him surf at the famed Padang Padang surf break is to witness an outright mastery of the most stunning surfing environment on the planet. He even paddles around the place perfectly. Smooth, powerful, impeccably positioned at all times. Never in trouble. Never panicked. Never rag-dolled over the reef like so many others. No broken boards. Like a black cobra: elegant, smooth, and deadly. And then that way of his.

When he takes off, you already know what is going to happen. He will drop and bottom turn and then the elegance kicks in. Not so much the jazz riffs of his cousin Garut Widiarta, or the strength moves of his cousin Raditya Rondi. No, Adi Putra has swagger. And not a cocky swagger either, but a strangely respectful one that the wave itself gives him in partnership. Functional, sexy, and mystifying all at once. That swagger, in Adi Putra’s case, that belongs to the wave as much as it belongs to Adi Putra.

And that tube thing Adi Putra does. When the wave goes cylindrical and he stands up tall, front leg stiff, taking the weight and the momentum. Back leg deceptively active, on the gimbals of his ankle, controlling the torque and the drive. You just know he is going to come out of it cool. Not like some surfers where you hold your breath, hoping against hope that they are going to reappear. No, with Adi Putra it looks like fate and feels like a kind of magic that you look forward to fooling you. And you are so happy about it that you don’t even want to know how he does it. That’s the main thing. When you watch Adi Putra surf, whether at Halfway in Kuta, or Desert Point on Lombok, or Padang Padang on Bali, or Scar reef on Sumbawa—anywhere really—the thing is that you just cannot help yourself from believing in the way he rides. Like watching your favorite actor. Except that Adi Putra is not an actor. He is very, very real. And here is where we get to what is below the iceberg.

The unseen. You might see Adi Putra around, down at the end of his street on the beach in Kuta. Anywhere he sits, even on a plastic stool, he is always on the edge of it, spring-loaded, left knee going up and down. Surveying his domain. Judging it. Suspicious. It’s his territory, but it seems to him constantly under threat. Like that black cobra, tongue flicking, but alert, up for the hunt. And you can forget about talking to him. Not unless you are on the inside. Family. He is coiled, guarded against onslaught. His fangs are not out, but they are there. And they can drip poison. Spending time with him, you realize he very much lives in his own castle, his thoughts defended by ramparts and a drawbridge rarely let down. He is a self-elected master of his own universe, and his aura expands and contracts like a concertina.

At times overwhelming, taking you in, and at other times shoving you away with both hands. You find yourself always aware of his strike zone. His words that can crush you. Make you feel small. Make the world seem ridiculous. His wide smile dismissive. It can be downright disturbing to try and talk to him. Perhaps that’s what makes his surfing so considerable. That no-talk zone. That and those eyes so busy with his relentless thoughts that have less to do with your presence and more to do with the concerns he carries as a daily burden.

FROM IN DEEP: The collected surf writings of Matt George (an excerpt from the upcoming book, Di Angelo Publishing, Summer 2023)

June 1st, 2015, Kuta Beach, Bali, Indonesia


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