THUNDERSTRUCK - A MENTAWAI LAST CRUSADE



I found myself on a Mentawai charter awhile back with the ultimate A-Team. Kolohe Andino, Griffin and Crosby Colapinto, Ian Crane and Luke Davis. And they were just crazy to find this spot they heard about that was just 100 proof gnarly. What the hell were these guys trying to prove? How to chase a parked car? This place is triple X. It’s just this outcropping of razor rocks where out of nowhere this wall of water just lurches up and hooks out onto emptiness with dry reef all around it. I mean, it looks like it might be a nice place to snorkel around with a topless babe on a flat day, but actually surfing the place as it just carpet bombs the reef? Baffling. It’s liquid chaos out there. Hard to make sense of the motivation. But these guys had it on their radar and they were not gonna let it go.



The personality of this place was a real waiting game. The sets were like an artillery barrage, you had the pick the ones that had a survivable angle. I mean sometimes the tap would just shut off and the boy’s would end up paddling back to the boat. But that’s what’s so eerie about the place, one second you’re about to quit and the next you are just pulling into these death chambers. Crosby got the best one first, but Luke waited it out and got a monster. Just this giant hole in the ocean. Kolohe was just total confidence and Ian Crane, the only backsider, took it on and I thought he was gonna die. Backside at this place? Probably good that he couldn’t see what was going on behind him. And Griff? He was surfing like it was the last day of his life. And it might have been. This goofy kid just becomes a wild animal in those conditions.

You know, that kind of wave where you don’t remember the barrel as much as you remember the drop? Because it’s just full-on commitment or death by scraping. Once you start paddling, that’s it. Total focus, No changing plans or taking a look at it. Hold back for one second and really bad things are gonna happen to you. I was looking through a telephoto lens taking pictures of these guys paddling into these waves and you could just see the animal in their eyes, like something hunting in the jungle, knowing that they just had to kill it or die. Wiping out was just unthinkable. Over the falls? Hospital bed. If you could make it to a hospital. Help was two days away. In that moment, that drop, nothing else was happening in this world. You had to get under the whole top third of the wave before it just heaved out onto a parking lot full of broken bottles. But they wanted it that bad. I guess that what it takes to be among the best on planet earth.



This one crazy day we were in a total storm, rain, thunder, lightning and the whole boat is just swinging around and rocking, and this was a big boat, a catamaran and these damned things are supposed to be stable. Anyway, crap is sliding all over the tables and I’m puking over the side and groaning and hoping for a helicopter to take me away and all of a sudden these guys decide it’s the perfect time to go back to this death wave. What the hell? I thought I was dying and these animals are treating the storm like it’s some kind of Disneyland ride. Yeah, they won out. And the death chamber was just pumping chaos and out they went. Look, I know little girls can rip Macaroni’s and duck into tubes at HT’s, but it’s a rare surfer that can manage this place. Not a slab, a coroner’s table. This place is for the wicked talent among us. I know most people will look at the photos and think they could take it on, but they can’t. And shouldn’t. Not without a life insurance policy. That night on the boat I looked around at these guys and they all looked like they had PTSD. I thanked the Mentawai Gods that by the next morning we’d got the hell out of there.

Words and photos by Pete Matthews
(An excerpt from the book The Last Crusade, Lost Publications, 2022)

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