Back to the jungle

A set peels through Speedies in front of the judging tower, 1995. Photos from The Mountain and The Wave.

It’s hard to believe that it’s 25 years since surfing’s world tour last made a stop at Grajagan, the wild and beautiful peninsula on the south east tip of Java, better known to surfers around the world as G-Land.

One of the world’s best left-hand point breaks, G-Land spins down a shallow coral reef along such take-off spots as Kong’s, Money Trees and Speedies. It’s a goofy footer’s dream, but it can also be a nightmare of festering reef cuts, missed boats, prowling tigers and dwindling supplies of food (or worse, beer) in the camp kitchens. In 1994 a group of Aussie pro surfers almost drowned when a tsunami swept through their huts at Bobby’s Camp, but generally speaking, the inconveniences of being on the edge of nowhere were less extreme.

Certainly that was the view that the Quiksilver surf company took in 1994 when the ASP World Tour floated the idea of a “dream tour”, taking in the world’s best wave locations, wherever they happened to be. Quiksilver’s international marketing manager Bruce Raymond decided to go all the way and take the Quiksilver Pro to G-Land in 1995. The huge costs of creating infrastructure such as judging towers at the edge of the jungle would be offset by daily TV feeds around the world of the best surfers riding big, perfect, dangerous waves. But no one had any idea of the logistical nightmare that would become.

I wrote at the time: “The most important element of the TV coverage was the ‘Mosquito Express’. On each day of the event a videotaped highlights package destined for sports desks around the world would be ferried across the reef on an ancient prahu, powered by a sputtering outboard, to the village of Grajagan, where a kamikaze motorcycle courier would take delivery and race for several hours to Denpasar airport (via the ferry across the strait) and the first available flight to Singapore and from there to Heathrow, where it would be taxied to the British Telecom Tower in London, where it would be beamed out by satellite.”

Despite all of this, the G-Land Pro (won by Kelly Slater that first year) was deemed a huge success, and it would run for two more years. I was there for the 1997 event on just my second visit to the camp. The surf and the hospitality were incredible, and the media coverage had become more refined, but that turned out to be the last Quiksilver Pro G-Land until the one that starts tomorrow. The ‘90s version fell victim to the times, with political unrest overtaking Indonesia in 1998 with the toppling of President Suharto and the Asian financial crisis.

The 2022 model is sure to be far more sophisticated and less of a boy’s own adventure, with a Roxy women’s division being added, but apparently it hasn’t moved too far forward when it comes to environmental sensibilities, with a tower built over a thriving reef habitat again and a wide all-weather road being pushed through the national park.

Maybe a satellite link will have replaced the Mosquito Express too, and I’ll be able to watch from the comfort of Munna Point.

Longboard tour kicks off

I was hoping to bring you bring you a wrap-up of the first of the three legs of the WSL longboard tour this week, but it seems likely that there won’t be a result from the Manly contest site before deadline.

What I can tell you, however, is that Noosa’s Harrison Roach (resplendent in white hair) was on fire in small but good quality conditions through the early rounds, and managed to make it to the semi-finals before the event was placed on hold to make way for the shortboard Challenger Series. When surfing resumes in possibly difficult conditions he’ll be up against hot local Declan Wyton, so local knowledge could well be a factor.

However Harrison, ranked number two in the world for 2020-21, but the top seed because reigning world champion Joel Tudor is under suspension, is off to a flyer with at least a third at Manly. The tour’s next stops will both be in California, with events at Huntington and Malibu.

In the women’s division, Noosa’s Kirra Molnar, who scored a wildcard after winning a trials event in Port Stephens, surfed well through the early rounds but unfortunately went down to high-ranked Brazilian Chloe Calmon in the round of 16. Our adopted local, Hawaii’s Mason Schremmer, bowed out to Aussie Tully White in the quarters. Well surfed, ladies.