This guide scours Indonesia’s most famous surf archipelago for Mentawai surf camps that will change your life with barrels you’ve never thought possible and wave quality you didn’t know existed, plus pro tuition and top-notch accommodation.
Here’s a hard truth – serious surfers don’t really mess around with Bali any longer. There are just bigger fish to fry in Indo. One such big fish goes by the name of Mentawai, a splattering of islands just off West Sumatra that’s basically unrivaled in the quality of its breaks. And we don’t mean unrivaled in Indonesia. We mean unrivaled anywhere on the globe. Seriously…that good.
Up until only a few years back, the best way to surf the Ments and make the most of the ridiculous level of breaks that are there was to do a very pricy live-aboard boat trip. Boat trips are still awesome here, and they’ve come down in price a lot. We even recommend a couple below. But the islands are now speckled with a range of very high-quality surf camps that see you return to dry land and the comfort of swimming pools and spacious suites once the day is over.
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The Shadow Mentawai
- Location: Private island off Siberut Island, Mentawai
- Price: 14 days/13 nights starting at $2,526 (£2,101) per person
It’s not often we get to say this but The Shadow is a surf stay on its very own private island. Mhmm…come here to channel your inner Richard Branson, only with less in the way of primer Cru champagne, more in the way of perfect barreling rights and lefts over pristine coral reefs. Location? Think smack dab in the heart of the acclaimed Playgrounds area of the northern Ments, with 20 or so named breaks sat within easy boat ride (and, yep, don’t worry, these guys have their own boat!).
The Shadow is one deeeeelluxx surf resort. The rooms have a touch of the castaway about them but don’t let that fool you. They come with plush double beds and driftwood-built balconies, indoor-outdoor bathrooms and air conditioning throughout. You’ll hangout with other guests and surf guides in the communal space, or pretty much anywhere along the beachfront that’s 100% deserted from tip to toe – did we mention that it’s a private island?
The surf program at The Shadow is, simply, exactly what you’re looking for from surf camps in the Ments. They’ve got local guides who know the archipelago like the back of their hand running the twice-daily sessions. You also get morning or evening yoga included, along with all three daily meals cooked by the fantastic in-house chef – think healthy, vegan-veggie-friendly, dishes that run the gamut from gado gado salads to avocado on toast.
A note on why we partner with BookSurfCamps.com: Book Surf Camps are probably the biggest online aggregator of surf camps and surf-yoga packages in the world. We sounded out a quite a few potential partners before we affiliated with them. But, in the end, the abundance of choice for beginners, intermediates, and female-only surfing sealed it. We also love the simplicity of their booking system and the trusted brand name, along with the focus on connecting with homegrown local businesses on the ground.
- Location: Masokut Island, Mentawai
- Price: 8-day surf evolution program starting at $1,803 (£1,501) per person
Hidden Bay offer a very performance-focused itinerary that’s all about honing in on the technicals of your surfing. Guests get daily surf sessions on some of the finest breaks in the islands but they also get tailored fitness classes to maximize paddle power, yoga sessions that stretch out key surfing muscle sets, and in-depth theory and analysis. All that’s why we really recommend it for the confident intermediates and above.
The location is perfect for getting out and about in what’s unquestionably the premier surf area of the Ments: Playgrounds. The folks at Hidden Bay have their very own speedboat for transport to and from the breaks, meaning you can whiz up to Beng Beng in 15 mins or cross to Kandui in 20. Barrel chasing hardly gets any easier.
The stay oozes authentic Indo charm, too. The rooms are all built in old-school Sumatran style, with thatched roofs and eco materials. They can sleep groups of three or couples, have big ensuite bathrooms, and open onto deck spaces that gaze at the Indian Ocean. We also love how everyone gathers at the resort’s own Restaurant Sikerei come evening, to dine on food that’s especially curated to up your energy levels on the surf.
Beng Bengs Surf Camp
- Location: Masokut Island, Mentawai
- Price: 10 days/9 nights starting at $1,390 (£1,158) per person
Poking out of the jungles of Nyang Nyang Island in the midst of the Playground area of northern Mentawai, Beng Bengs Surf Camp is one of the original on-land camps in the area. It looks over the iconic wave known as Ebay, a frothing left hander that offers more barrel sections than you can shake your morning pancakes at. They also have not one, not two, but three speedboats ready and waiting for when it’s time to explore the other waves in the region.
What we really like about Beng Beng is the fact that it has a bit more of a down-to-earth vibe than some of the five-star camps on this list. It’s built more like a classic surf stay, with palm-thatched ceilings and a mix of double and twin rooms, some with cold showers, most with hot. The fact that it’s limited to a max of 8-10 people each week helps to keep the whole thing feeling like a little community, not some factory line surf hotel that’s in it for the cash.
We recommend their 10-day camp package. That’s enough time to make the most of the best waves in the area, since you get 2x daily surf sessions on 8/10 of the days. And when we say surf sessions, we mean session that can last 4+ hours a pop.
Kingfisher Mentawai Resort
- Location: Sipura Island, Mentawai
- Price: 8 days/7 nights starting at $2,163 (£1,801) per person
The further south you head, the fewer Mentawai surf camps there are to choose from. That’s what makes the Kingfisher Mentawai Resort a bit of an outlier. It offers a rare chance to get stuck into the breaks of the central islands around Sipura, which host the breaks that first put the region on the map: Hollow Trees, Lance’s Left, Bintangs. These are spots that ooze quality from lip to reef, and they are WAY less busy than their compadres up in Playgorunds.
Aside from helping you escape the growing crowds of surfers in the Ments, a stay at the Kingfisher Mentawai Resort also promises to be a proper tropical island experience. The rooms are bungalow-style lodges with bamboo balconies that overlook coconut groves and bird-stalked wetlands. Guests get three meals included each day. And there’s lots for non-surfers, including snorkeling reefs and SUP lessons.
The 8-day package with these guys means you’ll get access to 15+ surf spots in the surrounding area, which you can access through unlimited use of the resort’s private speedboat. The trip also includes all your transfers from the airport on Sumatra, which is not to be sniffed at – reaching the Ments is half the battle!
Southern Mentawai Outpost
- Location: Sibigau Island, Mentawai
- Price: 11 days/10 nights starting at $2,089 (£1,740) per person
Last but most certainly not least is one of the sole Mentawai surf camps to offer a ticket to the less-trodden southern islands around Pagai. It beckons on the northern side of little Sibigau island, some 2.8 miles to the west of Pagai itself. That puts it quite far from the iconic wave of Macaronis and closer to a whole host of pretty unknown breaks. The upshot? This stay lends itself to the true surf adventurers out there.
That’s backed up by the very nature of the 11-day package here. The Outpost employs a very hands-off approach to their surfing. It’s really about giving you a base to explore the waves and reefs at your own pace. There’s no dedicated surf guiding, just a whole theme park of different waves that aren’t in the magazines yet. We’re talking the likes of swell-magnet Thunders and hollowish Rag’s Left, which cap off a selection that really lends itself to very good intermediates and up.
There’s also one more USP of the Southern Mentawai Outpost. It’s among the most eco-conscious surf resorts we’ve encountered anywhere on the planet. The whole place was built specifically to reduce the carbon footprint of the building. The rooms are made from sustainable bamboo, they’re orientated to have strong sea breezes for cooling instead of aircon, and guests all get a branded refill water bottle when they arrive. Nice touch.