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It was only 1 year ago I returned from my first visit to Teluk Meranti where, together with few friends, I went to Surf the Bono, a tidal bore wave on the Kampar river in Sumatra. This was a trip that I started to plan on the day I first watched the Rip Curl video on the web showcasing this unbelievable wave somewhere in Indonesia. A quick internet search brought me to the web site of “Bono Surf”, a company that was already promoting trips to surf the Bono.

This was sometime in March 2011 and within couple of weeks I’d assembled a team of SUPers to follow me on this adventure. I always dreamed of surfing a river wave like the Pororoca in Brazil but the distance and organizational difficulty had always been an insurmountable obstacle. Finding such a marvel so close to home just blew me away. The dream of a lifetime coming true.

Everything was booked and ready for the trip well in advance, and all was proceeding as planned, when just few days before leaving we found out about another expedition going to Teluk Meranti at the same time as us! A government-backed group of surfers was heading out with the objective to film a movie to promote surfing in the Kampar river area. Almost a dozen surfers, long boarders, a body-boarder and SUPer fully equipped with jetskis, rescue boats, media boats and even a helicopter. Surely this meant an overcrowded wave! It was too late to change plans and with people from our group already on the way to Bali from Australia we decided to continue.

We had our adventure and conquered the Bono but with so many people on the wave, many boats following us making wakes and messing up rides, our trip was less than perfect. Nonetheless all of the guys from our group still got good waves and enjoyed this incredible phenomenon.

I had some great long rides but realized these were only a small fraction of what could have been. From the day I came back to Bali I was working on a plan to go and surf the Bono again. This time I wanted to make sure that I would get the best conditions and the chance to surf without too many people. I became the Substitute, ready to go if any spot became available. But in the next few months nothing happened as the trips were always solidly booked. Then this year in early October I found out that nobody booked for the November trip, scheduled exactly one year after our first trip!  So I contacted the guys at Bono Surf plus the locals at Teluk Meranti to find out more information and to make sure that we would not face any surprises there.

After receiving the news that nobody else booked or was going to be there I finally got the ticket just 3 days before the Bono supposed to appear. After a few phone calls I was able to find someone with time on his hands and signed up my friend Tony from Australia, who’s also been part of the original trip. What a dream: only 2 people to share a wave that goes for hours!

With great excitement we left Bali for Sumatra. Two flights later we landed in Pekanbaru and headed to the waiting car for the 6 hour drive to Teluk Meranti. It’s a long trip, even from Bali, a full 13 hour mission. We arrived at dark and immediately found the group of friendly villagers that we had said goodbye to just a year before. Everyone was happy and surprise to see us as only Eddie our guide knew that we were coming and had only been notified at the last minute. Tired but full of excitement we went to sleep to be ready the next morning.

We expected the Bono to show up at 09:00, the first section near the Island of Pulau Muda just over 1 hour by boat. With our SUP boards well-strapped to the inflatable Zodiac boat powered up by a nice 40 HP Yamaha engine we left the dock and started the chase! Surfing a tidal bore is so different than surfing on the ocean not only because of the wave but also due to the fact that you are not sure where and how it will show itself. Different tides and the water level of the river affect the wave in a very radical way! It quite possible that you wait in a place where the bore normally starts to break with nothing happening, only to realize that it’s breaking 500 meters up-river from where you expect it.

So the boat captain has to chase the Bono and drop you well in front of it but not just anywhere! He needs to put you in the correct spot where you are able to catch it and not get smacked onto the banks of the river. While in some sections of the river, the Bono is a perfect wall of water forming a never-breaking wave, in others it’s just a wall of white water like a giant tsunami traveling up river at 15-20 kilometers an hour! A destructive force of nature that takes down anything in its passage and sensible feared by the locals. Many boats have fallen victim to this power and lives lost. Only since Mr. Anthony Colas, owner of the Bono Surf operation came to Teluk Meranti in 2010 and showed the locals not to fear it, have the locals come to view the Bono as a phenomenon to play with and now people get on the river just to watch it or even surf it.

On my first trip it was just us and the pro’s surfing but this year there were at least 2 dozen locals who showed up to surf the last 2 sections of the river close to Teluk Meranti with us. Some with regular surf board, some with homemade wooden boards shaped following their own ideas. Some just used a plank of wood similar to a bodyboard, some shaped like an Alaia and some that looked like a rocket with a leash attached to the front which they used like the bridle of a horse to ride. They would ride the length of the wave lying down mostly in the white water and then stand up for just the last couple of hundred of meters before the wave disappeared in deep water areas.

Tony and I had 4 days of great riding with the Bono growing in size every day of our trip from shoulder to head high, choppy to glassy.  In a single day I would ride the Bono for well over one and half hours between the different sections.

There are at least 7 different spots on the river that create a glassy wall of chocolate dream, some last about 10 minutes, and some offer close to 20 minutes of uninterrupted splendor. Riding the Bono or any other river wave should be on the bucket list of any surfer! It’s a fantastic experience that does not compare to any ocean wave, not matter how big and perfect. There is a sense of the mystical and magical surfing a wave that moves on a river. My regular Bali waves are not longer the same. I definitely caught the Bore Fever!!!

More on the Bono

The discovery of the Bono is very recent. It all started in the New Moon period of September 07-13, 2010.

Mr. Anthony Colas, from France, an expert on tidal bores went to check the unknown river bore with 4 friends. They filmed the whole adventure, which was broadcasted on French TV on 28 Jan 2011, and viewed by 2,5 million people. They had been expecting a small wave as the bigger tide range occurred overnight, but nevertheless they faced 2-8ft face glassy walls for 4 days.

He then went back with a bunch of other friends on 07-12 December to face the big daily Bono, which probably peaked with a 8-10ft face. In March 2011, Mr. Anthony became Event Manager for a new Rip Curl Search which brought Pro surfers Tom Curren, Dean Brady, Bruno Santos, Tyler Larronde and Oney Anwar. With 3 Zodiacs, 2 jet skis and 1 chopper, the photo results have been crazily beautiful, including the first-ever barrel rides caught on film.

The village of Teluk Meranti. Teluk Meranti on Kampar River is a small friendly village of 2500 people with small shops, saturday night market, 4 schools. GSM phone coverage is excellent and you can get internet through 3G key.

How to get there: The closest airport is Pekanbaru in central Sumatra. It’s an International airport with daily flights from Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Jakarta plus other major Indonesian cities.

Trying to surf the Bono without a boat to take you down river is pretty much impossible. The only company organizing full packages that include expert trained guides with inflatable boats, logistics, food and accommodation is “Bono Surf” owned by the original explorer Mr. Anthony Colas and few friends.

For more information:

For our trip we used Jimmy Lewis SUP boards Stun Gun and Kwad that performed exceptionally on the never ending waves of the Kampar river.


For complete photos check the Photo Galleries