SUrF TRaVeL ONLiNe offer you the option to surf G-Land with two great camps ...
“Grajagan” or “G-Land” is the eastern fringe of Grajagan Bay -- almost right on the southeast corner of the island of Java, Indonesia. It’s part of Plengkung National Forest, one of the last wild pieces of jungle left on this densely inhabited island. The mouth of Grajagan Bay is several miles wide; on its opposite side, facing across the bay toward the surf camps, is the real Grajagan, a fishing village hundreds of years old. Outside the bay’s mouth, the ocean floor drops away rapidly, descending to over 10,000 feet a couple of miles off the coast. Surprisingly close -- a matter of a few nautical miles east -- is Bali, where most G-Land journeys begin.
"Grajagan" is a massive lava-based coral reef, typical of Indonesian reefs in every sense but its vastness. The reef curves around in a big circle with the Blambangan Peninsula, starting inside the Bali Strait (between Bali and Java) and eventually finishing its 10-mile arc way down inside the northeast corner of Grajagan Bay. Deep Indian Ocean groundswells from the south and southwest close out along the reef line until it begins its final curve into the bay, when some unruly lefts begin to appear. About a mile from the reef’s end point, the machine clicks into gear.
Kong’s is the name for G-Land’s opening stanza, a series of long sectiony runs across relatively deep reef shelves. Around 300 yards at full length, Kong’s has a reputation for sloppy hotdogginess, but on the right swell -- 6 feet and with some west angle -- long barrels can be found. Otherwise, it’s the region of choice on smaller swells and is so exposed that a day less than 4 feet is stupidly rare. Kong’s does take work: it’s a 400-yard walk up from the camps, a careful 200-yard tiptoe over the exposed reef (or a similar paddle at higher tides) and a lot of paddling. But the same can be said of G-Land.
Moneytrees is the long-walled, almond-barreling G-Land midsection, the wave that originally made Grajagan famous back in the early ’80s, when Gerry Lopez and Peter McCabe rode it in front of Don King’s camera. Best on a south-southwest swell, it’s focused by an outside cloudbreak onto a lovely flat slab of coral savagery. Fast and clean, Moneys can deal with the right swell to a solid 8 feet plus and tends to change shape as it advances down the lava-creviced reef. Care should be taken while riding this wave at low tide, when the reef fringe is fully exposed. First-timers should closely watch experienced G-Land surfers for clues as to safe exit points. It can be approached easily through a swirly rip that forms between set waves just off the final section of Kong’s.
Speedies is the exceptional, super-hollow wonderland that completes the picture of G-Land’s main reef. Best on a south-angled swell, it doesn’t truly show itself until the 6- to 8-foot mark, when waves begin closing out Money’s down to an outer peak called Launching Pads. Waves roll off Launching Pads, double up, hit Speedies and start barreling, sometimes holding the exact curl pattern for 200 yards or more. Its appearance is so seductive that you’re easily lulled into forgetfulness of its harsh coral base -- that is, until you take off and feel the wave’s true intensity. At 10 to 12 feet, roaring off Launching Pads into the first bottomless tube section, Speed Reef is like a combination of Sunset and Pipeline, and every bit as challenging as both. Extreme care should be taken on a dropping tide.
Chickens and 20-20s, down the reef from Speedies, are lame play-waves for rare days when the real breaks are out of control. Tiger Trails is a small right 40 minutes’ jog west of the camps, sometimes fun, but massively outclassed by its nearby cousin.
One of G-Land’s greatest overall features is its relationship to the southeast trade wind, which blows consistently from April to October each year. This wind, kicking in most days around 9 a.m. or 10 a.m., is perfectly offshore along almost the entire left-angling stretch of reef.
Difficulty: medium to high
Danger factor: medium to high
Barrel factor: high
SUrF TRaVeL ONLiNe can get you to G-Land three possible ways:
One is by boat from Kuta or Benoa on Bali, another is by seaplane from Benoa or the third is from Kuta by (minibus), ferry and boat from Grajagan village. The third option is the standard method used by the camp operators.
When to go
The prime season is May to October. This is the Southern Hemisphere winter dry season, with a dependable southeast trade wind and a consistent supply of groundswell from Indian Ocean winter storms far to the southwest. Outside this timeslot, visitors run the risk of an active monsoon season, with heavy rains, bad winds and less swell.
Boards: Despite its occasional size, G-Land does not require a bigger Hawaiian-style gun in the 8-foot range; such a board can be a drawback in the ultra-curvy pits of inside Moneytrees and Speed Reef. However, if you’re putting a quiver together specifically for a G-Land run, look for something a little thicker than you might normally ride to help carry a turn farther than usual, with plenty of straight-line speed and no excess width. Although a fellow traveler might sometimes offer one for sale, there’s no dependable supply of boards in the camps, so take what you need.
We recommend that you take at least three surfboards, one in the normal hotdog range, two in the “good-wave” 6’8” to 7’2” range. And a couple of extra leashes.
Technique: Riding G-Land’s waves can be a serious challenge or a lot of fun or both. A good solid day at the two lower sections will surely test your wave riding technique. A few big turns, placed for maximum effect, combined with a relaxed attitude to the tube is the combo that’ll take you the farthest. Surfing here should be approached calmly and with a long-term mentality -- some sessions can last for six hours or more. Patience is sometimes needed during long waits between sets -- that, and staying put on the section of reef you’ve chosen and not being lured farther and farther up the line by mirage-like barrels that always seem just 50 yards away. Many surfers have found you can’t chase G-Land; you have to let it come to you. Like all good Indonesian waves, G-Land is best ridden from as deep as possible; trying to pick a wave off the shoulder will be frustrating, or (down at Speedies) possibly disastrous. You should also spend some time before your trip working on paddling strength, or you’ll fall apart after just a couple of days. Warning: G-Land is not suited to longboard riding. Nor to beginner surfers of any variety. Know your skill level. Machismo means nothing to a 6-foot wave breaking on nearly exposed reef.
Gear: This is a remote tropical location where long surf sessions and coral reef walks are part of the deal. You should be fully prepared for sun exposure, small cuts and scrapes, muscle aches and tweaks and minor dings and fractures in your quiver. You should also take protection against insects. The water is warm and wetsuits are not necessary, but you might choose to take a lightweight, short-sleeve suit for reef protection.
1) powerful sunscreen, anti-UV rash vest, sunburn relief gel, cap or helmet (optional)
reef walkers/hard-soled wetsuit boots, plus a carry pack to stash them in once you’re across the reef and in the surf
easy-to-use ding repair kit with UV-curing resin
small medical kit including antibacterial wash (Betadine), antibacterial powder, minor protective bandaging, painkiller and anti-inflammatory
effective tropical insect repellent
all the wax and wax combs you need, plus a couple extra for dumb friends who forget them
An American named Bob Laverty and a couple of buddies first surfed G-Land in 1970 after Laverty spotted the bay and reef from an airplane. At the time, there was no easy way in, no camp and no amenities; the jungle came right down to the reef, and only the occasional fishing vessel from Grajagan village went anywhere near the place.
Some other adventurers followed Laverty’s lead, including the legendary Australian surf nomad Dave Michel, who walked 14 miles on soft sand around the bay from the village to investigate the tales of this epic wilderness wave. It remained a secret spot of great rumor among knowledgeable surf travelers to Bali, who would sail across in small groups on full-moon tides. By the late ’70s, a camp had been set up in front of Moneytrees by Mike Boyum, a classic surf buccaneer of the old school who’d convinced the local authorities via a gentle financial massage to ignore the dubious legality of his gig. Boyum would charge US$100 per day to an elite clientele who stayed in tree houses, rode perfect waves and returned with stories of night-prowling tigers and black panthers, only adding to G-Land’s mysterious and seductive appeal.
Other tales were less romantic -- big swells would block supply runs to the camp, leaving guys stranded on starvation rations for days, sometimes weeks. In 1977, G-Land appeared on U.S. networks with a CBS “Thrillseekers” special starring Long Island surfer Rick Rasmussen. By the early ’80s, Boyum was gone, and the camp was being run from Bali by Kuta businessman Bobby Radiasa. Soon a second camp, “the Chinaman’s camp,” was set up slightly inland from Speed Reef.
A few photos had sneaked into surf magazines from time to time, but it wasn’t until Hawaiian lens legend Don King swam into the lineup and shot Gerry Lopez and Peter McCabe swapping Moneytrees barrels in 1983 that most surfers got a good look at what they’d only heard about. Soon, a week in G-Land was practically an essential part of any hard-core surfer’s Balinese sojourn.
Despite the increasing crowds, the camps have remained relatively primitive, with few creature comforts aside from a Ping-Pong table and unlimited supplies of beer (and if you knew the camp manager, the lethal Indonesian spirit arak). This was still a jungle, and none knew it better than the surfers and camp workers who were caught by a large tidal wave that slammed Grajagan Bay in 1993. The wave arrived at night and creamed the whole site, shoving huts hundreds of yards back into the jungle and injuring several visiting surfers, including current WCT Top 44 seed Richie Lovett, who broke his foot. Mass rebuilding occurred, and by 1995, when big-time pro surfing showed up in the form of the Quiksilver Pro, both camps were in better shape than ever before.
G-Land today, while still primitive by Western superpower standards, is far from the wild and wooly adventures of the ’70s -- you won’t be seeing any black panthers, that’s for sure, and sometimes you can make phone calls
Bobbys G-Land Surf Combat
G-Land Jungle Camp
By Nick Carroll