3 old friends on 3 old bikes finding far flung waves over 700km through Western Java, Indonesia. A Short film by Harrison Roach, Anthony Dodds and Andre Fauzi, 'Garden Variety' holds fast to the spirit of adventure and celebrates the act of discovery when the only plan you make is no plan at all. Kick back, grab a cold one and enjoy the ride.
Starring and created by: Harrison Roach, Anthony Dodds, Andre Fauzi
Words by Harrison Roach
New Stories to Tell
One of the major realizations I had during COVID was how much I missed my friends Dodds and Dre, who live in different parts of the world. I think everyone can relate to the feeling. Whether it’s a pandemic or simply that you have houses or kids or jobs pulling you in different directions, the friendships you build throughout your youth are always at risk of going stagnant. In this case, it became clear to Dodds, Dre and I, that to continue and actually build on our friendship, we’d have to force a trip to happen.
So, based on the idea that friendship won’t sustain itself over beers at the pub or coffees at the café, we decided to go for it. Every friendship needs new stories to tell - it’s how you continue to relate. If you simply rely on history instead of expanding upon it, the future might fade away. It was a big reason for doing this project.
The main idea was to make an approachable adventure film, and highlight the fact that adventure isn’t really this grand-scale idea — it’s something that’s accessible to everyone, everywhere. It’s about having a go at something and having a good time. We knew this stretch of coastline in Indonesia was not always pumping, but we also knew that it was rarely surfed. So with the hope for waves and the knowledge that we might not find them, we decided to approach our trip in a different way.
‘Garden Variety’ is pretty low-fi. It a simple approach that’s been used by travellers from time immemorial: go now, figure it out later. Our first plan was to find and use three old Yamaha DT’s as our mode of transport, with the belief that their issues would be outweighed by the character they added to the ride. Then, we’d take a small amount of stuff — some cameras, some surfboards, the clothes on our backs, boardshorts and a tent, and mount everything to the bikes. Finally, we’d hit the road for a week and see what happened. Dodds, Dre and I have worked together on many projects on different scales in the past, and we all agreed that we wanted this one to be bare bones. We wanted to make the most, with the least. With a small crew limited gear, it’s so easy to camp or sleep in little warungs, to change plans and capture and experience things as they happen.
The three of us are also of the belief that it’s the little hiccups along the way that make a trip an adventure. Getting up an hour before dawn, riding to check a wave that you’re not sure will be firing, and having a motorbike break down on the way, it encourages you to be pragmatic. And having to rely totally on yourself and your friends — as opposed to surf guides and new cars with perfect setups — might be what makes travel most rewarding. A bit of purposeful misadventure.
Surfers are prolific at finding waves and posting up at them, but the masses are yet to reach this little stretch of coast. Perhaps because it’s less consistent and more wind affected, or maybe it’s because it’s more uncomfortable. But that’s exactly what drew us to it, and the idea of this bare bones trip — sometimes the experience of imperfection creates a whole new kind of perfection. When everything’s going really smooth, like you’d expect on a holiday at some fancy accom in the Mentawais, that’s nice and all, but if you want to learn a little about yourself and your friends, it might be best to approach it differently.
On the Road…
Our first night, we camped on a soccer field right next to a huge lefthander. I didn’t end up surfing because it was too big. Dustin Humphrey once called it the most dangerous waves in Indonesia, and very few people have surfed it. I went there some years ago for the film Seven Signs, with the wrong board. This time, I went with a trusty step-up shortboard, in search of redemption, but it was maxed out, and I was no hero.
The second camping spot was on the beach in front of a perfect left and right. Again, it was too big, but it was kind of hilarious. Food wise, all we had was a bag of trail mix, which in the scheme of things was pretty stupid, and then there was a huge rainstorm. We were stuck in a tiny tent, with a bottle of rum and very little food. Not exactly ideal, but very funny to reflect on.
We were in a national park and had crossed three rivermouths to get to the spot. Some locals pulled us and our bikes across the first rivermouth on an old boat, from there it was about four kilometres and two more rivermouths up the beach to our camp spot. After the rainstorm, the rivermouths were flooded, so the next morning, with no food, a slight hangover, and the swell still maxed out, we walked back to the village to get supplies. We were up to our necks holding bags above our heads trying to cross one river, which was sketchy, but seeing as though it was in the name of water, coconuts and Pop Mie - we considered it worth the risk. That night, we covered ourselves in DEET and dealt with the mosquitoes, while we slept on the tiles outside of a guy’s house.
That whole ‘pretend to know what you’re doing until you learn how to know what you’re doing’ line, that’s so true with motorbikes. There are simple things that you pick up along the way out of necessity, like how to change a spark plug or a tire, or how to tighten the chain or clean a carburetor. It’s the simple stuff that actually keeps them running. The old two-strokes have character, and they teach you to have it yourself.
It’s the same thing with being able to find food when you need it, and it’s the same thing with searching for surf. We’re not techie swell forecasters or anything, we check the charts when we can, but having minimal expectations is part of the joy of travel, too. You bluster through a spot, and sometimes your mistakes end up being as enjoyable as when you get it all right.
We spent a good four days sitting around doing nothing, watching a huge swell that was too big for where we were, knowing that it was pumping at places like Desert Point and Padang. Rather than scoring, we were twiddling our thumbs, reading books, drinking what was left of the rum, and doing our best to make the most of our time. I’ll be the frist to admit that I would have loved to have been “scoring” somewhere, but the forced relaxation and time for reflectoin was well worth it, because when the surf finally decided to pump, I had a greater appreciation for it. And yeah, there was no one else there.
Each of us surfed by ourselves, and all of us surfed together. We laughed and hooted and experienced the childish excitement that only surfing gives us. It wasn’t death-defying waves or anything, but for me, it was like tapping into that original sense of surfing, and of travel. It doesn’t have to be the biggest or best waves, or most ideal scenario — if you’re really enjoying yourself with a couple close friends, that's a pretty special thing.
Harrison's gear of choice
"I had two trusty leg ropes, they are the 7ft military and navy ones that I always use and have never broken. I also had one of the midnight 6'6" board bags, which I was using as a double, with the midnight canvas bag on a shorty inside of that. And Doddsy had the 6'6" military one. Those bags are absolutely perfect for day to day travel on the road." - Harrison Roach