Annual Trip to Grajagan National Park in Java provides a master class in surfing

By Sophie Moeller

Ripcurl Global’s Chief Executive, The editor of Surftime Magazine, a National Geographic photographer, a prominent Australian surfboard shaper, 16 Green School kids and a bunch of their parents and teachers, what’s not to love about a surfing trip to G-Land, Java, with a crew like that?


The crew in their Ripcurl tees supplied by CEO, Pete Matthews, bottom right

It was daybreak when we boarded the G-Land Explorer for the two and a half hour high speed boat trip to Grajagan National Park in Java, home to one of the top 10 surf breaks on the planet.

Our surfboards had gone ahead the day before and would be waiting for us at Joyo’s Surf Camp situated right in front of the infamous reef.

As we approached Kongs, the deepest and biggest of the surf spot’s four breaks, and then Money-trees, Speedies and Launchpad there was a collective “Okay got it; this place IS epic” process going on within the boat.


The energy coming off the ocean as the waves pulled like threads across the reef was palpable. And we were only looking at them from behind.


The sight was nothing new to Pete Matthews, Ripcurl’s leading man in Asia, but none of us really knew how the concept for the long weekend was going to work out.

The high school Wave Academy kids were going to transform his Ripcurl blank into a ridable board by long weekend’s end.


Elle and Lily prepare the blank

The school’s beloved music teacher, Paul Davidson, had been hatching a plan to get his mate, Glen Mcneil in Australia, to come over and teach the kids how to shape the boards since the beginning of the year.

Freelance photographer, Tom Shultz, was now with us to record how it was done. A day later, Matt George, arrived to inspire our kids to come up with the words for a Surftime Magazine feature article on the process.

Hello! When does that ever happen in real life at school?

Well, it did happen. Our high school surfers made the board and under the tutelage of Matt George, the whole group will have their story published in the January edition of Surftime.

The school’s surf program has built up to a whole new level says Colin Cuit, Green School’s sports teacher and surf coach.

The Wave Academy has been giving surfing lessons to the students for three years now and is a popular option for the Jalan Jalan off-site programme, run by the school on Wednesdays.

This year, the school has ramped up its surfing option a notch with the start of The High Performance sessions, which offers surfing four mornings a week with advice, coaching and guidance, to an elite group, who return to school to take part in the proficiency and thematic frames of the curriculum from recess each day.


High Performance surfer, Fin O’Shea


High Performance surfer, Wilfred Stewart


High Performance surfer, Josh


high performance surfer, Kai Young Lee

So it was a super keen bunch who rocked up at Joyos at 8am that first morning. By 9am the advanced surfers were taking on the reef break. For those not up to the undulating deep sea conditions, there was a convoy of trucks to take them to the intermediate break 20 mins north on the edge of the jungle at Tiger Tracks. The name needs no explanation. There are said to by tigers in the Grajagan National Park to this day. We took their word for it.


Tiger Tracks would offer up perfect swell for the majority of the kids over the next two days, while the dads and a handful of the GS teaching fraternity beat their chests alongside Peter Matthews back at Kongs.


A sunset fell on day two, the younger GS kids went out on the boat to get a taste of the midnight blue and smokey orange horizon that came into play at dusk out there in the ocean. The swell had picked up considerably and the “whoop whoops” were the only cries heard above the rumble of the waves that evening.


There was no one from the Green School group that evening not living utterly in the moment. Every sense was fresh and alive and experiencing something unique.


Sitting out the back of Kongs on the Gland Explorer speed boat watching Green School’s Carolina de Riva on her stand up paddle board seizing up the undulating moving carpet soon to form into a 10 foot wave was a truly and OMG memory.

“This woman is something else,” I thought to myself and then I noticed that even this experienced surfer girl was, excuse the pun “out of her depth.”

Within moments she had paddled back to the boat, where I was taking photos, and put her board back on the boat.

“There was no way, “ she said, “I gotta get back to Moneytrees, that’s too big.”


My heart was pumping as we sped away from the impact zone towards the other equally famous, but closer to shore wave, that constitutes one of G Lands four legendary breaks.

In that adrenalin filled moment, I got it, I had come away with the Green School surfers to somewhere really special, powerful; no wonder this surfing experience is the stuff of legends.

This is one cool jungle. More wild than the jungle surrounding Green School but just as distinctively Indonesian.


Surfer Girls


There were no late nights in G Land, everyone was too exhausted after a full day of exertion and exposure. What was wonderful was how the non-adult group, ranging in age from 2 to 17, all just jelled and enjoyed each other’s company.

Another highlight took place when the shaping began. Glen Mcneil comes from Crescent Head, on the Mid North Coast of New South Wales, Australia. He’s been passionately making his custom GMS surfboards for local and visiting surfers for the past 30 years.

Glen Mcneil showing how it is done

Publicity shy Mcneil, shapes for Ellie Coffee, who is currently on the world circuit, but he is from the old school of surfboard making where everything was done by hand – a dying art form in the era of machine-made shaped boards.



The kids were utterly engaged as he took them through the process and an honor indeed to have giants of the surfing world, Pete Matthews and Matt George, looking on, not to mention having the process photographically documented by Tommy Shultz.

If making their own surfboard was not enough, the kids were then given a master class by George on how it you could describe the process in words.

“Surfers are a species on earth, a new species and we are equipped with skills you would not believe,” he told the kids.

“You are learning the noble art, of building surfboards in the jungle. You should be proud you have joined an elite group of people in this new world.”


Matt George and his master class


proudly showing off the finished product before it lets rip in the surf

“I am here to help you discover your voice…explain yourself to the world…create your own world…the way you treat people is the way the world is going to treat you…take charge of yourself…dream by day,” were George’s messages.

George dresses as a sort of surfing white samurai. Son of a navy pilot and school teacher, George was a pro-surfer in the 80s, has written and edited for most of the major surf mags in the world and, latterly, describes himself as a hard-core aid worker having surfed 15 jet-skis down Bourbon Street in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, not to mention delivered babies post the tsunami in the Phillipines as well as aid after the 2013 floods in Pakistan.

He’s also made a Hollywood movie, In God’s Hands. George described Surftime Magazine to the kids as as the voice of Indonesia. Amazing to think, with the help of Ripcurl, we were going to be contributing to it.

It might have started with a blank but look out for the colorful canvas our kids will have painted when their edition Surftime hit the stands.