Words and photos by Yentl Touboul
So here I am, writing about a project that I thought would never happen…
It all started with an urge to make a surf video. One featuring my long-time friend Tito Lavole. We thought the best place to start would be in Guadeloupe, the Caribbean island that we both grew up on. At the time, Tito was surfing a pink and yellow striped 5’4, and I was holding a MiniDV camera.
Almost a decade later, a few details have changed: Tito is surfing a slightly bigger board, and I’m holding a slightly better camera. But apart from that, things were pretty much the same on that trip. Sleeping at Tito’s house and surfing the wind-blown left bowl out front, all day every day.
We did this for two weeks, and came back to our new home of Bordeaux, France.
The reality of life then caught up. I was too busy working and Tito was too busy studying and playing synth gigs in dusty cellars.
We knew we wanted this video to be more than a one-trip thing, and we both knew that Indonesia was where we wanted to film the second half of it. We’d already been there together, and the thought of embarking on another 20-hour mission via deserted roads and sketchy ferries on a beng-beng diet was way too tempting to do any differently.
But before we had the chance, Tito moved to Australia, the whole summer was gone, and with it our chances to score a proper swell in the Indian Ocean. We were hopeless, and seriously thought the project would vanish… yeah, another one of those.
It was October 24th when luck smiled at us and a blob popped on the maps. It wasn’t the swell of the decade, but definitely something decent enough to produce a few punt-able wedges at the remote spot we’d been eyeing for a while. A few hours later, our friend Erwin was knocking at my door, highly caffeinated from a 2L bottle of coke, and after a FaceTime with Tito who was just waking up in New South Wales, our tickets were booked.
72 hours later, and we were meeting up with legendary filmmaker friend Kylian Castells at Denpasar’s glorious Ngurah Rai airport. Tito followed an hour later. He was wearing his Halloween hat and we couldn’t be happier to finally be back in plastic land together—eating chocolate bars wrapped in plastic, and drinking lemon water out of plastic bottles. Driving through the plastic covered streets and humming the burnt plastic fumes in the air.
We’d already been travelling for 30 hours, and we still had 20 more to go, but standing on the deck of the rusted ferry at 1 am eating noodles out of a plastic cup felt so glorious that it even made us forget how bad we wanted a shower.
We were back in Indonesia, the one and only country that we adore so much.
Not only because of its perfect reefs, but for its surreal atmosphere. Indonesia can be a perfect illustration of the word contradiction, and the picture painted often hides a darker universe that I wanted to document, and immerse myself in for the sake of the project.
Driving down sketchy mountain roads in the middle of the night to cross paths with a group of men armed with machetes. Finding the most idyllic turquoise water bay and witnessing it being flooded with plastic at high tide. Talking with locals who don’t even have a decent roof over their heads, but surf the web on their smartphones. Seeing 10-year old kids smoking cigarettes. Finding out that you can buy rifles at your local grocery store, and later seeing three of the same kids riding a motorbike, carrying rifles on their shoulder.
This is what you’re getting hit with every day while road tripping through Indonesia, and navigating this constant bombardment of unfamiliarity is the reason we can’t help but come back for more, every time.
The accompanying photo series was shot on our two-week trip through Indonesia, while filming for PAARKESINE.