You’d be hard pressed to find a surfer out at Padang Padang with more local street cred than Mega Semadhi. He’s the local of the local surfers in the Rip Curl Cup. Mega grew around the corner at Bingin, owns the food truck in the car park, and is on it for practically every good swell at Padang. Even the heavens chose him as the ultimate Padang local – it’s said that the Bali gods ordained Mega to be the future high priest of nearby Uluwatu Temple. So when Mega won the Cup in 2016 for the second time, it’s no wonder it was bedlam from the cliffs to the beach as the locals celebrated the homegrown son’s accomplishment (Mega’s mom even lead the local crowd on the beach in singing the Indonesian national anthem during the awards ceremony). Will the hometown crowd get to sing their favorite son to victory in 2017? Here’s a bit of local knowledge from the defending champ:
In 2013 you won the Rip Curl Cup for the first time, after losing a super close final to Wardo the previous year. Last year you beat out Damien Hobgood, Mason Ho and Clay Marzo in the final. Was one championship harder than another?
Both were equally amazing. Any time you can win at Padang is a dream, especially in front of all my friends and family and the home crowd, and against such tough competitors. Everyone in the contest is a threat to win and every heat is like a final, so you have to be 100 percent locked in on the day. But I have to say the first time I won was the hardest. Last year I had all the experience of 2013 under my belt, so I was able to control my nerves better – that’s key during a heat out at Padang.
What is it about last-moment winning waves at Padang? You lost to Wardo on a last second wave in 2012. Then you beat Jacob Willcox on a buzzer beater in 2013. Garut won in 2014 on a buzzer beater. It seems like the final at Padang always comes down to the last wave.
I wouldn’t sat it’s an advantage to be behind in the later part of the heat, because it often can make you more nervous, especially in the final. If you already have a big score under your belt earlier in the heat, it can give you more confidence. You can relax a little bit and truly enjoy the finals. But I will say it’s more satisfying to win on a wave at the last second.
How did losing the final to Chris Ward at the last moment in 2012 help you?
I learned a lot that year, particularly the importance of being patient and waiting for the best waves. I’ve learned that late in the game, you can only win the heat when you wait for the best wave. Another thing it taught me was how to handle my nerves in that situation. You can be your own worst enemy if you can’t handle the pressure.
What do you think about the contest format changes instituted last year, now with only 16 invited surfers (8 local and 18 international) and no elimination in Round 1?
It’s way better than the old system. The new system gives more opportunity for everyone. Less surfers means less heats and more opportunity to surf man vs man after the first two rounds. If you get knocked out, at least you still got to surf twice at Padang with only three other guys out, which is a rare opportunity and a reward on its own.
This year you are trying to become only the second surfer ever to win back-to-back Cups. Bol did it in 2004 and 2005. What needs to happen in order for someone to repeat at Padang?
Train hard and pray that the ocean likes you on contest day.
Who do you fear most in this contest?
No swell for the entire waiting period, I think that’s what everyone fears the most.
Guys like Jamie O’Brien and Mason Ho have said the Rip Curl Cup is one of the most rewarding and fun contests in the world, alongside the Pipe Masters and The Eddie. How does it feel to be able to host all these talented surfers for at your home break every year?
In my opinion, Padang is one of the best waves in Indo. It’s the perfect spot to share with some of the best tube riders in the world. When you get that combination of wave quality and talent for one special day, everyone is always going to leave stoked no matter where they end up finishing. The Hawaiians have a few of those types of events at the best waves on their islands and they know how special it is.
Last year the WSL came on board and sanctioned the Rip Curl Cup for the first time, helping to grow the global webcast audience. As a local business owner, what has this event done for surfing and tourism in Bali?
It’s definitely given a boost to the local industry during the holding period. It’s a great chance to promote the area, Bali and Indonesia as a whole. Plus, it’s always nice to have the after party wind up at my food truck.
Tell us about how the big swell season has been so far in Indonesia this year and what your gut tells you about the waves for the holding period this year.
Hopefully there will be more swell coming. We have been getting a lot of early swell this year and I’m worried that it means we might get a lull in the middle of the dry season, which also happens to be when the waiting period falls (July 10 – Aug 10). Fingers crossed the gods continue to send the energy our way.