The Rest

Geography, Seasons and Climate
Safety
Environment
Photography
Respect

Geography, Seasons and Climate

Nyang Nyang island, home to Pitstop Hill, is largely an undeveloped island, populated only with a few small local villages. It stretches about 5km from end to end with hills in the interior and lush tropical vegetation running down to the shoreline, punctuated with white sand beaches and rocky headlands in some places. A maze of walking trails wind through the interior and around the island, used by the locals for moving between villages and between copra farming areas. Copra is a product harvested from the abundant coconut palms of the island, collected via local cargo boat and sent to processing facilities in Padang where it is converted into products such as soap and cooking oil. We use the walking trails for walking from Pitstops to the other four main breaks at our end of the island, favourite swimming beaches, and trying to spot the elusive Nyang Nyang deer in the island interior.

Our tropical climate is hot and humid, exactly what you want on a surf trip. The temperature generally ranges from 21-32°C or 70-90°F. The dry season extends from February – September and the wet season runs from October – January, but regular short bursts of rain can occur at any time, and on the other side of the coin, the wet season can still be dry and sunny for weeks at a time. The water is warm all year round, with the water temperature a consistent 27°C. Boardshorts (trunks) are all you’ll need, wetsuits are never necessary, but bring rash-vests or surf t-shirts and sunscreen for the heat of the day and don’t forget to bring plenty of tropical water surfboard wax.

The peak surf season runs from May to October with June to September generally receiving the biggest and most consistent swells. It’s during these months that the higher profile breaks (which tend to be those with grinding barrels over hundreds of metres) turn on consistently. But don’t be fooled, great waves can be found all year round, and thanks to some breaks being more swell exposed than others, and our proximity to the swell magnet waves like Nipussi and Burgerworld, your surfs in a low season trip should average at least head high, and you will be sharing them with very few other surfers. Local winds are variable throughout most of the year, but whenever you do decide to visit, there will be a wind and tide setup somewhere that will be working. Even on seemingly flat days, there’ll be a clean wave running down a reef somewhere nearby… and we’ll make sure you are right there.

Safety

Hilltop location and building construction

This north western area of Indonesia has a history of tectonic activity, and a relatively recent one at that. Earthquakes and tsunamis are unfortunately a possibility in this island paradise. While we hope that we won’t have to deal with this kind of occurrence, nonetheless we have kept them at the forefront of our minds in the design of Pitstop Hill. Our location approximately 35m above the beach is significantly higher than any land that was affected by the devastating Aceh tsunami. We believe that we are safe from this potential threat.

In the design of the buildings at Pitstop Hill we have enlisted the help of West Sumatran architect Popo (Dedy Iskandar) and Aban (Shahibul Abrar). Popo has been employed by the United Nations (UN) in designing buildings for the people of other areas of Indonesia, such as Aceh and Nias, that have been impacted by natural disasters. His core experience is in designing structures to withstand the impact of these occurrences. We are very glad to have both Popo and Aban on board and have followed their advice not only with their amazing architectural designs, but especially with regard to building materials, design and structural integrity.

Malaria

Malaria exists in the Mentawai islands, as it does in the rest of Indonesia and many other beautiful tropical locations around the world. It is important to note that humans and other higher primates are the only creatures that can carry the Malaria parasite. Thanks to Nyang Nyang island’s very small and spread out human population, we are at far lower risk of the existence of mosquitoes carrying the parasite than other more densely populated areas (towns, villages etc) of the Mentawais or broader Indonesia. In 8 years at Pitstop Hill, thankfully not one single guest, friend or staff member has ever contracted malaria or dengue.
There are a number of features of Pitstop Hill that help to reduce the existence of mosquitoes and the risk of being bitten by one. Our location across the front of a hilltop ridge overlooking the beach (and facing west, the origin of the majority of the weather that we receive) means that we have a good chance of being open to any breeze that is around, which in turn helps significantly to reduce the existence of mosquitoes. Also all of our buildings are air-conditioned. As mosquitoes prefer warm, damp environments and air conditioned areas are exactly the opposite of this, these are places that we like to be, and mosquitoes don’t. We also use a number of other measures such as landscaping and minimizing any stagnant water in the area (especially the water that gathers in the coconut husks left behind by the copra farmers) and also have a large supply of mosquito coils and repellant on hand at all times.

Compulsory travel insurance

Due to the nature of our location, and the nature of the sport that we love, travel insurance is compulsory at Pitstop Hill (we’re referring to emergencies; crime is not a problem at the island). We thank you for your understanding with this and ask that you bring with you a photocopy or proof of your travel insurance policy, as well as noting the details on your booking form. In the event of an emergency at the island we have the option (depending on severity) of treating minor injuries ourselves, visiting the medical clinic 10 minutes from here, or contacting our network of like-minded neighbours which between the four of us almost always includes at least one western medical professional. When you contact potential travel insurance providers, make sure you ask them what their plan of attack would be in a medivac situation in the Mentawai Islands, and please choose the provider that can prove they have a detailed plan in place.

Environment

A little surf resort can’t have a zero impact on the environment, but it’s our responsibility to tread as lightly as we possibly can and to improve our surroundings and educate the local community about the environment wherever possible. Minimising waste is a big one, and at Pitstop Hill we put a lot of effort into ordering supplies in the smartest way possible, and we view Indonesia’s obsession with single-use packaging as one of the greatest threats to its environment. Wherever possible, all cleaning products etc are ordered in refillable jerry cans, and all guests are provided with sports water bottles such that you will barely see a single-use plastic bottle on the Hill. What waste we do have is sorted, all organic waste feeds our gardens and green house via a huge three box composting system, and all vaguely recyclable items are packaged up and shipped to the mainland, where, while not on par with other parts of the world, they are nonetheless better equipped to deal with recyclables than a small island in the middle of the Indian Ocean. All these kinds of things were initially pretty foreign concepts for our local staff and local neighbours but we are really proud of how far some have come over the last few years in particular, in terms of understanding the problems of waste and how to go about minimizing and disposing of it. We are confident of continued improvement and that the understanding will continue to spread wider through the community as the years roll on.

All hot water on the Hill is provided by solar hot water systems to minimize energy usage and in early 2014 we completed a new, safe fuel storage facility at a considerable expense to make sure that no fuel ever comes into contact with the environment. We encourage guests to be mindful of what they bring to the Mentawai and request that difficult to dispose of items such as broken boards and leg ropes are taken back off the island such that they don’t become waste here. Thanks to the support of our guests, in early 2015 we were able to back the new NGO Cinta Laut (Ocean Love) with a significant financial contribution to assist them in implementing education programs, mooring systems and in monitoring illegal fishing in the south west region of Siberut. We are not there yet but we are dead keen to continue to learn and improve, to implement new projects and utilize new technologies in order to minimize our impact and that of the local communities on this amazing environment.

Photography

Surf trips in general, let alone surf trips to Pitstop Hill in the Mentawais, are reliable for producing some of the best moments of anyone’s year. So many memorable things are bound to go down, not least of them epic sessions in tropical waves with your mates, that it’s a crime not to have them captured, properly, by someone who knows what they are doing. It wasn’t long into the early days of Pitstop Hill that we realized we needed to have a professional photographer on deck at all times.

Our current in-house photographer is John Barton (check out more of his work on instagram @johnnyjungle or at his website), and the shots on this website are his. John is at the island for his 5th year in 2015 and will be capturing some great images of you and your friends, after he has guided you to the best surf spot as dictated by the conditions on that particular day. John’s photography package includes both shots of yourself surfing, plus all the other shots that he has captured throughout the duration of your stay, and is completely optional, no need to commit upfront, but if you like what you see then you are welcome to take him up on it.

John is at the island the majority of the time, but not for every single trip, in which case there will always be another talented photographer on deck. If you would like to know who will be shooting you on your trip, and to find out current prices and details of the photography package that they offer, please drop us a line here. And to flick through some of the great photos coming from the Hill over the last few days, just go and check out either of the below, and please give us a follow!

Instagram

Respect

Pitstop Hill is the result of a partnership between two friends, and our families. These two families are from two very different cultures and backgrounds, one from the Mentawai and Minang (West Sumatran) culture and one from Australia. We have a great deal of respect for each other and our diverse cultures, it is the only way to work together effectively, and has the added benefit of providing our guests with a much richer experience on their holiday.

Our culture of respect extends beyond the relationships between staff and management. At Pitstop Hill we try to carry the same principles into the following:

Respect for our guests

Getting away occasionally from your daily life to a place like Pitstop Hill is important for your well being. We know that our guests often have a limited amount of time away from the pressures of work and that many have spent a significant amount to come here. Because of this we do our best to provide exactly the type of holiday that the individual is looking for, be it crammed with activities and adventure or more on the relaxing end of the scale. And besides, we want to see you again next time.

Respect for the locals

After all, it is those of us from elsewhere in the world that are lucky enough to be able to travel and experience the amazing place that the Mentawai locals call home. In our business decisions we try to choose the option that has the most benefit to the local community. When visiting local villages we tread lightly and rotate our visits around to avoid any feelings of ‘here come more tourists’ and also to spread around any money that is spent.

Respect for the environment

The Mentawai environment is our number one asset. We do everything possible to minimize the impact on our surroundings so that future visitors can have the same unforgettable experience for a long time to come.

Respect for other surfers in our area

We often have our surf sessions just to ourselves. Sometimes though the best option for waves is already being enjoyed by other surfers, whether they are locals or visitors. We work with some of the other businesses in the area to provide a grace period to allow those already surfing to have it to themselves for a bit longer before we enter the lineup, or often we’ll just choose another location, usually easy to do here. In the lineup the rules of surfing are our bible, and we are happy to clarify these with any of our guests, they ensure a better experience is had by all.