This story contains adult content and is only suitable for persons over the age of 18.
Surf’s up on the island of Jauh along with romance, exotic adventures, and drunken chats. Jenny Richert and Steph McGill are two adventurous expats who have a reunion on their favorite island in Indonesia. This holiday turns into the coined “golden good luck vacation” when they meet muscular surfers, explore new places, and drink more vodka than they ever imagined.
From surfing one of the best breaks in the world (although mostly the whitewash) to drinking Bintang beers on wooden patios, these girls melt a heart or two while having the time of their high lives. Who said guys are the only ones with one thing on their mind?
The golden year of good luck for Jenny began in the summer. It had started, somewhat surprisingly, in Indonesia.
“Are you fucking kidding me?” Jenny said, grabbing the two Garuda airline tickets from the man’s sweaty hand.
Two years ago…, Jenny thought as she held the damp tickets in her fist, thinking wryly of the nightmare these trips had been in the past. But this time, standing in that tiny airport in Medan, Jenny felt a golden glow pleasantly embrace her, creating an aura of possibilities. She knew, deep into her bones, that the next month was going to be fantastic, and she gave a fist pump as the Garuda airline tickets flapped back and forth in her hand like a trophy of flowers.
“No way,” Steph drawled in her Australian accent, wrinkling up her eyes as she smiled.
“Two tickets to Jauh and it only took ten minutes. Ten minutes!” Jenny let out a triumphant smile as Steph’s eyes locked onto the tickets in disbelief.
Letting out a smoker’s chuckle, Steph cupped her hand around Jenny’s waist, the slimmest dip it had been in years. Jenny loved the way anything she wore fit her new trim body. She could distinctly feel her bones and muscles smoothly underneath a fine layer of skin—so much better than digging her hands through body fat to reach her frame. She had even worn horizontal stripes for the first time in years; it gave her a trendy look now and didn’t make her look wider in an unbecoming way.
The thing was, getting airline tickets in mere minutes for a flight that was leaving in less than an hour had never happened before, back when the girls had been working in Indonesia. They had been in Sumatra’s sweaty armpit of a capital city many times as they had plane-hopped between Aceh and Jauh. The small island of Jauh, one they frequented on every break, hosted one of the best surf breaks in the world, followed a Christian religion in contrast to the Muslim area they lived in (so actually served alcohol and allowed them to wear bikinis and sundresses), and had its own unique culture.
Even though Jauh was only a short plane ride from the largest island of Sumatra in Indonesia, transportation had always been a nightmare. Before returning to Indonesia, Jenny had already prepared herself for the anticipated chaotic traffic, breathing in heavy pollution, and sweating profusely in the small airport while the whirring of the air conditioners pumped out only hot, stale air with yellowed walls sticky with smoke from the hundreds of men puffing cigarettes at tables five feet away from the “non-smoking” section.
But, mysteriously, since Steph and Jenny had met up in Singapore for this reunion trip, everything had just been so easy. Jenny had flown down from Kuwait after finishing up a year-long teaching contract, and Steph had come up from her beach house in Australia. They had shrieked with joy at the sight of one another, bought a few bottles of duty-free vodka, and caught up, talking nonstop on the flight to Indonesia. The prompt tickets to their tiny surf destination were the rare cherry on top.
“I still cannot believe our luck,” Steph said as she lit up a cigarette.
“Yes, we are in for an amazing holiday.”
Jenny put on her backpack, and they walked towards their gate, which, ironically, had fresh white paint on the walls and an air conditioner that cranked out cold air. The two girls looked at each other and let out a laugh.
“A ride to the surf break for 200,000 rupees!” The tiny Indonesian man wore his black baseball hat backwards, and a half-finished tattoo of a sunset or sunrise trailed down his forearm. Steph warmed to him immediately.
“What’s your name, and how long is the trip?” Steph spat out the two-pronged question in one go as she wanted to move through the little throng of porters and drivers as quickly as possible. She was still fresh with the rush of seeing her friend again and was trying not to get frustrated with the onslaught of barters.
“Adi, and it takes two hours to get there.”
Taken aback by his direct answers, Steph sucked in her breath. Most barters would have asked a question back, such as, Oh, are you from Australia? Or any other conversation starters. This was just answer-answer.
Finally, her brain worked out a response. “It usually takes at least five hours,” she said, looking questioningly at Adi.
He shrugged his shoulders, and the sun grew larger on his arm—definitely a sunrise. “Road is fixed now.”
Well, I’ll be damned.
“Jenny, we are going with Adi.” Steph nodded in Adi’s direction through the mass of other porters, who were still yelling questions at the girls in a simultaneous uproar. Adi’s quietness, which appeared more like boredom, stood out louder than any of the other noisy porters who were jumping around in animated circles trying to grab the luggage out of Steph’s hands. Adi lit up a cigarette and winked at her. Well, I guess he’s not that bored, Steph thought, blushing involuntarily.
Jenny smiled at Steph. “Did he say two hours?”
Glancing up, Steph saw that Adi was looking the other direction and rubbing his eye—the one that had winked at her. She suddenly paled. Had he even winked? He probably just had something in his eye…or maybe he was just shy. She shrugged to herself. Even this mishap couldn’t break the good luck trajectory. “Yes, he did,” she answered Jenny, “and I can’t believe it. First, the quick tickets, and now, only two hours to get down to the break?”
“Well, I’ll be fucked.” Jenny let out a whistle.
Although small, Adi was strong, and he scooped up their backpacks in one movement. Once the other porters saw that the Western women had selected someone, they ran off and promptly started harassing the other passengers. Steph let out a deep breath and felt the tension release from her shoulders. The claustrophobia brought on by the humidity and the sheer number of people in Indonesia always made her feel an ironic mixture of stress and energy. It was like her nervous system lit up with fight and flight at the same time, giving her both an upper and a downer. Man, she loved Indonesia. To Steph, just being there was the best natural drug ever.
She thought back to the last time she and Jenny had been to Jauh. It was right after their contract had ended in Aceh, the province they had worked on in Sumatra, and they had taken their last surf holiday together with Audrey. It had been so much more difficult before, so soon after the Asian Tsunami. Apparently, little Jauh had really picked up some tourism since then and fixed the road down to the famed surf break.
As they followed Adi outside, the wind kicked up Jenny’s blonde hair into a flame. It was still so surreal to see Jenny that Steph reflexively reached out her hand and stroked Jenny’s hair down. A simple move, but one that seemed to connect her to Jenny and make this entire trip seem real.
As they settled into Adi’s van, he immediately lit up a joint and turned up the music. AC/DC coupled with the sweet smell of marijuana flooded the car.
“This is the life,” Jenny said, putting on her sunglasses.
Steph couldn’t agree more. This is going to be the golden summer, Steph thought as Adi reached back and handed her the joint while “Back in Black” blared out of the speakers.
On the way to the surf break, Jenny and Steph had stopped to pee. It was another popular surf spot near the break—about twenty minutes away from the guest houses. When Jenny had run into Mason, a gorgeous surfer, Steph had watched comically as they’d introduced themselves before muttering something about forgetting something in the van and quickly walking away.
Mason’s eyes were almost a turquoise green, and Jenny couldn’t stop smiling. Maybe it was the weed, but she thought it was probably the way he kept flirtatiously looking her up and down. His attention stroked her nerves deliciously, making the hairs on her arms stand on end. In an effort to seem more casual, she crossed her arms, then remembered that she had read somewhere that crossing your arms was a stance of non-invitation. She dropped her hands quickly, and they swung down and abruptly hit her thighs. Trying to cover the move, she began thumping her thighs in little beats, but then she realized she was drumming to no apparent music. So she started humming a little tune. Man, I’m stoned, she thought as she couldn’t think of a song to hum apart from Back in Black, which was a very hard song to hum.
She couldn’t even remember the last time she had gotten high. It must’ve been…before Kuwait? she thought to herself. Kuwait was a dry country—well, it was only “officially” a dry country as the black market was booming with booze, but regardless, there was no weed around.
For this holiday, she was determined to have a fantastic time and let loose. Once she started graduate school in the fall, it was going to be books and tight purse strings, so this was her moment.
Mason had introduced himself mere minutes before, and he let out an amused smile as his eyes stopped following her nervous movements and instead rested on hers. Jenny was still drumming the awkward song, distracted now by thoughts about graduate school, but when Mason connected eyes with her, she was pulled back to the present. And what a juicy present moment. She let her gaze trail down his torso, and even though he was sitting down, his six pack abs were perfectly intact like a…
“So, where are you guys staying?” Mason asked in his rough but charming Australian accent.
“Um, we were planning on staying at Auntie Lorrie’s place. It’s where we usually stay,” Jenny said.
Jenny noticed Mason’s abs dance a little as he leaned forward. “Well, Adi has the best place on the beach. It’s right in front of the break, and it is super laid back. He even lets me use his bike.” Mason nodded towards the road where a scooter rested against a coconut tree.
“Wow, that really does sound nice,” Jenny murmured amiably. “I really like him, too. He is the most straightforward guy I’ve ever met.”
Jenny bit her lip so she wouldn’t end up with a wide grin on her face again. But instead, her gaze landed back on Mason’s perfectly shaped abs. She wondered what they would look like if he was standing up…or while he was lying on top of her…or—Oh, crap, am I licking my lips?
“Well, you should definitely stay at Adi’s. It is the best place on the beach—you can have a beachfront room! Plus, me and my mates are staying there.” He let out a sheepish grin, and Jenny couldn’t believe her continued luck.
“Alright, we will be sure to check it out. I’d better get back now. See you around.” Jenny gave a shy smile as she walked away and nearly tripped over a small rock on the windy path. Involuntarily, a little giggle escaped her lips, but she knew the sound was drowned out by the loud waves. Jenny glanced up at Steph, who was standing in front of the van, looking back and forth between Jenny and Mason with a bewildered expression on her face.
“You’re hooking up with a guy before we even get there?” Steph asked as soon as Jenny got back to the van. She felt like it had taken her five minutes to cross the short distance as she had been careful not to trip over any more rocks.
She ignored her friend’s teasing question. “Mason said that he and his friends are staying at Adi’s guesthouse, and it is the best one on the beach. He said we should really stay there.” Jenny knew she was babbling, but she couldn’t help it; the weed intermingled with the flirting was making her feel like a teenager.
“Did he, now?” Steph said and lit up a cigarette. “I only saw you two checking each other out. All I have to say is that, on this Indonesian trip, you’d better get laid.”
“Hey, now!” Jenny pushed her friend playfully. “Just because I didn’t have a ‘fifteen’ moment doesn’t mean I didn’t have fun.”
“Oh, shit.” Steph let out a laugh and then groaned. “I had forgotten about that. I still can’t believe I had sex with someone fifteen years younger than me! At least he was nineteen…and at least I got laid.”
“Well, I’m sure you will have no problem with that on this trip.”
Steph opened her mouth to tease Jenny more but then dropped her jaw when she followed Jenny’s gaze. Another hot guy—a little older, but still with a perfect surfer body—had joined up with Mason. Adi walked over to where the guys were all talking, looking up at the girls from time to time. Jenny strained her ears, but all she could hear was the waves pounding on the reef.
“I wonder what they are saying…,” Steph said.
Mason let out a laugh as Adi handed him something. Probably some of this killer weed, Jenny thought.
“I can’t hear a thing except the waves. And a strange buzzing sound,” Jenny said.
“Yeah, I hear it too. It’s like there’s a beat, and—oh, wait. That’s the music from the van. It’s just turned way down.”
Both the girls started to giggle as Adi rejoined them.
“Bagus, let’s go!” he yelled out in a voice that seemed much too loud to come from his small frame.
“Alright!” Jenny jumped in the backseat next to Steph. “Hey, Adi, do you have any more rooms available at your losmen?”
The view of the wave was better from this angle, even as dusk settled quickly across the horizon, blending the ocean and sky into the same expanse. Steph set down her Bintang beer on the wooden table and snuck a look at Jenny. “Auntie Lorrie is going to kill us.”
Jenny stuck out her tongue in the direction of the Auntie Lorrie’s losmen, and both girls let out a laugh. The last part of the sunset cast a shadow across the arch of beach where about 12 guesthouses, known as losmens, were perched.
“I know, but you have to admit Adi’s balcony has a better view…all around,” Jenny said, gesturing with her beer up around the table where, a few minutes ago, Mason and Ian had been sitting.
Auntie Lorrie’s losmen was where they had stayed the previous two times they’d visited Jauh: once, during the Muslim holiday Eid al-Fitr, when they’d had leave work, and then once at the end of their contract before they had parted ways back to their own countries. Steph had returned to Australia and Jenny to America.
Jauh was an interesting place, known for rivalry and the most aggressive sales techniques that Steph had ever seen. The island itself was far off the beaten path—even for surfers—yet it had one of the best waves for surfing in the world. Because of its geographic isolation, Jauh was spared the typical tourists and instead boasted an interesting mix of professional surfers, who would stay for about a month at a time. These were serious dudes who came to surf. They were not in Jauh to party—that was reserved for Bali. Jauh was where the morning, day, and evening consisted of surfing.
Of course, a few local Bintang beers here and there or an occasional joint were necessary commodities, but there were no bars or nightlife on this quiet and remote stretch of beach. The pool house was the only “nightlife” out here, and that was a just a bamboo shack with a couple of pool tables where mostly locals would hang out. The action was the waves, and the losmens were where people would eat, sleep, and have a smoke.
These losmens were perched upon high stilts of wood with wide balconies decorated with basic commodities of hammocks and large wooden tables. Of course, there were no air conditioning or amenities in the losmens. For showers, the bathrooms had porcelain squares filled with water with a plastic bucket—“bucket showers”—and most bathrooms included a squat toilet. But you couldn’t beat the price if you could afford to get to Jauh. Rooms ranged from $2 to $3 per night, not including the cost of food.
That was why the losmen owners were so crazy. They did everything they could to get you to buy your meals from them to increase their revenues, and it had become a kind of social etiquette. You ate where you stayed. If you went to someone else’s losmen to eat, then you had to face hours of interrogation from your losmen owner. It was an hour of “What did you buy? How much was it? Isn’t mine better? Why do you do that to me?” It was unthinkable to sleep at one losmen and then mosey on down the beach to another one for a meal. Your losmen owner would take it personally.
Where you slept was where you had coffee, beer, and food…and it was also where you bought magazines, had massages, socialized, and bought cigarettes and joints. Occasionally, there would be a bonfire party, or some losmen owner would curate a projector and show a movie, but most days, you were at your losmen or in the water on a surfboard. It was easy to see why Steph and Jenny were usually the only Western girls staying on Jauh.
Steph knew that Jenny was right, but she was always the kind of person who would stick up for the underdog. She felt like Auntie Lorrie was the underdog in this situation…there is no way she can compete with Adi’s, thought Steph. Auntie Lorrie’s losmen was boring; the girls had never had co-ed capability and had to endure Auntie Lorrie’s kids making noises way too early in the morning or during afternoon hammock naps.
“She’s already sent her kids over with three messages,” Steph said, letting out a small whimper.
“We need to stay strong, Steph. I mean, even the Bintang is colder here.” Jenny took a swig off her beer and over-exaggerated a swallow. “We can’t just go to her place because we feel bad. It is our holiday reunion.”
Jenny made sense, but Steph couldn’t help feeling like they were making a mistake—like Auntie Lorrie might put a crazy hex on them or something. She was about to argue some more—if for nothing else than to at least make herself feel like she’d stood up for Auntie Lorrie. But then Ian walked back out onto the patio.
“Hi, ladies. Having a beer, I see,” Ian drawled out. His tall muscular frame was intimidating in an exciting way, and Steph took another drink of beer to distract herself from staring at him. As if sensing her uneasiness, he pulled up a chair next to her and sat down, his thighs barely touching her own.
“Ah, yeah, cheers,” she said, holding up her bottle.
Ian held up his empty hands, but then, as if on cue, Mason walked up and placed a beer in his palm.
“Thanks, mate,” Ian said and reached down, clinking Steph’s beer.
Mason grabbed a plastic chair and moved it between Ian and Jenny. Sitting down, he propped his feet up on the wooden table.
“So, how long are you ladies here for?” Mason said, his eyes completely on Jenny.
“One entire month,” Jenny said, enunciating each word. Then, she smiled.
A lightbulb flickered on in the hallway just as the last of the light disappeared in the sky. Reggae music wafted down the hallway, and the vignette comforted Steph. She took another drink of her beer and felt the alcohol whizz in her veins.
Jenny continued, “Unfortunately, we got here too late today to be able to jump straight in the water.”
“Yeah, but Jen, we fucking made it,” Steph said, and she stretched her beer past Ian and Mason to clink bottles with Jenny. They both let out a chuckle as their clumsy “cheers” caused a small amount of beer to splash onto the table.
As she drew her hand back, she brushed Ian’s warm arm, and she would have sworn she felt him flex. Looking up at her, he smiled, and she grinned back with a tooth-filled smile. She was happy and felt amazing. She could finally relax.
The last few days leading up to the trip, Steph had been in the heightened state Jenny had always called “The Planner.” She did what she had always done: made a long list of how many transitions her trip would take. She still had the itinerary locked in her brain. The trip to Jauh was broken down into five sections.
#1 Taxi ride to the airport (30 minutes)
#2 Flight to Singapore (8 hours flight time)
#3 Flight to Medan, Indonesia (1.5 hours)
#4 Flight to Jauh (50 minutes)
#5 Taxi van to the Break (5 hours 2 hours)
Five steps that amounted to a very long day. Of course, these times only included actual traveling time—they didn’t cover showing up early, layovers, and other trivial pieces that made each step its own organism. Steph thought back to two years ago, when they had been in Jauh and she had spent the entire day planning each of Jenny’s steps back to the States. That trip had consisted of seventeen mini-trips over two days. So five microorganism trips weren’t too bad. A cold beer to end this day along with one of her best friends at one of her favorite places was the perfect ending to a five-part trip. The hot guys were a lucky bonus.
Ian reached into his pocket and took out a joint. Lighting it up, he took a hit then handed it to Steph. Jenny and Mason were in deep conversation, and the music seemed a little louder. Steph propped her bare feet on the rim of the balcony and saw that her pedicure still looked fresh and new. Yes, life is perfect, she thought as she took a drag off the joint.