People

Raditya Rondi: First Asian
surfing Champion

Courtesy of Tim Hain

One of the oldest expressions in the surfing lexicon is “stoked”. It’s how we describe the extreme heights of delight that a good session in the surf can give us.

Billabong used to have the mantra, “Only a surfer knows the feeling”, and it’s true.

The word stoked has overflowed into everyday speech to describe anything that makes us happy, and even non-surfers use it.   

Right now, Balinese surfer Made Raditya Rondi, nicknamed Cabul (bull), is feeling pretty stoked. At the age of 22 he’s just become the first ever Open Men’s Champion of the newly established Asian Surfing Championship tour. 

“This is a great moment for me, to be the first ever Asian Surfing Champion, and I’ll remember it forever. Back home in Indonesia, it was Pepen Hendrik that was the first Indonesian Surfing Champion back in 2004, and now it’s 2011 and I’m the first ASC Champion. I’m so stoked right now, and feel so honored.”

“I’ve had so much fun on the ASC tour, traveling to new places, meeting new people and making new friends,” said Raditya. “The ASC is a really great idea and it is really important to surfing. It gets us out of our usual places and helps us improve our surfing. I’m already looking forward to next year.”   

The Asian Surfing Championship was established to help promote surfers and surfing in the countries in the region, such as Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, the Philippines and Taiwan. It provides the structure of competition, and discipline too. Not everyone can be a champion, but there are other career paths in the sport for young surfers.

Indonesia has some of the world’s best surfing locations and the sport is more advanced here than anywhere else in Southeast Asia. Indonesia even has its own professional surfing tour. Raditya is now the second best rated surfer in Indonesia, with only Marlon Gerber ahead of him. He is aiming to topple Marlon in 2012.

Raditya won the Asian title in the Billabong Cerating Pro 2011 on Dec. 10 and 11. Cerating is a point break on the eastern coast of Malaysia just north of the town of Kuantan.  He’s a “goofy-footer” (right foot forward stance) and it’s a left hand breaking wave, which means it’s advantageous for him, because he can ride facing the wave, whereas the natural-footers have to surf with their back to the wave, which can be a bit of a disadvantage. Goofy-footers are a minority. For the uninitiated, it’s a bit like being a left-handed writer.  

For the contest, the waves were “Okay lah — not so good, not so bad — about three feet [one meter] high,” Raditya said. Surfers always estimate the height of waves in feet not meters. It’s part of the tradition which originated in the USA.

When asked about Cerating he said, “You should go there. The place is nice, quiet and the local people are friendly.”

As a goofy-footer Raditya is also stoked when surfing at his favorite spot in Bali, Padang-Padang, for its hollow left-breaking barrels or Uluwatu and the other nearby breaks, some of Bali’s most famous left-handers.  

Yes, he’s had a huge year, winning several big events, and his sponsors, Billabong have just renewed his contract for another three years. This gives him a regular monthly income and supplies him with clothes and equipment. How good can life get?   

To outsiders, professional surfers seem to have the dream life, and let’s face it, they have.  

Raditya says, “We love surfing, we can travel overseas as well as around Indonesia, and all we have to do is surf.”   

However, once a surfer advances to the upper levels of the World Qualifying Circuit and on to the World Pro Circuit, then the pressure is definitely on.  

I asked him whether he surfs for fun, or surfs to win:  “Oh yes, I always surf to win,” he said. I was wondering if he had the killer instinct that is usually necessary for higher levels of professional competitions.

“I don’t know. We’ll have to wait and see. Maybe then we cannot be polite in contest.”

Raditya’s family home, where he still lives, is close to “Halfways”, on Kuta beach. As a young boy he was down at the beach every day, swimming and hanging-out with the surfers. He took up surfing at the age of about nine, and was taught and guided by his uncle, Garut Widiarta, one of Bali’s legendary senior surfers. His father and his cousins also surfed.

He first competed at age 13 and felt very nervous. Nowadays, he prepares for contests by eating well, and having an early night.

Out in the water Raditya really packs in a lot of point-scoring moves into every wave he catches. He has a lot of natural ability, and his favorite trick is to “get air”. This is a spectacular moment when a surfer gathers so much momentum that he and his surfboard fly into the air above the wave, flip over then come back down and continue on with the ride

His surfing inspirations are his cousin, Bol (Made Adi Putra) and also his mentor, Garut. On the world scene, he mentioned Gold Coaster, (Australia) Joel Parkinson, a recent World Champion.

“When I’m old I’ll still want to be in the world of surfing. Maybe I’ll learn to be a judge or a contest director. But that’s still in the future. Right now I only want to develop my surfing skills and win as many contests as possible, while I can,” says Raditya. He’s still young and his future is full of possibilities.

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