The Thrilling Bekudo Bono River Surfing Festival 2017 in Riau

23 Feb 2017

Surfing enthusiasts, thrill seekers, and adrenaline junkies, brace yourself! This coming month of March the exhilarating Bekudo Bono Festival 2017 will again bring some of the most challenging waves, not to any beach but deep into the Kampar River in Pelalawan Regency, Riau Province. Normally held in November, this year the festival will take place when the tide is at its highest on 12th to 16th March 2017 during the full moon, and also on 27th to 31st March 2017 during the new moon period.


Image by paulkennedy via indonesiapositif

Only recently discovered by the international tidal river surfing community, the Bono Tidal Bore by the estuary of the Kampar River in the Riau Province is drawing surfing communities from around the world to this amazing Indonesian pororoca. Kampar is a long river that spouts forth in the Bukit Barisan mountain range that forms the spine of the island of Sumatra to the west. The river rushes down along the island’s west coast, then meanders across the Riau province, to finally pour out into the Malacca Straits, on the east coast of Sumatra.

Along its long course the river divides itself into two large branches known as the Kampar Kanan (the right branch of Kampar) and Kampar Kiri (its left branch). They then converge at Langgar in the district of Pelalawan at Kampar’s estuary. Here they are joined by many other rivers causing Kampar to funnel out into a wide river mouth. At each high tide, high waves from the sea rush in and meet the downstream current of the Kampar river. Where the two opposing energies meet, and - moreover, caused by the funnel shape of the river, - Kampar’s phenomenal tidal bores are shaped, rushing deep inland, rolling to over 60 km upriver.


Image via indonesiapositif

These tidal bores are known locally as “Bono”, which rush in with loud thundering sound at a speed of 40 kilometers an hour. The surf on the river can rise as high as 4 to 6 meters, at times creating barrels, the darling of surfers.

Every year, the festival features attempts to break the world’s record for the longest and furthest bore ride on the river. Last year, at least 20 of the world’s most experienced surfers took part in this one of a kind festival. A new individual record was made by Australian Surfer James Cotton who successfully rode the tidal bore for 1.2 hours completing the distance of 17.2 km. The achievement broke the previous record held by Steve King from England who covered the distance of 12.23 km in 1.6 hour. During last year’s festival, James Cotton along with Roger Gamble, and Zig Van Sluys also created the team world record by surfing 37.2 km in 1 hour and 5 minutes.

The Kampar tidal waves, named Bono by the local population, which occur regularly in the Bay of Meranti, were first “discovered” by French and Brazilian bore-riders, where they found a different sensation. Since then, many bore-ride enthusiasts have ventured to surf the Kampar barrels that are known by locals as the “seven ghosts”.

To reach Teluk Meranti, one needs to fly to Pekanbaru, capital of Riau mainland, from Jakarta, Medan or Singapore. From Pekanbaru airport it takes some 5 to 6 hours ride by car to reach Teluk Meranti. Here the local population open their houses as accommodation for visitors. Though simple, the homestays are clean.

Image source: Dezla Permana

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