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Bali and Back
You would think that after more than a decade of non-stop travel Mikala Jones would be inclined to stay put by now. There’s no shortage of quality surf near his home on Bali, and responsibility in the way of helping raise a growing family calls often. But while building the piece on Jones in TSJ issue 23.2, he never seemed to be in the same place twice. When he wasn’t “just heading back from the South Pacific,” he was “driving across Java,” or “back in the jungle again” —always staying vague about his final destination. In this interview, Jones explained how he’s balancing domestic life with the near-constant pursuit of surf.
It seems like the frequency of your travels hasn’t decreased as you’ve gotten older. Do you foresee a point at which you’ll want to slow down, and stay planted in one place?
You should ask my wife about that one, I guess; she’d probably tell you a different story. I try to keep most of my trips to strike missions and make sure they’re worthy of the time away. Over the last six or seven years I’ve been taking shorter trips than I used to. I think surf forecasting improvements have helped with that a little bit, but learning how to read a proper weather map is key. I would never believe a long-range forecast. Mainly, I try to just weigh how much time it’s been since I haven’t gotten good waves.
Stationing on Bali leaves Jones with no shortage of waves in easy striking distance for a one-swell trip. Photo: Brad Masters
You do a good job of covering your tracks at many of the spots you frequent. It’s not a value system all traveling surfers share. What made you decide to operate that way?
There’s no reason to draw people maps. Growing up on the North Shore and seeing how crowded it can get, I knew that surfing really good waves with 40 guys out isn’t fun. I just really enjoy surfing with a few friends. You want to be able to come back to these places over the years when it’s not completely blown out and there are 30 guys in the water.
Why leave the comfort of your life on the North Shore—beachfront living at Rocky Point—to settle on Bali?
My dad took our family to Indonesia when I was 12 and that was always etched into my mind. I was already gone for nine months out of the year by the time I was 21, and then I met my wife over here. The seasons are opposite: summer here, winter there. I’ve always gone back to Hawaii for the winter—but nowadays with the kids I’m getting a little shorter time period over there, and I definitely miss it. This time of year—when the world tour is in Australia—is incredible. There aren’t that many people around the North Shore and the waves are still pumping. Not being there for the late season is definitely what I miss most. There are still plenty of waves that you can go and surf with just a few other people.
The Jones family digs at Rocky Point, on the North Shore, serves as the de facto board locker for many seasonal visitors, which first inspired Mikala to try on a diverse range of equipment. Case in point, this 5’8” flex-tail, quad-fin, Luke Studer stinger. Photo: Brad Masters
Who do you enjoy traveling with most, and who are your most frequent travel partners?
Travis Potter is one of my best friends. I’ve known him forever; we met in Texas at a surf contest when we were both really young. He always stayed with me in Hawaii and I would stay at his house in Seal Beach. That’s where I met Timmy and Ryan Turner. They were going to Lakey Peak a lot. I flew over there one summer with them and did a couple missions. They just kept coming back, and I kept coming back. When they made Second Thoughts was right when I met my wife here in Bali. I would go back to Bali and they’d stay on Java. That movie was definitely Travis’s brainchild and Timmy made it happen with his camera. Travis was talking about that for maybe two years prior.
Did you ever consider going out there with them?
Travis would be at my house on Oahu talking about it, and I’d say “Yeah, right. I’m not staying out there with you.” When they were making the movie I never camped with them. I was traveling, and I would be on a boat and they would be there—just hanging out on land. That was years ago. Since then, Travis and I have been on at least 20 trips together, doing the same thing—except without a movie. He helped build a brewery here and made some cash. He’s fluent in Bahasa Indonesian and he knows the culture really well. Traveling with him is great because you’ll pass a landmark or some old people in the street and he’ll tell you all about their background.
Jones locks in just around the corner from where the Second Thoughts crew originally set up camp. Photo: Jason Childs
What are your good memories from seeing Travis, Timmy, and Brett on the island?
Those guys were definitely out of their minds. I’d see them out there and bring them a board or some food. I remember sitting on a boat watching Travis and Brett using spears to try and catch stingrays on the reef. The people I was with on the boat were pro surfers and they were just thinking, “What the fuck are these guys doing?” They really did look like they’d gone tropical. We’d take our dinghy in and give them some beer or give them a ride to surf when we were out there, then shove them back off and say, “Alright, have a good trip. We’ll see you when you make it back to civilization. Call me to let me know you made it.” That was at least 10 or 12 years ago. Timmy has like five kids now. Travis doesn’t have any. But at that point in their life it was probably as good as it gets: being in Indonesia, in your 20s, with no responsibility. A lot of those areas were still pretty untouched. They had the time of their lives for sure.
For more on Mikala Jones check out the feature in issue 23.2 of TSJ.