Nias – Point Of Change is a stunning new documentary featuring the Indonesian island of Nias and one of its inhabitants – Bonne Gea. Gea broke the social and traditional taboos of the island to become the only girl surfing in Nias. She worked tirelessly to buy her first surfboard and took huge risk by taking a one-way ticket to Bali so she could pursue her dream. For Gea it paid off – she is now five times Indonesian Women’s Surfing Champion and twice Asian Women’s Surfing Champion.
Drift caught up with Rebecca Coley, director of the film in an exclusive interview to discover more about the film, the story and the future.
“Nias is a place of change.” Coley told us “The point was discovered in the 70s and had its day as one of the most famous right hand points in the world for a while, back in the 80s and 90s before so many more waves had been discovered around the world. To this day the legendary wave is still on the top ten favourite wave list of many of the best surfers in the world.” she added
This is a classic story of a girl done good. Bonne is originally from a Muslim family so it wasn’t easy for her to break through social and traditional taboos to become the only girl surfing in Nias
The story focuses on Bonne (real name Yasnyiar Gea) who is originally from Lagundri, Nias, Sumatra. This is a classic story of a girl done good. Bonne is originally from a Muslim family so it wasn’t easy for her to become the only girl surfing in Nias. From a large family who lived a very simple subsistence way of life, Bonne had to work harder to take her own path in life. Bonne left school at 18 and worked and saved to for her ticket to Bali when she was just 19. Luckily once she arrived there Billabong spotted her and offered her a sponsorship deal.
After the film successfully raised £20,000 on Kickstarter Coley and her film crew wasted no time and packed their bags to leave – they were on the road the very day the funds were due to clear.
“It was an epic three week shoot. Bonne flew in from Bali and we were blessed with a few good days of swell and sunshine.” Rebecca said
Bonne left the crew in the last week to travel to Taiwan for the Asian Surfing Championship where she won!
It was the first time Bonne had been home for over two years, and it was clear to the crew that she was completely stoked to see her family and friends.
“Walking around Sorake and Lagundri with Bonne was like walking around with a celebrity. All the kids were following her and asking how to get sponsored. To them Bonne is an inspiration, she is living the dream of many young grommets from Sorake.”
They filmed with Bonne’s family and friends and also spoke to the older generation who remember the first surfers arriving and have watched the change at the point over the last forty years. Bonne represents the evolution of surfing in Nias over the last forty years – from the first pioneering men of the 1970s to where we are today with a young girl who learnt to surf… and then evolved to become the Indonesian and Asian Champion. It is an awe-inspiring story.
We asked Coley a few more questions to learn more about her experience on the island…
Was there such a thing as a standard day while filming?
We got up every morning to check the surf just before sunrise and that was definitely the only standard thing every day! Other than that every day was completely different and unpredictable! Things rarely turned out as planned and we had to be very adaptable, but we got there! The scenery is stunning, everywhere you look there’s something beautiful to film. There was so much to squeeze in each day was action-packed!
What was the thing that surprised you the most while out in Indonesia?
I’m always surprised by how helpful and accommodating the locals are. They just get into it.. whatever you’re doing they wholeheartedly jump on board and just get involved. It was great and easier than I thought in that respect. Of course we would first need to explain what we were doing and that was a challenge but once they understood they always went out of their way to help us out. I have a lot of love for the Nias people.
What has been the toughest moment of the filming?
The toughest moment was when we lost the drone. We were pretty gutted about that, as we just finally got it all going with the new GoPro 4 attached when it fell out of the sky! We were very hopeful it might have landed on reef but after a lot of searching we had to accept it had probably drowned and was deep down at the bottom of the sea. We did get some beautiful shots that we downloaded before that fateful last flight so you’ve got to look on the bright side and say at least we got that!
The toughest moment was when we lost the drone. It had probably drowned and was deep down at the bottom of the sea
What inspired you to make the documentary?
I fell in love with Nias the first time I went there over ten years ago now and always wanted to make a film there. There is a rich culture and the history is fascinating. There is something unique and mysterious about the place to me that always has me wanting to go back, asking more. I met Bonne a few years back and I was impressed she was the only local at that time to get out and get sponsored… and she was a girl. It was very unusual at that time. I think Bonne represents the evolution of forty years of surfing at the point. It’s a sign of how far we’ve come.
Can tell us a little about how the likes of Billabong changed Bonne?
The sponsorship from Billabong gave Bonne the chance to do what she loves as her job. It pushed her to take her hobby to the next level. Billabong gave Bonne the opportunity and support to become a pro, to take the sport seriously and make a living out of it. Bonne has had the chance to travel throughout Asia and take part in competitions on the ISC and ASC Tours. Bonne says she never would have seen half the world by now if it wasn’t for that chance. She deserves her success and she is very humble and grateful for it too.
The traditional role of a girl was to stay at home and be in the house. The family would warn her about getting black skin
How is surfing treated in the local communities? Are women generally excepted?
When Bonne started surfing the older generation didn’t like it. The traditional role of a girl was to stay at home and be in the house. The family would warn her about getting black skin and say it’s not for girls. Bonne had four brothers who surfed so she thought – “why can’t I?”
Now it is much more accepted and when we were in Nias it was fantastic to see there were a few new younger girls out surfing. Everyone is much more accepting now and I think in a way it is partly due to Bonne that the parents now are more likely to encourage their girls to surf and can see the potential benefits of surfing. Also the generation who are parents now grew up with surfing at the point and it is very much part of their lives and connected to their livelihood and their way of life. It’s part of their culture now.
It is amazing to think that in the 1970s when the first surfers arrived, the ocean was feared by the local community. They believed that the sea was dangerous and the beach was where spirits and ghosts lived. That was only forty years ago and the locals credit the first pioneers (Kevin Lovett and John Giesel in 1975, with Peter Troy and Wendy Adcock) with “opening the beach”. Now they recognise it as the source of so much joy and opportunity. After the tsunami happened one local told me how he was literally crying on the reef that the wave might be gone forever, but luckily it came back and those who know, say it came back better than ever.
On one of my last days in Nias, it was a small fun day and we went for a surf on the inside. It was mainly locals out, about twenty or so and there’s two generations in the water… the dads who can remember the first surfers arriving and now their sons and daughters too… and everyone was having a ball!
What is next on the Coley Bucketlist?
Making more films hopefully! And more exploring… I love islands and stories so hopefully some more of that…
You can watch the original kickstarter video here: