Born and raised in Kuta, Bali, the 39 year old pro surfer Wayan «Betet» Merta was one of the first Indonesians to surf contests all over the world.
Betet aka «Da Guy» started surfing when he was 10 years old and just four years later, at the age of 14, he was sent to Gold Coast, Australia to participate at his first Billabong contest — not knowing a single word of English. Under the wing of surfing legend, Rizal Tanjung*, Betet travelled many places and managed to get various sponsors. The big smile, the spark in his eyes and the unmistakable Californian accent suggest: this man has seen and done a lot in his life! Curious as I am, I asked if he’d be keen to meet up for coffee and tell us a little more about his adventures.
*Rizal Tanjung is Marlon Gerbers brother-in-law and coached him as well for a long time!
What was Bali like when you started surfing?
It’s so funny. Back in the days we used to surf Canggu all the time. No one was out there, it only had one restaurant. Echo Beach was just jungle. We surfed there every day together with my buddy Rizal. We loved Canggu back then. But not anymore haha.
How did you get surfboards?
It was very hard to get boards in Bali. Rizal had a sponsor so we got some material from there. In 2002 I got my first surfboard sponsor. It was the first time I got to surf a board that had the perfect dimensions for me, I was tripping!
What happened next?
I started riding for Volcom and did some QS in Newcastle, Gold Coast etc. It used to be really hard to get a visa and travel back then. In 2002 I started surfing for Quicksilver and went to Hawaii for the first time, the same year Andy Irons won his first world champion title. I’ve been going back there every year since then. Andy and Bruce introduced me to all the guys so whenever I’m there I feel like home.
How long have you been surfing for RVCA for?
I’ve been riding for RVCA for almost 8 years now. I’m super stoked about RVCA, it’s the best brand for surfing right now.
Will you participate at the Rip Curl Cup Padang Padang?
I wish, I just lost in the semi trial. Hopefully next year, it’s the best contest ever. I’m kinda bummed because in my heat I was waiting for the bomb but the heat was really slow. I got an 8.5 and would have just needed two more points.
If you could do or have anything in the world, what would it be?
I’d just stay here in Bali and get a nice house. Right? Bali’s the best life I could have. Everything’s here, waves, good people. It’s so easy.
What has surfing taught you?
Because of surfing I’ve been travelling the world and this has really opened my mind. If you’re stuck in Bali you don’t know anything. But if you travel, your mind opens, it makes you smarter, it’s the best. I now have friends all over the world and a lot of people come to see me here, so I don’t need to travel that much anymore. I think that’s very important to me.
Any big challenges you had to overcome?
Not really. I’m not young anymore. I’m still strong, I’m still training, I’m still surfing. I’m still trying to get into the movies, but I’m not trying to be the best surfer anymore.
Does it ever happen to you that sometimes you feel like you’re a good surfer and then other times you’re like, «wtf» am I doing?
Yes, all the time. I mean, not all the time but you know, every surfer has it, Kelly, Andy, everyone. Sometimes you loose a heat and you don’t want to see the ocean again for one or two days.
What do you tell yourself in a negative moment like this?
Ahh… that’s why I don’t like contests. It’s just crazy. But if I think about it, I don’t really care too much anymore. Loss is loss, win is win.
Any crazy wipeout where you felt like, oh fuck, I’m gone?
Omg. Just two or three months ago. I did an air and the fin landed in my ass. I couldn’t do anything, not even pee for a day. I was with Jack Robinson, he had to drive my car home. It was one of the worst wipeouts of my life, I couldn’t surf for one week, not even sit.
I saw that everyone is referring to you as «Da Guy», what’s the story behind this name?
Haha. So you want to hear the story? It’s kinda funny.
I was in Hawaii, like 7 years ago. I went surfing with my friends and Medina paddled out. Back then we didn’t know each other. He paddled out and never said hi to anyone. My friend said I should call him out, so I was like «Hey Medina, do you think you’re da guy?» Medina and all the people in the water were like «wtf, who’s this guy?» Medina was already really famous then and he didn’t know me. So Medina was like «what’s up?» and I’m like «do you think, you’re da guy?» All my friends were laughing so hard. My friend, Dany Fuller, paddled in and told everyone that I had just called Medina out. It just sticked.
How did Medina react?
Omg. It was a really big deal. He was so pissed. But now we’re mates.
Who’s your favorite surfer?
Andy and Bruce Irons.
What’s your favorite surf break?
Padang and Keramas.
What does surfing mean to you?
Any advice for fellow surfers?
Just keep surfing, keep training, don’t do drugs, don’t drink too much, have fun and good luck with everything. I was drinking a lot when I was younger and now I ask myself why I did that. Keep your body healthy, train, surf and eat good food.
Thank you so much!
No worries, thank you Anna.