We recently sat down with our friend Nathan to interview him for our new series – Unfollow The Ordinary – where we give voice to a variety of inspiring people who live the Asenne lifestyle. Nathan is an interesting fella with an incredible view and goal in life. Read the interview below.
Tell me who are you, how old are you and where do you come from?
My name is Nathan Thomas and I’m 26 years old. I’m from the East Coast of Australia, few hours below Sydney.
What did you do back home in Australia and how did you end up living in Bali?
Back in Australia, I was an electrician and I was working for long hours. I went on my own as an electrician when I was 20 years old and I had my own business for a few years. After that, I went to work for a big company in a city and I worked even longer hours there. I was doing night shifts and 12-hour shifts. I worked like crazy. Later on, I didn’t see myself being an electrician for my whole life. I didn’t see myself in a job I don’t get the appreciation for and I wanted to change a lot of things I was doing.
Back then, my life was always about the party. I was drinking a lot, being young and having fun. But the things I want to accomplish in my life are far greater thrill and enjoyment and that’s why I gave up drinking.
After I decided I don’t want to be partying, I started to save money for an early retirement or a job I would be actually enjoying. Then I realized that I could pretty much retire already in a 3rd world country with the money I had. That was the first initial reason why I moved to Bali. I stopped working as an electrician in November 2019 and I arrived in Bali at the start of 2020.
How did you start surfing?
So, back home, I had many friends who were good surfers and my little cousin was a professional surfer. Seeing all them surf was quite intimidating and I never actually gave it attention until I moved to Bali. In Australia, I met one of my friends and went to surf with him for a few times and when I tried to stand up, it was a lot harder than people think. I think I stood up for three or four seconds and sunk. My proper first time trying surfing was here in Bali. I tried a couple times in the Canggu area but I had no idea what I was doing. But then I came to Medewi and the adventure started.
Teahupo’o is known as one of the most dangerous waves in the world. When I saw the raw and angry look of that hollow barrel, I felt I just wanted to be standing in there.
Can you tell me about your goal?
I watched a movie with my friends back home and I saw a surfer standing in the barrel in Teahupo’o. I was just amazed for the wave and the authentic grunt – it’s just unreal. I said to my friends I want to do that and surf that wave. And the response was “Aah, keep dreaming mate, you have no hope, the wave is just for professionals.” And I was like, hmm okay, and it kind of like ticked me off a little bit and also made me think, who says so..? Everything else I’ve done in my life since then, I’ve changed completely and I’m doing fine. So why would I listen to everyone?
My dream is to surf Teahupo’o in Tahiti after 18 months I started surfing. Teahupo’o is known as one of the most dangerous waves in the world. When I saw the raw and angry look of that hollow barrel, I felt I just wanted to be standing in there.
After moving to Bali, I realized I could follow my dream because I’ve got the time and I’ve got the money. And the pandemic happened at the same time. I decided I’m going to do the things I really like before the world ends, hahah.
It might sound crazy but this is what I want. I want to inspire people to make a change – follow what your dream is. When I saw the wave, it had me in absolute awe for days. Like woaaah. And ever since I watched that I was curious asking questions about it. I don’t want to be normal, haha.
I told people about my goal and I tried to figure out how I’m able to get to that goal the most authentic way. The original goal was to surf Teahupo’o in one year but I wasn’t familiar how the seasons work here in Indonesia. To make it achievable with the surf season in Bali, I need to do it after 18 months. So, a dry season, a wet season and a dry season. Dry season is the time when the bigger swells happen. Indonesia is world famous for its hollow left hand barrels and Teahupo’o is a huge left-hand barrel. I’m going to surf the stand-up barrels in Indonesia during the dry season ‘21 before heading to Teahupo’o. And I’m going to get it.
My friend is helping me with documenting my journey. He has a lot of experience in video making, so we’re going to make a short film of all this. The film will be about me learning to surf and achieving the goal of surfing these waves in Indonesia with the lifestyle we live here.
After I surf Teahupo’o, I’ve got a lot of photos and stories. I’ve been documenting myself on surf trip I’ve been on here. I document how my surfing is going. And I would like to do something with this material. I’ve been thinking to do a magazine. Something that I could give to my friends and family and tell them my story and my experiences I’ve had, because I’ve been off social media.
Why are you off from social media?
It first started when I made the changes in Australia. I was off social media for about a year and a half before I moved here. And when I moved here, my friends and my family told me to get back into social media so they can be updated. Within four months of being here I found myself being lost in the social media trap again, putting up my videos and flashing of my life, swiping and liking. I was flashing of how good my life is while one of biggest killers in the world at the moment is depression and suicide. I don’t want to be contributing to one of my friends being upset because I’m pertraying that I’m living this good life, while he is grinding every day, stuck in a job he hates and living a life he may regret. I want to show what I’m doing to inspire and I think I’ll find better ways to inspire than putting up selfies and stuff on social media.
Do you have any other hobbies than surfing now when you’re in Bali?
No, I don’t. I’m pretty passionate with my surfing and driven to my goal. On an average day, I surf seven to nine hours. I put pretty much the same hours to surfing that I put for my sleep, haha. People say it’s crazy and stupid but they don’t understand what I want to do in life, where I want to be and what I want to achieve.
My friend built a shaping bay right next where I live. And I’ve seen him shaping a couple of boards and I’ve been getting an itch for it. He said he’s not going to help me, so I watched tutorials and learned by myself. So, I went to the bay one day and after six hours I had shaped a little 5’7’’ Hypto Crypto shaped single fin. Let’s see how it rides, haha.
I knew I don’t want to be stuck. And I don’t want to regret the things I could have done in life.
Was it hard to make the big decision and move to Bali?
No, it wasn’t a hard decision, I knew I didn’t want to be stuck. And I don’t want to regret the things I could have done in life. When I made this decision to make a move and change my life, I was 24 years old. And it wasn’t until I was 25 when I moved here.
The only thing that was hard is that I’m super close to my family. My mom, dad, brother. I’ve got cousins that I see every week. That’s the difficult part. You can go five years without seeing your mates and when you crash into them it’s just brotherhood. So, I wasn’t worried about the friendship because the memories I’ve got back there are for life. I know I’m not going to lose the friendships. It was just that I wouldn’t see my family. And now it is pretty hard and expensive to go visit Australia. My family knows how passionate I’m about what I’m doing in my life. And everything I’ve done before I’ve always been passionate about. I know they support me no matter what.
Did you ever feel the people around you were questioning your decision?
I don’t go around and talking about my goal or my dreams. I want to let my actions speak louder than me words. I want people to see what I’m doing and ask me. I didn’t put it out there on social media, I only talket about it to a couple of my friends. People around me understand what I’m doing and they support me. I don’t need the negativity from outside people giving me their point of view. I’m happy, haha.
What advice would you give to someone who’s thinking about making big decisions?
Just question yourself first that what’s keeping you in this position you’re currently in. Ask yourself would you be happy staying in the same position 10 years from now or would you have the regret of not doing something you’re really passionate about. Dancing, playing a piano or surfing. And then if you feel you need to do something, plan it out and then just go for it and do it.
What was the decisive factor in why you wanted to make a change?
I was stuck and I wanted to get out from the situation of going to work every single day and not enjoying my job. I don’t need the money at the moment, I’m happy living the simple life. Living with less and being healthy. We don’t need all that stuff we’ve been told we need in life. If my passion somehow makes money for me in the future that’s alright. But I’m not going to strive to make money, I’m just happy doing this.
What has happened as a result of this change?
I started the surfing project here in Medewi at the end of March 2020. I wouldn’t change what I’ve done and the thing I’ve learned. The places I’ve seen when following the surf has been amazing. I’ve been in quite a few islands now in Indonesia chasing waves and I’ve met amazing people and I’ve been able to surf great waves.
Have you ever regretted you made the decision?
No, not at all, haha.
How does your normal day go by here?
I wake up at 4am. I’m used to it because back in Australia I had to be working at 6am. But I know it’s a little bit early for surfing especially if you live 3 minutes from the beach.
I got my morning routine: I have a coffee, I do my stretches and a warm-up. I do everything possible to prevent an injury. I had a bit of an injury at the start of the project, so I try to eliminate that. My go-to spot is the Medewi Point and we’ve got some other spots here as well that are unreal.
I surf normally three to four hours in the morning depending on the tides, swell size and the location. Then I grab something to eat. My breakfast meal is always a fruit smoothie or just fruits, nuts and seeds. I’m a veggie now, hahah. I haven’t had meat, fish or dairy products for quite a number of years. I normally have two to three meals per day. And get back to the water afterwards. I spend seven to nine hours in the water every day.
The reason why I changed my diet was that when I decided I’m going to save money for the retirement in Australia, I started to question why I wanted to save money, what job I wanted to do and what my passion was. And then I looked around and there’s so many unhealthy people and I wanted to learn more about human body and health. After hours of working, I dived deep into science of human body and diets and I decided that there’s no point of being wealthy and following something you’re passionate about if you’re unhealthy and you’re not going to live that long anyway. Long story short I found out that I can get all the nutrients from fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds and I don’t have to cause harm to any animals, I rather eat that way.
Why do you like Medewi?
This wave itself is what brought me here. It’s hands down the best wave to meet my goals. It works in the off season. It has fast sections, slower sections and a barrel section. You need to know how to generate speed and how to do maneuvers. It’s a left hander wave so, it’s hands down the best wave for me in Bali.
The locals are really nice here. And I live with my friend who’s guiding me on my surf goal. He has a lot of knowledge for surfing and a different perspective on learning to surf. He’s the reason why I’m getting the waves I’m getting. He teaches me in surfing and mentally as well. I’ve learned a lot from him by just hanging around with him.
It’s what performance I can do on the wave. How I can make it look as elegant and beautiful as possible. It’s like an artwork that need to be painted, like a blank canvas.
What has surfing given to you?
After grinding few months, I got a different perspective on surfing itself. What it taught me is that the wave is always going to be coming in and it’s doing its thing. And I used to think of surfing as standing on a board, floating on water and getting pushed by the wave. Now I think of it as the wave is coming in and it’s doing its thing but it’s completely dependent on what I make of this wave, how I dance on this wave, how I flow and turn on the wave. It’s what performance I can do on the wave. How I can make it look as elegant and beautiful as possible. It’s like an artwork that need to be painted, like a blank canvas. Surfing allows me to express myself in this way.
Do you have any tips for people who are thinking of starting surfing?
This is a tip that everyone else would probably disagree with because when you go and get surf coaching, they never say it like this. The reason why I’m surfing at my capability now is because I’ve been putting the hours in the water. And I put in the paddling hours. When there was no swell or the swell was too hectic, I paddled near the beach. I was padding to get the paddling fitness up. You spend 90% of your time paddling when you’re surfing. So, if you’re able to paddle into a wave easier because you’re fitter with your paddling and you’re able paddle back quicker than everyone else, you’re able to get more waves, which means you’ll become a better surfer. Paddling is the key to surfing. So, hands down, get fit in paddling if you want to surf.
My second tip is to have your eyes on the wave. If it’s too big for you and you’re not comfortable, watch it. Be out there and watch other people surfing. It will be soon when you have the courage to go a bit closer and take off on a wave. These are tips for beginners and I’m still a beginner by myself, so I can’t give anything else
What do you think year 2021 looks like for you?
Stand up barrels bro, hahah. We have some huge plans for the 2021 dry season but this is all dependant on the Indo government’s restrictions with COVID. But regardless on that, I’ll be charging. I’ve already surfed Uluwatu, Padang, Deserts and Lakey Peak during the last few months to get familiar with them.
Do you already know when you’re going to head to Tahiti?
It depends on the pandemic situation but my goal is to do it in October 2021.
When I’m ready to go there I’m going to dedicate four weeks learn the wave, surf it small during the off days and get the needed knowledge from the locals and learn the wave properly before the waves are overhead and I’m ready to charge it.
Any final words?
Being influenced by the fake and fame, I think this is the biggest problem we all face. The egotistic story that we tell ourselves, about who we are and how our life should look or be constructed.
To truly see how beautiful life really is, I asked myself this: How do I seek to grow, in all that I’m connected with, which is me and all of life and it’s the relationship between those and all of its experiences.
It’s then I see myself as an emergent property of the whole, that has uniqueness that is inextricably interconnected.
And today I make my choices from that place.
I think If I am able to share the question, I asked myself which created instinct change in my life, maybe this can ripple on ^^ 🤘🏼
Photographs & words by Mikko Wallenius