Images are courtesy of ©Zak Noyle/A-Frame, and are protected by copyright laws

It could be said that the waves were perfect on a recent morning at a remote location in Java, in southern Indonesia.

Perfect, except for the appalling amount of trash and other debris, which transformed the typically amazing experience of getting barreled into one that left both surfer and photographer feeling nauseated.

“It was crazy. I kept seeing noodle packets floating next to me,” said Zak Noyle, the photographer. “It was very disgusting to be in there; I kept thinking I would see a dead body of some sort for sure.”

Surf Boat off the coast of Java

As unpleasant as the experience might have been, however, Noyle’s remarkable photos showing local surfer Dede Suriyana inside a garbage-strewn wave beautifully illustrate the sometimes overwhelming pollution problem in Indonesia.

“The trash had never been seen like this before in Indonesia; all of us were baffled,” said Noyle, a staff photographer for Surfer magazine. “The trash in Dede’s photo was the worst. No others came close to that type of disaster.”


The republic is a mecca for surfers who stay on its many islands and travel via boat to remote spots that they often enjoy by themselves. The atmosphere is idyllic and some spots remain pristine but, depending on currents, some end up strewn with garbage and debris.

“The populated areas just dump their trash in the rivers or straight onto the sand to be washed away,” explained Jeff Hall, Noyle’s agent. “Unfortunately the tides and currents do a great job of carrying it away and depositing it on some of the most isolated (previously pristine) beaches in the world.”

The location of Noyle’s photo shoot with Suriyana was a small bay far from civilization, with no buildings in view. Just a beach lined with trees.


The trash was delivered by the current, and by a large swell that pushed more debris into the bay. It was a dangerous shoot because there were large objects in the water, including tree trunks.

But it was worthwhile, Noyle said, because of the response generated by the images.

“The vibe was all the same. The reactions of all the surfers were of shock and disgust at what humans could do to the beautiful ocean,” Noyle explained. “No one person or country is to blame—it’s all of us.”


Interestingly, Hall said the Indonesian government recently conducted a study and tied some of the most visible floating debris to corporations. These companies were asked to help fund a local ocean-awareness campaign and help sponsor local surfers.

Coca-Cola was one of the companies, and it sponsored Suriyana, in return for having the company logo featured on the deck of his surfboard (it’s visible in the photos, beneath the Quiksilver logo).

Said Hall: “This was one of Dede’s first trips with an American photographer after affixing the Coca-Cola logo to his board, but I don’t think this was exactly the image Coca-Cola was hoping for.”

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