An interview published in The Perfect Wave of Hollow Tree Resorts’ Owner “Teiki Ballian”
I put these questions and more to the young, chilled and stylish shredder Teiki Ballian. Teiki is the relatively newish owner of the magically revamped Hollow Trees Resort.
Ben Horvath – How’s things Teki, how long have you been the new owner of HT’s Resort now? Looks like you have totally refurbished and reset the resort. It looks absolutely epic?
Teiki Ballian – We took over the Resort in September 2016, but it was completely run down. After 8 months of renovation with 25 workers, we manage to reopen and relaunch in April 2017.
Please tell us a little about your interesting back life story?
I grew up on a sailing boat travelling and chartering all around the world. In 1998 we arrived in the Mentawai islands and started doing surf charters for the first time. My parents didn’t surf but really wanted me to be able to get better, so we stayed until 2012. After that I kept coming to work in the islands as a surf guide on different boats. I was living in Bali by then, so it was easy to come back and forth.
How did a young guy who basically grew up on boats get psyched on competing on the WQS?
I only did a Few QS events, I only picked them for the destination not for the comp. I hate the competing but I love the traveling part.
Fair enough, totally understand. Looks like you have done an incredible job of turning around HT’s Resort and wow bang Covid 19 hits? How you guys coping?
We were ready for a good season and yes then Covid 19 started. We have been working hard and finally have the first Luxury Villa in Mentawai. Have a look at Villa Onu. It’s been stressful, but we have kept our staff and the resort maintained ready to go as soon as the islands open. The worst thing is the lack of concrete information, so you can’t really prepare for the best or the worst. You are just bracing for impact without knowing when you will crash. We are actually fortunate to have a few guests stuck with us here. They cannot leave until the borders open up again, so they are in quarantine with us until further notice. That really helps for salaries and daily upkeep.
What date did tourists start leaving the Mentawai as a result of Covid Teki?
Mid to late March tourist started leaving and resort closing down.
When did you have to officially shutdown the resort in terms of accepting guests?
On the 22 March the government issued a letter that no resorts could receive any guests and that the Mentawai was going into lockdown.
It must be kinda surreal being being in the Mentawai with so few surfers and tourists around?
It’s beautiful but a bit too calm sometimes.
What are you doing during lockdown – what does an average day currently look like?
I normally wake up early, but without any surfers to organise, I start work around 8am. I then do a check of all inquiries, email and social Media. Then I decide the food menu for lunch and dinner. I check in with the staff what work they have to do for maintenance and if there is some improvements to do. Budget is locked but we try to do daily upgrades with what we have. Normally I always go for a sunset surf, but with the surf ban we just go for a swim or a walk with the dogs. I am fortunate enough to work and run the resort with my girlfriend Sina. My mom also lives with us.
Do you have your usual team in place? What numbers are still at the resort?
Right now between the resort and our Luxury Villa we have 14 foreigners, including me and my business partner. Our local staff, some are doing half shifts and some are still full time.
How have the waves and weather been?
Waves have been pumping, a few days ago it was mind blowing. You can see on the video we shot in April how mental it has been.
Is surfing allowed at all?
There is a surf ban in place until the 29th of May. Hopefully it gets lifted before.
If not is it doing your head in?
It is hard for sure, specially for the guests as they are confined to the resort. We are lucky to still have the beach and warm weather, so at least we can still go for walks up the beach away from the village. When it’s perfect I just look away or go watch series… we have watched a lot of netflix series haha
Have you been visiting other breaks for surfs?
No, we are not aloud to use the boats or bikes. Only to go get essential supplies.
Are the local kids surfing?
Once in a while some of the local kids sneak out when the waves are small, but in general not really.
Have you been going into town for supplies or are you kinda self-sufficient? How are businesses coping in general?
We are not allowed to go to the village or town. I have my crew do it. I just prepare everything via whatsapp to all our suppliers and get it on the ferry once a week or every 2 weeks. I can’t speak for other businesses in the Mentawai, but it will be hard for some if it doesn’t open up soon.
How are the locals coping with the virus, life in general?
The Katiet village really well actually, they have locked down all the roads with road blocks and we have made various donations. Food, medical supplies and informative banners are up for the locals to follow a cleaner lifestyle to prevent the spreading of Covid-19. Until now the Mentawai is free from Corona and still a green zone. So life goes on and we do a lot of fishing.
When can you envisage a return to some sort of normality?
I think in June domestic flights should start again, and we hope to open up to locals and expats in Indonesia. But who knows. We are just waiting for the government to announce their next move.
Thanks for your time Teiki and best of luck in the coming weeks and months. The resort renovations look insane, and the location goes without saying. We hope to be sending clients back ASAP.
Yeah, thank you. We have had plenty of extremely positive reviews, so lets hope everyone can start travelling ASAP.
Originally Published : https://www.perfectwavetravel.com/au/magazine/interviews/lockdown-tease-hollow-trees-resort