I haven’t had the chance to surf much — had my first lesson a couple of years ago in Bali, never surfed for a few years, and then started again in Cherating recently. But I love it. Being a beginner, I’ll never get over the feeling of actually standing steady on the board, and catching a wave (albeit small). So on my recent trip, I made sure I got to experience that feeling again. Back to where it began… surfing in Bali.
Surfing in Bali
I’m not an experienced surfer, and I can’t comment on waves or winds — so this post is basically about my experience as a beginner, and how I felt while surfing (or learning to surf) in Bali. This extremely popular Indonesian island is famous for many things — the beautiful beaches, the miles of paddy fields, the religious temples, the (still active) volcanoes, the gorgeous resorts and villas; and of course, the adventure activities, the diving, and the surfing. So where else better to go than Bali?
I have visited Bali on different occasions — to tour the island, for weddings, to just chill on the beach and in a villa; and this time around, I made it an ocean adventure with lots of diving and surfing! You can read about my diving experience here: Diving in Tulamben.
When I first learned to surf in Bali, I chose Kuta Beach because the waves were small and great for beginners, and has a sandy break. And because I am still very much a beginner, and am still learning to stand steady on the board — it was an easy decision to head back to the familiarity of Kuta Beach. It is also the island’s most popular surfing location, and probably has everything you’d need on a surf holiday (for me, at least) — an abundance of surf schools, small stalls on the beach for surf board rentals, lots of surfers to give you some advice or two; and of course, experienced ones to watch, marvel, and learn.
There are many other surf locations in Bali (it is not named the surf mecca for nothing) — some good for beginners as well, like Canggu, and the southwest coast of Medewi, just to name a few. But I guess that will be for the next time I visit the island, when I am much better than I am now!
Accommodations and Board Rentals
I was traveling with my two friends; Diana and Abby — one who surfs, and the other who doesn’t. So we decided to base ourselves in the middle of all the action, in Legian. A great place to experience the nightlife of Kuta, or the lovely beachside cafes of Seminyak; and also for the non-surfer to have something to do while the surfers hit the waves of Kuta Beach. We stayed in the Akmani Legian Hotel (Book with AGODA) that was in close proximity to the beach and all the hubbub of Bali.
We walked to Kuta Beach every morning, and rented our boards from the Sunkissed Surf School, which was located midway between our hotel and the beach. Our 7′ Soft Top Surfboards were in good condition, and we rented them for Rp50k (US$3.5) a day; picking them up on our way to Kuta Beach, and returning them on our way back.
Surfing Kuta Beach
We allocated 3 days to surf on Kuta Beach. We were in Bali during the island’s peak season (in May), which meant that the beach was packed with beach-goers and surfers. I usually prefer a quiet beach, but with a board in hand and all that adrenaline rushing through me, I like to be among the crowd and the surfers, and people watch!
The waves were nice and mellow on the first two days of our surf — and they come in sets (a whole lot, then calm, then a whole lot again), which gave me more than enough time to get ready. And amidst lots of paddling, falls and tumbles, I managed to catch a couple of breaks and stayed on the board. The currents were strong, so there were a few times when I got pushed out further than I should, but there was always a surfer or two (or instructors) who would wave from afar and call me back to safety. People are friendly, and there was always a surfer who would offer me some advice on how to catch a wave.
On the third day, it rained. So the weather was dreary, the beach was empty, and the waves were crazy high. There were hardly any surfers around, so I decided not to head into the waters, and stayed by the shore to watch those that were brave enough to battle those waves.
I had a great time. No matter what happens in the sea on a surf board — tumbling over, falling down, swallowing large amounts of salty sea water; it is that one feeling of finally catching a break that you’ll always remember. It can get a little frustrating to be so completely clueless sometimes; but I guess if I continue practicing and never stop trying, I will eventually get to where I know exactly what to do. Bali (and Kuta Beach) has been a good training ground for my surf practices — the waves were nice to me (and didn’t knock me over too hard), the people were helpful (with kind advice and words of encouragement), and the island had all the right after-surf activities to wind down the day and enjoy the night.
I really wish I had more surf days, and that could only mean one thing. I will be back in Bali (hopefully many many times more) for lots of sun, sand, sea, surf (and dive).