A Surfari through Bali
Bali is a goofy footer or a regular backside tube lover’s dream come true. Many of the incredible Indonesian waves I had seen in the surf magazines and videos could be attributed to Bali. While we were here we shared the island with pro surfers, like Jordy Smith and Laura Enever, but Bali offers perfect waves for any level of surfer. I am a pretty advanced regular footed surfer from California that surfs consistently, and my travel and life mate, Dani, is an intermediate goofy footer from Germany that surfs sporadically. With so many lefts to choose from here in Bali, which ones are right for both of us? And is it safe for me to go right?
We stayed at the Stormrider Surf Camp, which is just outside the main section of Caanggu. Its a short distance to several awesome breaks at Echo Beach. The guides cleared the way for us every time we paddled out at a new spot. I have never done guided surf before, but it made life so much easier. They were really good at picking spots where everyone in the group could have fun with, and they were really good at separating us into small groups based on our ability. Even someone who is an experienced surfer like me highly benefitted from their surf guiding, because it saved me from learning the hard way about the lovely sea urchins that inhabit the reefs.
The first experience I had with the perfect waves in Bali was at Stairs. Its the furthest north of the four main peaks of Echo Beach. On a mid to high tide, and a small to medium size swell, it offers a relatively long playful left and a steeper shorter right depending on the swell direction. As a regular footer, it was really easy to pick off right sets and rip a turn or two before it calmly softened out into the channel. The left stays open faced for a while, and it was really good for the advanced beginner and intermediate surfers we stayed with. The guides warned us to be careful though, because it can get shallow at a lower tide with the reef. This place was such a great introduction to Bali. Everyone there is really chill and friendly. One peak South was river mouth, and it was a more aggressive wave, but the people were much more competitive. I learned pretty quickly that in Bali its better to be the best surfer at a good break, than an ok surfer at a better break.
The wind works kind of like California, after like 10AM it comes up, and around 4PM it comes down. This leaves just enough time for you to get a much needed lunch, massage, and rest. We took a short trip up to what became one of my and Dani’s favorite waves, Kedungu. This was more what I expected from Bali. Such a beautiful, more remote beach. The wave was more what I was looking for too. That left went on for so long. The wave was perfect for so many levels, because it was so mellow, but it let you carve it to pieces as it rolled through. Again, the right was where I was looking. On the rights in Bali, you usually meet more resistance from the wave than the people than the lefts. The rights always loomed up over you waiting to pounce, but if you could beat the lip to the punch, it was the perfect playground. It felt like Trestles, but it was without the million pros. This made it really easy to pick off waves for an experienced surfer like me. As we pulled away, I saw a guy land a huge frontside full alley-oop on the pink hued canvas from the sunset. I felt at home here already.
A few more sessions at Kedungu the next day left me wanting to explore more. As a crazy swell arrived, that sent triple to quadruple overhead waves to Uluwatu, we retreated further North to a remote part of the island in Medewi. Low tide was a sort of sketchy paddle out in the river mouth without reef boots, but it was much preferred to the longggg paddle around. This long paddle was due to the length of the wave. It was strictly a left, and it went on for so long. Low tide had us taking double overhead bombs from outside or head high reelers a little further inside. The intermediates that we were with had some of the better waves of their life there, because the walls allowed so much room to move around without worry. Advanced beginners would have had a better time on a smaller day. Higher tide left the outside with shiftier peaks, but the inside felt like a left hand version of California’s Rincon on a good day. It was steep and fast with perfectly feathering sections that occasionally barreled as it stood up quickly on the reef. Almost every wave left room for multiple critical maneuvers.
Surfing two and three times a day leaves you wanting something more relaxed sometimes. This was perfectly matched with a session at Old Mans. The break was just South of the restaurants of Echo Beach, but it couldn’t be more different than the breaks there. It was definitely a wave that demanded more volume in a surfboard and a more relaxed mind. The left was the prized possession here as usual. It was a long boarders dream, because the softer sections allowed you to glide endlessly. With some size, it begged for long drawn out carves on the right. I usually enjoyed short boarding it on a board with less rocker those days. If retro twin fins are your thing, this is your wave. It would feel so at home there.
So many waves to chose from in Bali, its hard to pick the right ones. If I learned anything, its definitely better to be safer than sorry, but you can have so much fun on a less intense wave. Also, if you are in a new place, guiding is the best option, because local knowledge can make your trip so much more enjoyable.