Surfing and Bali go together like a horse & carriage, meat & potatoes, Seminyak & benchongs. Here’s a short guide to the whole affair.
How it began:
Surfing in Bali began in 1936, when American Bob Koke, a Californian, who had moved from Hawaii, with his wife Louise, opened the Bali Hotel on Kuta Beach. Bob had a long board he had brought with him from Hawaii and the rest was history. Surfing didn’t immediately catch on though and lucky old Bob had all the waves to himself (he had the whole Bukit to himself, only he didn’t know it was there). The 1960’s saw the start of surfers trickling into Bali and after Kim Bradley, Jerry Lopez and others discovered the Bukit peninsula and the other breaks the scene was set.
Why surfing is good in Bali:
Bali is a good place for surfing for a number of reasons. These include warm water, relatively uncrowded breaks, when compared to California and Australia. Bali gets some kind of surf most of the year, there are beach breaks and Kuta and Dreamland and also reef breaks on the rest of the Bukit, including the famous Uluwatu. Bali’s unique geography, means that you can get a selection of left hand breaks on one side of the Bukit, drive for 20 minutes and get another whole selection of right hand breaks. In Lombok, for example, you’d have to ride for 4 hours or more, to get from one side of the island, to the other.
During the dry season, the trade winds favour surfing the western side of the coast, including the breaks on the western Bukit. During the wet season ther tides and winds favour the eastern coast including the eastern Bukit breaks such as Nusa Dua and Sri Lanka.
Surfing regions in Bali:
You could say that there are 4 basic surfing regions in Bali, West Bali (Medewi), South Coast (Canggu, Gado Gado, Padma, Kuta Beach) the Bukit (Bingin, Balangan, Uluwatu, Nusa Dua, Sri Lanka, East Coast (Ketewel, Keramas), Nusa Lembongan (Playgrounds, Racetracks, Lacerations).
Best surfing breaks in Bali:
The best surfing breaks in Bali as far as performance are Uluwatu which sees good size surf and had 5 breaks. Bingin, which has a short fast barrel, Padang Padang which has a fast barrel and dangerous reef, and Nusa Dua.
When to go:
For the best performance surf, the month of July is said to be the best. During the dry season you get offshore ESE trade winds hitting the western Bukit breaks, slightly cooler water, clear skies and not too much garbage in the water. The beach services (ding repair, vendors etc. ) ramp up during this season. During the wet season there are still places to surf on the eastern side, but generally this is not considered the best season.
I have been down at Balangan in April and seen the place virtually deserted, except for half a dozen local enjoying the decent surf, sunny skies and empty waves.
Learning to surf in Bali:
The best place to learn to surf in Bali is Kuta / Legian. As with anything, you want to get the basics down, from someone who knows and that doesn’t mean a Bali /Boy who spends all day in the water. Go to a surf school that has teachers who can articulate and know how to teach, not just someone who says “No worries mates, just stand up fast ans she’ll be right.”
Some of the best schools are Bali Learn To Surf in Kuta, Pro Surf and Rip Curl in Legian.