BALI, INDONESIA – Some parts of Bali remind me of southern California but not in a good way; tons of traffic, pollution and urban sprawl are present on much of the island. Needless to say, after spending almost two weeks in the more popular tourist and surf destinations in Bali, Laura and I were ecstatic when we got a tip to a super secret surf spot with no crowds within driving distance.
The next morning we prepared to leave. Our taxi driver was confused as to where we wanted to go, as he has lived on the island for over 20 years and has never heard of the place we wanted to go. Our directions didn’t help: “Call Paul at this number when you get to the big white statue of a cow on the right side of the road. Paul will dial you in from there.” I thought we were headed on a wild goose chase. However, after almost three hours in the cab, we found the statue, and subsequently our accommodations in the small fishing village of Jasri.
Jasri Delam Surfing
When we arrived, we were greeted by three boys who offered to help us carry our luggage and my surfboard bag. There was no adult in site. I laughed as a one of the boy’s struggled with Laura’s massive backpack as it was twice his size. Despite my offer to take over, the kid insisted.
As we entered the property of JDS Surfing, Laura and I knew we had found something special. Tropical plants decorated the grounds, ducks swam and quacked in the pond, roosters cock-a-doodle-dooed and a beautiful parrot greeted us at the main house. The boys directed us inside and introduced us to Paul, the owner/operator of the establishment. Paul showed us our room and told me to grab my board as the surf was pumping at 3-4 meters (7-10 feet). Excited but cautious, I asked if one of the local boys could show me the way in to the lineup to make sure I avoided any potential dangers. Paul called for Bendot, who apparently was one of the best local surfers in Jasri.
When I got to the beach my jaw dropped as I marveled at a perfect right-hand point break that lined up for over 100 yards with multiple sections to surf. The wave reminded me of Trestles (one of the best waves in Southern California) except that there were no crowds. Getting in and out was a bit tricky because the Jasri beach is rocky with no sand, but after some careful steps, I was paddling out in one of the most idyllic settings I’d ever seen. Looking back towards the beach, I observed palm trees lining the shoreline and a massive volcano off in the distance. The view instantly reminded of Hawaii and was in stark contrast to the towering cliffs and tons of people in the Bukit area where we had just come from.
Photos from a smaller day of surf at Jasri later in the week.
I paddled out to the end of the point and caught a huge set wave. I rode it for over 30 seconds all the way back to shore. I jumped off my board and began to paddle back to the end of the point (this process was repeated over and over during the next few hours). Overall, the surfing experience was fun and peaceful. No one dropped in on anyone else. My fellow surfers were friendly local kids that ripped and a few visiting Australians. Everyone cheered each other on and was supportive. I felt blessed to be surfing such a perfect wave with such few people. This wave would be packed anywhere else in the world–to find something like this in Bali was truly magical to me.
After surfing, Laura and I sat down to dinner with Paul. Over dinner, he related the interesting history of Jasri Dalem Surfing (JDS). JDS was started by Paul and his son (both Australians) and was originally a surf school that taught kids ages eight and up. However, since 2006, JDS has morphed into something much greater. In addition to teaching surfing, JDS is now also a refuge of sorts for local boys. Jasri, Paul explained, is a poor village where many people live in poverty. Many families struggle to provide for their children. Paul offers meals to the JDS boys and a place to sleep for those needing shelter.
The stories Paul told us about some of the kids at JDS were heartbreaking. For example, one small, quiet boy named Wayan was found on the beach by some of the other JDS boys around six months ago. Wayan’s dad had died a couple of weeks earlier. When he was found, he was close to death due to starvation and dengue fever. Paul took Wayan to a Western doctor, but it was the local medicine man that cured Wayan of dengue. Laura and I were surprised to hear this story, as when we met Wayan, he was a strong, healthy, happy kid. His demeanor and behavior gave no indication that he had been through such trauma.
Although other boys at JDS have families, their families can’t afford to feed them. These boys have meals at JDS and then go back to their village. Other kids stay the night because there is alcohol, abuse or other difficult situations occurring at home. Currently, there are 18 boys at JDS. Paul assigns each kid chores so that they learn responsibility, a sense of achievement and accomplishment, as well as what it feels like to contribute to a community. Paul also gives each kid money for school ($2-$5 depending on age). This money covers lunch, gas and other basic necessities. This small amount is crucial, as the boys would not be able to attend school without it.
However, despite the challenging situations these kids come from, it is hard to tell that life is hard for the kids at JDS. The JDS boys seem to be some of the happiest kids Laura and I have ever met. All are extremely polite and well behaved. They do not fight, but instead, always help each other out and are constantly laughing and smiling.
Jasri Beach Surfing
Surfing is where the boys really shine. The local Jasri kids surf with a style that I have never seen before. Although half of them have broken equipment, watching them in the water is incredible. The JDS boys rip and would be considered great surfers anywhere outside of their village.
Laura and I spent five days at Jasri. It was an experience we will never forget. The boys taught us many things. We learned about their culture, namely Balinese spiritual beliefs and rituals. In fact, Laura and I had the good fortune of being the center of two ceremonies during our stay. The first was to welcome us as guests and the second was to cure us of our trouble sleeping. The boys also taught us less overt, but more lasting lessons. Being in their presence gave both of us a deep sense of gratitude.
The boys had little, yet were happy. They emanated a love, tenderness and compassion that is not common in America; their hearts were open. It was obvious that the JDS boys cared for each other in a way that was reminiscent of a family, a tribe or clan. The older boys helped the younger boys by taking them to school, teaching them how to play board games, showing them how to surf and sharing laughter and play. There was no judgment among the boys. Everyone accepted each other. It was okay for the boys to be exactly who they are. There was no need to strive, to please or to compete. Their way of being was beautiful.
Laura and I realized the true meaning of “white people problems.” We realized we were often so caught up in things that we thought were important but that were just a facade of what really matters. We saw how ego-driven we really are in the rat race that is Western society. We saw that, in part, we had become disassociated from ourselves, from the true center of our being as we strove to please others.
With this new awareness, we parted from our new friends, pleased and excited with the lessons they had taught us.