BALI, INDONESIA – Thinking about taking a surf trip to Bali this summer? Good choice I did the same a few years back and wanted to share some of the places that I surfed, some of which are well known a few are off the beaten track and a few I just simply can’t name.
Bali Surf Spots
When you first arrive in Bali, (ideally on an early morning flight from Singapore) the closest place to surf is called Airport Reef. You may actually see this spot when you’re flying in as it’s literally a few hundred yards off the end of the runway. My advice would be to instead head to Kuta beach and spend some time at the beach break. Otherwise, if you have something to prove you can always get your board waxed up, hire a boat and be surfing Kuta Reef or Airport Reef within a couple of hours of landing. Jetlag can wait, your sunburn will not.
After a few days in Kuta, odds are likely you’ll be looking for something much quieter, much more Indonesia so head to the Bukit. And when I said head to the Bukit, I mean hire a taxi to take you there. Don’t go and mess around with motorbikes until you have been in Bali for a minimum of 2 weeks.
The Bukit Peninsula
This is truly surfers heaven. The Bukit peninsula on Bali’s southern tip is a wave magnet in the summer months. This is not a place for the faint of heart, sure there are a couple “beginner” waves however even those are over the reef. You come down here to scare yourself at Padang-Padang, show the world how good you can surf at Uluwatu or simply surf perfect waves by yourself over a shallow reef at Impossibles.
There are six main waves to surf along this section of coastline starting from the North where some of the easier waves like Balangang and Dreamland can be found. As you move south you hit Bingin a fast A-Frame wave with a very small takeoff zone that seemed to always have a healthy pack. Just down the reef is Impossibles which on the right tides and swell is a world-class left that is actually makeable unlike the name implies. The only issues with this spot are going in or out during low tides. So if your surfing for a while, pay attention to what the tide is doing or you will be doing the reef dance to get to shore.
Padang-Padang Surf Spot
Around the next bend is Padang-Padang and baby Padang-Padang. Baby Padang-Padang believe it or not is where the beginners learn to surf on a mellow right-hander. The paddle might be a bit much for someone just learning to surf, paddling is not fun, surfing is! Across from baby Padang is the real wave. Padang-Padang a heavy left have that essentially breaks over a shallow reef throwing huge powerful barrels that for the most part tend to do the same thing wave after wave. If you are able to make the drop, commit and stand up the rest becomes easy. With Padang-Padang my advice is to surf early, in fact, that’s the case with all spots in Bali or the world for that matter. However here in the Bukit, a lot of visiting surfers and locals have been known to party on Bintang among other substances. The early bird will get the worm and paddling out before the sun will guarantee you world-class waves before everyone else shows up.
Last but not least is Uluwatu. Ulus is a scene, this is where people come to surf and be seen. This is where people come to watch surfers and this is where people come to watch people watching surfers. Its all the beautiful people, all the pro’s all the locals all in one place. Drinking beers, talking story and watching the show at Ulu’s unfold live day after day. This wave is progressive, for the most part, its a hard left-hander that can hold size up to 15-20 feet. Although I found 10 foot to be plenty of water moving especially considering you have to paddle in and out of a cave with moving water. It’s sketchy at best getting in and out, but one good wave at Ulus (especially for a goof footer) is hard to beat.
As with all the spots in the Bukit, if you are surfing someone will be there to take your photo. Support the locals and buy some photos, buy some beers for the boys and be kind. Especially if you plan on posting up for a few weeks/months. Everyone starts to know one another and you don’t want to be known as the guy that snakes people. Once you have had your fill of fighting for waves its time to head to the east side.. However, this zone is swell dependent. When Ulu’s and Padang start getting to big to surf the rest of the island will be much more manageable.
This is where untapped, oftentimes uncrowded waves can be found in Bali. While everyone is proving how big or small their balls are on the Bukit you can have a very different surf experience by hopping in a cab or motorbike (how long you been on the island for…) and exploring the southeastern tip of Bali all the way around to the east coast. I wouldn’t recommend going farther than Jasri.
The southeastern section of coastline is dotted with high rise hotels and epic outer reef breaks. If you are willing to put in a 20-minute paddle the area around Hyatt Reef is solid. Just be sure you know what you’re doing before you paddle out into the middle of the ocean and start picking off set waves over the shallow reef as help is a long way away. I can personally attest to getting in way over my head in this zone. From the cliffs, it can be hard to judge exactly how big the surf really is. Once you’re about 15 minutes into the paddle its starts to become apparent, your judgment was way off, you may have just paddled out in triple overhead surf with set waves breaking eve farther out the back.
As you continue east another spot to check out is Sanur. Hopefully, the local boys don’t get too pissed that I am talking about it here. Sanur is where actual Balinese people go to hang at the beach, you won’t find many tourists here. What you will find is reeling right-hand point breaks and damn good corn on the cob. These spots also offer up a decent paddle and you might want to pay attention to the tides so you don’t get stuck outback on low tide.
Farther up the coast from Sanur you start getting into the real Bali, the place with rice fields open coast and a lack of development. There are lots of places to surf around here one that you may be familiar with is Keramas. Keramas offer up playful A-frame peaks perfect for punting air after air after air. If that’s your sort of thing. Keramas also has surf comps throughout the year so there is usually a good mix of people here on any given day. Just up the coast from Kermas heading back towards Sanur is a heavy shelfie right-hander that I don’t feel comfortable naming. But if you like to surf shorebreak style barrels over a slab reef, well the photo below is about all I can offer up to wet your whistle. I was lucky enough to surf here once, pull into a few fun barrels before knocking my head on the reef so hard I could hear a crunching sound and thought ok, it’s time to paddle in.
The best wave in Bali and I have thought long and hard about if I want to spray about this wave is in.. Ok so before I talk about this wave I need to talk about the people in the village where this epic Trestles style right-hand cobblestone pointbreak lies. Yes, I said epic right-hand cobblestone point break in Bali.
What makes the Jasri Beach Point Break unique is the local kids are happy to see you, they will offer you waves if you treat them with kindness. Your odds of surfing with tourist are slim as there are only a few places to stay in the village. It’s the Cheers sort of vibe where everyone will truly know your name. I recommend staying with Paul and the orphan boys at Jasri Dalem Surfing. *note to anyone in the surf industry reading this, and everyone for that matter. This place does not consistently deliver waves, a few times a year it turns on. When Ulu’s and Padang become scary big, look at the charts and if the swell is wrapping all the way up towards Jasri this is a great place to check out. Even with no waves, if you truly just want to relax and see some of the real Indo. Not the Kuta, Bukit Bali but some actual culture. This part of the island is where you will want to spend some time. If and when I go back to Bali again, it will be straight here. It’s truly that special.
Once you get your fill on Bali its time to take a boat over to Nusa Lembongan to surf Shipwrecks, Playgrounds and I shit you not the beginner wave there is called Lacerations. 🙂