Mostly known for its vibrant culture, many beaches and tropical weather all year round, Bali is also home to some of the world’s best surf spots. Perfectly positioned geographically, this magical island has swell hitting it all year – so it’s always possible to find a decent size wave.
Season-wise, Bali has two seasons. When the season changes, it also switches where it’s best to surf. During the dry season, April to October, it’s generally best to surf on the west coast of Bali. During the wet season, November to March, the east coast is generally better.
Although 40 years of booming tourism has dramatically transformed Bali’s many line-ups, Bali still remains one of the best places to surf in the world. And with most of the spots being easily accessible by hiring a scooter, it will always remain the favourite place for many surfers. Having been to Bali many times now, here are my favourite surf spots on the island.
Head all the way south west and you will reach Uluwatu fairly easily. Famous for its fantastic view and picture-perfect sunsets, its home to some of the biggest swells hitting the island.
If you go to Uluwatu on a good day, you might be surprised by the number of surfers in the water. Don’t be fooled, however; Uluwatu can hold a lot of surfers with its five breaks – The Racetrack, The Peak, Temples, Outside Corner and the Bombie.
Depending on the tide and swell size, the breaks are usually pumping for a certain period every day. To get out to the breaks, you will have to paddle through the famous Uluwatu cave. Beware of strong currents, especially when exiting the breaks, which are also done through the cave, as it can be a little hard to reach the cave due to the strong currents.
Uluwatu is one of the favourite surf spots for many expats and locals, so do be careful not to drop in on people – that will not be appreciated.
On very big days, you will only see a couple of old hardcore Australian surfers out in the water on long surfboards (called guns). Don’t paddle out on a big day unless you are hungering for a near-death experience.
Single Fin puts on excellent Sunday sessions with live bands. The place serves the best pizza in the area.
Drive two hours north of Seminyak and you will find Balian. Balian is a black sand beach with a wave that usually breaks in two places one near to the shore and one further out which is generally bigger. The wave itself is mellow and slow – therefore attracting many women surfers looking for easy surf out of the Kuta/Seminyak area.
The break is a rock-reef break; however, it seems fairly deep even during low tides. You can go both left and right on the wave, but the right ends at a river mouth – so it’s recommended not to swallow any water, to avoid getting Bali belly.
Balian itself consists of one street, with a couple of Warungs leading down to the beach. There is a small marketplace at the beginning of the street where you can get extremely cheap nasi goreng.
There’s not much to do in Balian after sunset – it’s therefore recommended to bring plenty of movies and board games.
Still fairly unknown, Balangan is located about an hour’s drive south of Kuta. It’s a nice cocktail of a beautiful white sandy beach and a deadly sharp coral reef, which makes it an ideal place to try out your never-before-used reef boots.
The wave is a fast left, and in ideal conditions you might be lucky to get a 200-m ride on one wave.
Accommodation is cheap, and you basically live on the beach. Balangan hasn’t yet been filled by a large hotel, and most Kuta-living surfers prefer surfing in the Uluwatu area instead of hitting the wave in Balangan. It’s therefore an ideal place to stay for a week or so to avoid most of the crowds.
You can go snorkelling on some parts of the reef during high tides – so bring your snorkelling gear!
Padang Padang is, by many, characterised as Bali’s pipeline. Being home for the yearly Rip Curl Cup, this place has a wave known for its long tube rides on a deadly sharp reef – definitely not a beginner spot when the wave is big. However, the spot needs quite a lot of swell to actually break properly, and you can therefore often visit Padang Padang and not see any waves at all. With its beautiful sandy beach, Padang Padang is also a popular place for many tourists travelling on day trips from Kuta.
Beware of monkeys! There are quite a lot of them when descending down the stairs, and they love stealing cameras and sunglasses!
When the west coast starts getting onshore winds in November, hit the east coast – and a good place to start out would be the Nusa Dua area. Nusa Dua is basically one big resort, but you can drive in there for free and park quite close to the beach, paying about 2000 IDR.
Some of the most surfed spots in the area are Mushroom Rock and Black Rock. Located right next to each other on a peninsula, they have similar size waves; however the Mushroom Rock break is a right, and Black Rock a left. Black Rock tends to be a little more beginner-friendly with a mellower wave, whereas Mushroom Rock often creates fast barrelling waves not suitable for beginners.
If the waves at both Mushroom and Black Rock are small, drive 5 minutes north to Geger Beach and take a boat out to the break (unless you want to paddle for 30 minutes to get to the break). Geger Beach almost always gets swell – so if you can’t find a wave here, you can’t find any on the island. Most often the wave is big and powerful.
Beware of strong currents at Geger Beach, which make it hard to paddle back in.
This post is written by Rasmus Backman Sorensen, a very good friend of Vilondo and founder of www.easyonsurfing.com