Surfing in Bali

As our Guruda Airlines 747-400 left a grey and dreary Gatwick I was filled with apprehension about what lay ahead of me. Surf books are all the same, surf breaks are only ever photo'd at there best and everything I'd seen about Bali was overhead and over coral. The time to face my fear was fast approaching. Seventeen hours later we touched down at Denpasar International Airport 7pm Bali time. The first thing I noticed was how commercially advanced everything was, Air conditioned taxi's, McDonalds and 4 lanes of traffic from and to the airport. The second thing was how hot it was.

We were staying in Sanur on the East coast of Bali about 10 miles from the Airport. We choose Sanur purely by reading The Lonely Planet and opting to avoid the mayhem of Kuta. That evening was spent having a quick meal and a couple of Bintangs (the local beer) before bed.I think I did the thing every visiting surfer does first, head to Kuta to try the beach break. It's a kind of cushion before heading out onto the reefs. The only thing I can say is it's not worth it. Kuta beach is a really mediocre wave, mostly closing out in huge sections and when you compare it to some of the mellower reef breaks it pales into insignificance.

Kuta isn't only a beach break, there is Kuta reef aswell, along with a left and a right either side of the airport runway. I didn't venture out to these but apparently Kuta reef can be in a class of its own.Make time to explore Kuta should you visit, every surf company has a huge shops here, which are all more expensive than England , but the markets are brilliant. Every surf company is also available here, if a little dubiously! There's the usual wood carvings, sarongs and T's but also Boardies in every style for anything from '2 to '8 depending on quality. The best boardbags I have ever seen, single or multi board, well padded, wheels, straps and handles, made to measure, and a 3 board bag was about '50. Kuta is party central for Australians and Japanese and the place is rammed day and night. Accommodations cheap, along with the eating and the shopping. A good base if you want a wild time, but a bit manic if you came to relax.

Surf Breaks Guide Sanur is at the other end of the spectrum from Kuta. Restaurants along the beach, lots of families and a lot less crowded. It also benefits form receiving most of the swell through the rainy season. So when we arrived mid April (the tail end of the wets) good waves were still pushing over the reef. In all honesty, Tandjungs left, which was right outside our back door was closing out in dramatic style for the first 4 days of our stay. Sanur reef, a short walk north along the beach was also showing itself in elegant 10' barrels which were just being torn apart by a few locals.

Now this might sound cautious, but I hired a canoe first, stuck my booties on and took a paddle out to Tandjungs. I knew it was high tide, but my surf book said this place was shallow, and I didn't want to find out the hard way. It also let me see how strong the rip was and get a better idea exactly how far out it really was. It turn out to be a pretty nice wave, breaking beautifully left for the first 2, 3 waves of the set and then closing out on the final wave over a decent 6 foot of water. It was a fast steep take off which filled out as it drifted into the channel, not a long ride but a great introduction to what was to come. Ulawatu and the West coast of the Bukit is a 90 minute taxi ride from Sanur, and is a must for anyone who wants to see what Bali can really do. I only got there once and was awe struck. It was big, it was perfect and the mechanical barrels defy description.

There are classic breaks all the way round the Bukit headland, I only got to Ulawatu, and then only to watch. But what a spectacle it is, and as the sun dipped into the sea that days images were permanently ingrained in my mind.

One of the best days surfing I had was on a boat trip to Nusa Lembongan. This is a small island one and a half hours away from Benoa harbour or the beach at Sanur. We opted for the all day boat trip from the harbour, and I was ecstatic when the boat moored right next to a row of breaks. You have a choice of three major breaks at Lembongan, namely Shipwrecks, Lacerations and Playgrounds. Shipwrecks was at the opposite end of the bay, Lacerations a short paddle away and Playgrounds just a leap from the boat. I headed straight out at Playgrounds and scored a few nice 4 foot lefts then tried a right and got caught inside. After receiving the rest of the set on the head I took a peak at Lacerations, this looked to be a suitable name and although a longer ride than Playgrounds, the water depth made it clear this was not for the faint hearted. A great day was had here and I can't recommend it enough.Bali wasn't just about surfing, we went white water rafting, Temple visiting, Volcano trekking and lots of beach lazing. It's a beautiful Island , with wonderful people and a wealth of culture. Add it to your list of must visit locations, you won't regret it.