An Introduction to Indonesia
All surfers around the world have undoubtedly heard of Indonesia and dreamt about visiting this wave rich country. Located off of mainland Southeast Asia, Indonesia is nestled between the Indian and Pacific Ocean, spanning an impressive 5,120 kilometres from East to West. As an archipelago of over 18,000 islands, it is no wonder that Indonesia is home to an abundance of world class waves.
An Introduction to Bali
The most well-known destination in Indonesia is Bali, a 5,780 km² Island located just East of Java. Bali came onto the world map of surfing during the late 60’s and early 70s, featuring in early surf films such as Morning of the Earth. Ever since this period, Bali has become increasingly popular for surfers travelling from all around the world. The reason Bali is so popular is due to the large amount of quality waves located in a relatively small area. There are waves for all levels of surfers in Bali, from the mellow beginner beach breaks of Kuta, to the advanced heavy and shallow reefbreaks of Uluwatu and Padang Padang. Surfers travelling to Bali will also enjoying the friendly and warm nature of the Balinese people, who follow a specific form of Hinduism called Agama Hindu Dharma. The Balinese culture is truly unique and adds an extra special element to traveling in Bali.
Indonesia has two weather seasons, wet and dry season. For the best surf on offer, the dry season is the better choice, which starts around April and ends around October. During these dry season months, powerful winter storms form in the Indian Ocean, producing consistent swells that travel to Indonesia and creates tradewinds, which blow from the Southeast, resulting in clean and glassy waves. In Bali you will see the Bukit Peninsula turn into a wave machine, with spots such as Uluwatu, Bingin and Padang Padang producing postcard perfect Barrels. The surf is usually big and powerful in the dry season, though less experienced surfers will still enjoy waves in between swells and at more mellow breaks.
The wet seasons is exactly as it sounds, with strong onshore winds and heavy rainfall running from November through to March. This often results in poor and dirty surf conditions on the west coast, however this isn’t the case all of the time. Surfers who are willing to search a little further and keep an eye on the conditions will be able to score some good uncrowded surf. The East coast favours the wet season, with spots like Keramas providing solid conditions for advanced surfers.
Bali Surf Spots
Kuta , the original hub of Bali, is a destination that has been flooded with tourists year after year. Kuta beach stretches for a long distance with white sand and a number of mellow waves dotted along its coast. The waves in Kuta are usually very friendly, breaking onto sand (beach break), and therefore perfect for people looking for their first surf lessons in Bali. Beginner surfers will easily find surf lessons on the beach due to the large amount of surf schools and instructors located on the beachfront. Kuta isn’t only for beginners though, as talented longboarders have started to enjoy some of the long peeling waves that offer good sections for nose riding. When the swell starts to pick up, the surf can become dumpy on the low tide, however at mid to high tide there are a number of A frames that produce punchy waves that favour more performance surfing.
Seminyak is the next spot along from Kuta (essentially the same stretch of coast), and shares very similar characteristics. White sand with sand bottomed waves, producing similar peaky waves to Kuta, yet with a bit more punch and power due to being slightly more exposed to swells. Crowds tend to be a bit less around Seminyak compared its Neighbour Kuta. You can expect to find the odd sand bank that produces a fun rippable wall, and even the occasional makeable barrels when the conditions align.
Airport Left is, as expected, located right by Ngurah Rai International Airport. The best way to get to this wave is by parking at Pantai Jerman beach and hiring a local boat as the wave is about 1km offshore. The wave itself is extremely fun, and the perfect spot for intermediate surfers looking to progress. You can fit in a few turns and manoeuvres before the waves comes to an end further down the reef. Conditions are usually mellow and manageable, however the wave gains some grunt and power when the swell rises. There are two peaks to take off on, breaking over reef, which can get rather shallow at low tide, and so best surfed on mid tide pushing up. The best size swell for Airport Left is around 4-5ft, as it can start to close out if any bigger. There is I distinguished channel which aids in an easy paddle back to the peak after catching a wave.
The south side of the airport is home to the wave Airport Right, and is also accessed by boat from the same area as Airport Left, however the price will be slightly higher due to being a bit further away. The wave is best around the 3 to 6ft mark, and some nice long rides can be expected around the high tide mark. The spot can get crowded as it is one of the few right hander waves in the area, and so regular foot surfers are always keen to surf here.
Kuta reef is a left hander that in the right conditions, can offer long rides of around 200 meters. The wave is fast and powerful and barrels on bigger swells. The spot is best surfed on mid to high tide, and low tide can become too shallow more often than not. Kuta Reef is best accessed by boat from the beach outside Discovery Kartika Plaza Hotel, however you can paddle there but it will take around 20 to 30 minutes. Kuta Reef is one of the most popular reef breaks in Bali and therefore easily becomes crowded with both tourists and locals.
Situated in the heart of Canggu is Batu Balong, a black sand beach that attracts many people for a sip on a coconut as the sun goes down. Batu Balong is an all-time classic spot in Bali, becoming extremely popular for beginners and good longboarders alike. The wave is extremely mellow and breaks over a mix of sand and reef, posing very little risk to surfers. The wave breaks both left and right, however the lefts tend to be better quality. Rides can be really long here, often with sections to nose ride on lower tides, and good sections for turns when the swell picks up a bit. On small days Batu Balong is perfect for beginners looking for surf lessons in Bali, however the crowd can often be unbearable due to the spots popularity. On a high tide and bigger swell be aware of the shorebreak, which can leave you dumped on the sand and posted on kook of the day within a few hours!
Accessed from the same beach as Batu Balong is the surf Spot Old Mans. It has similar characteristics to Batu Balong, offering long rides both left and right. The wave is more powerful than Batu Balong, and so is a good option for surfers looking to stray away from the mellow neighbour. On big swells Old Mans becomes a long big wall that is amazing for competent surfers to perform drawn out turns, and even get a barrel on the inside on a lower tide, but be warned this section gets heavy!
Echo Beach is undeniably the most popular beach for shortboarders in the Canggu area. You can easily access the beach from the beach carpark just a few meters from us here at Boardriders Echo Beach. There are three main spots along this black sand beach, Echo Left, Sandbar and Rivermouth.
Echo left is the first spot you will see when you get to the beach from Boardriders Shop, sitting right out the front of the carpark. The wave breaks over a quality reef that produces a fairly short but punchy left hand ride. Best surfed on a mid to high tide, surfers can enjoy laying into a turn or two or even getting a quick barrel straight from the ledgy take off.
Sandbar sits just along from Echo Left in the middle of the beach, located right in-front of La Brisa. This sand bottom break has a shifty and wedgey take off that transforms into a high performance wave machine as it drains along past the beach warungs. The left handers are better, with longer rides than the usually less impressive right handers that occasionally roll through. Sandbar is good on most tides except when the tide gets too high. On lower tides there are plenty of barrels to be hunted, and as the tide pushes you can expect to carry out some good manoeuvres on the punchy walls. This spot is very popular with advanced surfers and easily becomes crowded.
Rivermouth is, as the name suggests, situated by the river mouth on Pererenan Beach. This right hander wave has it all, with good sections for turns, ramps for airs and the odd fun barrel. The wave is easily accessed from the channel between the river mouth and Sandbar. This wave can also become very crowded due to its popularity amongst a wide range of surfers. Rivermouth is best on a mid to high, and low tide can result in a few scratches on the inside reef.
Just over an hours drive north of Canggu you will find Balian, a swell magnet that usually has good surf when everywhere else is small or flat. Balian beach has 3 different surf spots, The Peak, Ketuts and the Inside Left.
The Peak is an A frame out the front of the river and picks up the most swell. The right is fast and rippable, whereas the left is slower but still good quality. On the western side of the river is Ketuts, a high performance right hander. This spot can get crowded with good surfers when it’s on, and the inside can become shallow with rock boulders under the water. On the Eastern side of the river is the Inside Left, which is always smaller than the Peak and is popular with less experienced surfers.
Balian isn’t recommended when the swell is big, as the paddle out and currents can be very hard to manage. The morning and late afternoon sessions are usually the most glassy due to the trade winds being side shore here.
If you travel a bit further up the coast from Balian you will come across Medewi, a fun long left hand point break that makes a nice change from the reefs of the South. The wave is generally very mellow, breaking for a long way along a bed of sand and rock boulders. Best surfed around mid-tide, as low tide doesn’t tend to work too well and high tide becomes fat and washy. All levels of surfer will enjoy surfing the long peeling waves of Medewi, and therefore you can expect it to be crowded when its good. However if you time it right, you will be able to score some epic empty sessions here. The wave is well suited to longboards, fish boards and midlengths due to its mellow nature, and also shortboards for the faster ad punchier inside section.
When heading down to the Bukit Peninsula of Bali, a left hand reefbreak called Balangan is often the first port of call for avid surfers. Balangan beach is a long picturesque stretch of white sand with small green cliffs at either end, and clearer crystal water compared to spots further north of the Bukit. The beach is lined with warungs which makes it a great spot to watch the surf or take a food break in between sessions. The reef runs for around 300 meters, yet the spot usually offers shorter rides due to the fast nature of the wave, which will often close out. Sometimes an odd set or wave will roll through that links up along the whole stretch of reef. On smaller swells you can expect the more section and closeout prone conditions, however when the surf gets big the wave holds up and runs much better, and this is when you can expect longer rides. The wave is best in dry season when it is offshore, and bigger swells more likely. A lower tide will offer the best rides for intermediate to advanced surfers, and a higher tide combined with small swell is well suited to beginners. Be aware of the dry end section on a low tide, which is not to be messed with.
Dreamland is the odd beach out in the Bukit Peninsula, with much mellower and more playful waves then the reef breaks that surround it. The beach is accessed through the Golf Course area on the way from Ungasan. Once you are on the beach you’ll see white sand and blue waters, with sun umbrellas sprawled out along the sand. Dreamland very much has a touristy feeling much the same as Kuta beach. The surf spots at Dreamland offer a variety of waves from the inside short and punchy lefts and rights that break near the shore to the bigger and longer A frame peaks further out each side of the big channel. The waves break over a fairly flat limestone reef that doesn’t pose as much danger as reef breaks nearby. If you are a looking for surf lessons in the Bukit then Dreamland is a great option as the surf is less intense than most other spots in the Bukit.
Bingin is possibly the most mechanical wave in Bali, pumping out perfect shaped barrels set after set when the swell is right. Located in between Impossibles and Dreamland, you will need to park at the top of the Bingin Cliffs and make your way down to the beach via the steep and long stairs. The white sandy beach is postcard worthy and attracts quite a crowd. The wave sits directly out the front of Bingin beach, and you simply paddle out to the left of the peak and straight into the lineup. The take-off spot is very defined at Bingin, due to the reef being so perfect and mechanical. Most waves break in the exact same spot and will likely offer a barrel. The reef here is shallow and sharp, as to be expected from such a quality wave. Low to mid tide will offer the most chances of getting barrelled, but this also poses more threat of being washed up on the shallow reef. A higher tide offers a more user friendly wave that is softer than on lower tides. The swell needs to be fairly big for Bingin to break as it is more protected than other spots such as Uluwatu. The crowd at Bingin can be notoriously hardcore due to the small take off spot and high level of surfing. As like anywhere else, be sure to show respect in the line-up and wait your turn. Best winds are trade winds and the months between May and September when larger swells arrive in Bali.
Impossibles is as the name suggests, a very fast wave that breaks over a long distance of reef, usually resulting in surfers racing their way down the wave in order to make the next sections. Even though the wave is fast and sometimes too fast, Impossibles can be extremely fun and result in you surfing a wave for hundreds of meters. The reef is long and spread out, more than 500 meters in fact, and therefore easily handles a crowd, which tends to sprawl out along the various potential take-off spots. The reef starts next to Padang Padang and ends down towards Bingin. You can enter the water at various spots along the reef, but the best bet is from the Padang Padang beach which has a distinct channel or from the far southern corner of Bingin beach where there is a channel. Impossibles favours lower tides and this is when you see those picture perfect line-up shots where lines of swell stack up on the horizon. Like its neighbouring waves it needs a fairly big swell to turn on properly and therefore best in the dry season between May and September.
As a surfer coming to Bali you would most likely have heard of the notorious Padang Padang. This is the wave that many travelling surfers dream to score during their surf travels. Padang Padang is very sheltered and needs a very big swell to light up. This happens a number of times during the dry season, and when it does start breaking, the crowds follow. The barrel of Padang Padang starts to work well when it is overhead, starting with a fairly steep take-off and running down the reef into an extremely open barrel that you can stand up tall in if it’s big enough. The second section is usually where the best barrel will present itself, but it can get fairly gnarly and shallow in there. The wave itself is located down at Padang beach around to the left under the jagged green cliffs. To access the wave you simply paddle from Padang beach through the channel, which will suck you straight out to the lineup in the rip current. The reef is especially dangerous on lower tides at the end section, where it can suck up dry and throw you around somewhat. Padang Padang needs a big swell combined with a low to medium tide and offshore winds. As mentioned before, crowds can be large and fierce here due to the popularity of the wave and extremely high level of surfing. This spot is for advanced surfers only and not for the faint hearted.
Uluwatu, the wave that put Bali on the world map of surfing, as seen in iconic surf movies such as Morning of the Earth. Uluwatu is a large stretch of reef consisting of many different sections / waves.
The Peak is probably the most popular section, located directly out the front of the cave, offering long rippable walls with the odd barrel section. This is often the most crowded spot at Uluwatu as it is not as intimidating as other spots along the reef. Best on a mid to high tide with a medium sized swell.
Down at the end of the Peak is where Racetracks starts. This is arguably the best wave at Uluwatu, and as the name suggests, offers fast long waves with multiple barrel sections. The wave gets faster and faster further down the reef, and similarly more and more shallow. The reef at Racetracks is sharp and very much present when you’re blasting down the sections. The wave is best on lower tides and therefore the reef can be a real hazard. Therefore Racetracks is suited more towards experienced surfers.
When big swells around the 8ft range arrive, a section of reef called Outside Corner turns on, breaking out beyond Racetracks. The wave breaks out in deep water and is extremely heavy, producing huge walls for big carves and sometimes huge cavern like barrels. If you are experienced enough to surf Outside Corner, you will need a big board to handle the difficult paddle ins.
A wave of a similar beast like nature is the Bombie, which like Outside Corner lights up only during huge swells. Situated further south and further out to sea than the Peak, the Bombie offers huge walls that pack a mighty punch and heavy wipeouts. Like its big neighbour, the Bombie is for experienced surfers only.
Lastly, further south than the peak is Temples, a spot that offers a wide variety of waves that often throw you off guard, from short and long walls to the occasional barrel. The crowds are always less at Temples due to the long paddle to get there.
All of the spots at Uluwatu are best accessed down at the famous Uluwatu cave that ca be a beast of its own nature. Lower tides are easy to get out due to the water breaking far out from the cave, however on higher tides the currents can be very strong directly outside of the cave, often sucking unaware surfers back down towards racetracks when trying to paddle back in. The best way to get back in after a higher tide surf is to paddle in south of the cave in front of the Peak and paddle into the cave as the current pulls you in that direction.
Nyang-Nyang beach offers a fairly consistently clean wave during the wet season from November to April. This spot is a right hand reef that is very exposed due to its location on the south of the Bukit, and so takes the brunt of incoming swells. On bigger swells Nyang Nyang can pack a punch and is not a wave to be messed with. Best tides are around mid tide with a north wind being optimal. The beach itself is a beautiful vast stretch of white sand at the base of a massive cliff. The trek down can be tiring due to the 600 steep stairs to get down, so make sure you are up for the workout!
Pandawa beach is located on the South of the Bukit Peninsula around 1km from Green Bowls. It is a spot that has been kept under wraps and fairly secret until recent years. The wave itself is predominantly a left hander but also there can be some short right handers. There is a distinct channel right in front of the beach warungs that draws you out in to the lineup. The rips can get very strong here so be aware on bigger days. In west winds Pandawa is cross shore, but still fine to surf. It does not handle South West or South East winds. The spot picks up a fair amount of swell due to its exposed location, and therefore a good option when other spots are small.
The South of the Bukit is also home to the spot Green Bowl, which is located at the bottom of yet another steep and high cliff. There is a carpark at the top with approximately 200 stairs leading down to the beach. Green Bowl is a right hander that beaks over reef, and usually not too crowded so you can score some fun sessions here. The best tide is around low to mid with optimal winds being from the North, North West and North East. Rips can be a hazard here when the size picks up.
You most likely would have heard of Sanur as a destination in Bali. Home to white sandy shores and blue water, Sanur has become a tourist haven. Due to its Location on the East Coast, Sanur is more favourable to surf in the wet season between November and April. There are two distinct spots here, Sanur Reef and Tanjung Reef. Both reefs are quite sharp and when the swell is big there is often the chance of hitting the reef when the tides are lower. Both waves can be epic barrels on their day, and not for beginners. However on smaller days, Sanur can be a good option for beginners, who can take advantage of the various number of surf schools located on the beachfront.
Most people surfing in the Wet season will know of Nusa Dua, which is usually the most popular choice. Nusa Dua is actually known as one of Bali’s best big wave spots, offering big right handers as opposed to the usual big left hand spots. There are a number of spots to surf in Nusa Dua along the reef. Conditions can become very difficult and challenging when big, with huge right hand barrels on offer, and so for advanced surfers only in such conditions. Best on mid to higher tides and favourable in West and North West winds.
Located on the East coast of Bali lays one of the world’s most rippable and high performance waves, Keramas. A welcomed change to the land of lefts for the natural footers who travel to Bali for surfing. The break is located out the front of Komune Resort, and is easily accessed from a channel to the left of the well distinguished take off spot. The was shape is punchy, bowly and rippable, hence why so many professional surfers love to visit the spot. On bigger swells Keramas produces hollow and heavy barrels that usually break right from the take-off. The wave isn’t very long, breaking over a short section of reef, but the quality makes up for this. Best surfed on mid to higher tides, as on low tides the wave tends to close out on the sharp and shallow reef. Due to the quality of the wave, you can expect Keramas to be very crowded on decent swells, and the lineup will more than likely be dominated by very good surfers. As Keramas is on the East coast, the best season to surf is I the wet season (November to February) when the wind blows from the West / North-West. Swells tend to be smaller in the wet season, and so the shoulder season in March and October can offer really good sessions when there are bigger swells combined with clean winds in the morning.
Surf Spot Map