Neal Gent, the British Stand Up Paddle Association surfing Champion in 2008 decided to pack up his board and get on a plane to Indonesia to sample the delight of Bali. He tells us all about his trip and advises on the best breaks for stand up paddle surfing.
For those who haven’t been away surfing before getting into SUP Bali is one of the ‘dream’ destinations for traveling surfers. The year is essentially split into two parts. The dry season is from June to September and the wet season is from November to March. The surf breaks are split roughly into those on the East of the Ulluwatu peninsula, which tend to be ‘offshore’ during the wet season, and those on the west which work during June to September. There are days when either can work ‘out of season’ but this is a pretty good general rule.
I’ve been at both times but this year myself and Scott (Gardner) were seeking to break the freezing winter in half with a bit of February sunshine and waves.
Getting an SUP board anywhere these days can be tricky, but if you don’t take too much luggage I got away with a paddle board and a short board in my 20kg with Singapore Airlines and no real hassle either way.
Having been a few times we know a few of the surfers hotels, but our favorite remains the Masa Inn in Kuta. Although it’s on the main ‘tourist’ strip of Poppies Lane it is tucked away with two pools away from the chaos in a little oasis, but best of all it remains cheap at around £12 a night for a big room, en suit and breakfast!!
As anywhere in Bali if you take about two steps out of your hotel someone will offer to sell you pretty much anything. Straight opposite the Masa we managed to hire a six seater car for just £10 a day, and with petrol at about £5 a tank it’s definitely the way round with boards. For the braver you can rent a scooter for even less, and we did a day with the boards on the side, but you have to take your life in your hands on the main roads when the rains pouring- the traffic’s mental!!!
Within five minutes walk of the Masa are too many restaurants and clubs to list, but our favorites include the Havana Bar-good for tex-mex, and there’s a little thai restaurant on the lane between Poppies 1 and Poppies 2 (the two main thoroughfares) that’s about £1 for the best curry and spring rolls we’ve ever tasted! Up at the top of the road is a sushi restaurant called Cunti’s (honestly!) where for about £4 you can get a massive amount of the best sushi-this is my favorite restaurant on the planet!!
This time of year you’ve got a load of options where to go, depending what you’re after on the water.
At Nusa Dua a beautiful white beach and lagoon are protected by a crescent reef, so you have perfect flat water and family beach on the inside, but on the outside just a phenomenal right hander peels down the reef. It’s easy to paddle round the outside in the channel, but unless it’s big you can often sneak over the reef between sets. You definitely have to be aware of the tide here- the left end of the reef or ‘Chickenwings’ is pretty much safe at any state of tide, and even this is a great wave, running three or four hundred yards on a good one and then kicking off into the channel to head back out for more! Further up the reef at ‘middles’ or the mainbreak itself you need to be a bit more aware that the reef is exposed at low tide so if you get it wrong you’ll be dealing with sharp coral and an SUP board with white water hitting you!!! But at high tide you just get washed over the reef when it all goes wrong!!
These top two waves are seriously world class, and on a couple of big days here we scored it triple overhead and had by far the best waves I’ve ever had on a paddle board. My 9’11’’ gets going so easily I was making drops that to be honest I never thought we’d be taking on and loving it!!! I did have a couple of leash stretching moments though, but at high tide you just get washed into the lagoon so you could really go for it. When I go again I’m considering staying at Nusa Dua cos seriously this place has one of the best setups for SUP I’ve seen, and just about anyone could ride on the little ones at the end of the reef, whilst the big buggers hammering down from the top are enough to keep anyone happy!!
If it’s a little windy or just a little big for you up at Nusa, then head further down the coast to Turtle Island. This really is a turtle sanctuary! The beach is lined by a bunch of local ‘restaurants’ and a real favourite amongst the beginner surfers, especially the Japanese visitors. This means it does get SUPER busy here almost all day, but you can paddle up or down coast easily to other waves that aren’t so popular. This is a great place to come learn your surfing though, although again at low tide the reef can get a little shallow or even dry out. To be honest with the crowds here it’s probably worth heading further down the coast to Sanur.
As you head further East round the coast the waves get smaller, and if you want cranking conditions these breaks only start working when waves like Nusa Dua are seriously big!
But even on a small day there are loads of easy reefs to paddle out to from the beach. This is where Jankie runs his SUP and Kite school and you can see why! Straight out form the beach are at least three visible perfect little waves, and away to the west is the eastern end of Turtle Island and Oca Point.
We were lucky enough to have Jankie to show us around-I first met him out in Sumbawa kite surfing, and he’s been leading the way in exploring indonesia’s spots for kiting initially, and now for SUP. He has a mental set-up with a hotel, a restaurant, a kite and SUP shop and a perfect spot to SUP from!!! He has a load of boards for hire, mostly Starboard, and of all sizes so you could probably get away without bringing your own board. (but he does say bring your own paddle if it’s a good one!!) We are definitely going back to Oca Point when it’s bigger-the photos show just how good it is on a small day, but apparently locals practice their tow-in surfing here when it’s bigger!! Jankie reckons you could paddle here even when it’s massive cos you get pushed into the river mouth when you get it wrong and into deep water.
There’s a load more waves in both directions that you just have to drive to if you get bored of the above but in two weeks I never bored of Nusa!! That’s not even considering the world class waves on the west of the peninsular- the locals have paddled into Ulluwatu’s, Padang Padang and everywhere else already so as long as you don’t take the piss with a pretty serious line up of surfers you can go anywhere, but obviously that’s a trip for the other end of the year!!
So that’s a pretty brief account of one of the best spots to go surf on the planet!! Sure someone will say there are better waves and spots than the ones we checked out this year, but that’s the beauty of Bali, it’s just stock full of world class waves, as well as beautiful spots for those happy to enjoy the surroundings.
If you’re thinking about heading out there you must give Jankie a call or drop him an email via http://www.bali-kitesurfing.org/index.html cos he knows the place inside out and has access to anything from accommodation to cars and boards, apart from being the best local guide to the spots.
Thanks to another friend of Jankie’s who did some photos for us- Gori, if you fancy some shots of your trip he’s pretty reasonable and a professional photographer.