Learning to Surf in Bali
Bali is one of thousands of islands in Indonesia that offers world class breaks and is considered to be one of the best surfing areas on this planet. What makes Bali so unique other than warm waters, is that it offers waves year around in a variety of different breaks for all skill levels. From reef breaks, to beach, there are ample opportunities for surfers to progress rapidly. You can choose from several surf schools, camps, and private coaches if you feel the need for formal training. It is good to learn the basics as well safety and etiquette.
Talk to a few locals to get some ideas on which surf school to choose from.
Surfing season in Bali
As mentioned previously, Bali has no surf season since its good year around. There are no issues with shortages of waves and you can always find good surf if you explore. Waves can sometimes be big and if you are a beginner, choosing the right surf school would be beneficial. They have the skill and knowledge to take you to the right spots suited to your level. Speaking of seasons, there is one thing that you should consider before planning your ultimate surf trip to Bali. During the months of June, July, and August are the peak season where waves will be the biggest and at their best. This draws crowded line-ups, competitive, and aggressive surfers from all over the world. This is also the most expensive time to come to Bali as the prices for everything goes up, including airfares and hotel accommodations. Around the holidays in the months of November through February is what we call the wet season. It rains constantly and you will need to travel to the other side of the island to find better surf. I suggest coming April, May, September, and October. Its the best months in terms of weather, waves and crowds, best for beginner surfers. Weather in Bali is consistent all year, with an average temperature of 30 C / 80 F. Water temperature is always warm almost the same as the air temperature year round.
Where to surf in Bali
Bali’s main beginners surf spot is located in Kuta. Kuta is a beach break and offers perfect conditions for beginners. The waves break close to shore so that means less paddling and no worries about getting shredded on a reef when you fall. Kuta is well known as a beginners spot so it’s okay to make mistakes while learning without being yelled at by other surfers. Unfortunately it can get extremely crowded with kooks (Kook: term used by surfers to describe those who are reckless and dangerous to the safety of other surfers) and have a higher probability of getting a ding on your board or yourself. So be mindful of safety and watch out! Other spots considered to be for beginners are Seminyak and Jimbaran, which are beach breaks. Padang Padang and Old Man’s are both reef breaks. The last two mentioned can be considered more intermediate because of the longer paddle and reef. Consider hiring a surf guide if you feel uncomfortable so they can show you the channels and where to lineup properly. During the wet season (December-February), you can consider spots like Nusa Dua (beach break), or Serangan (reef break).
Choosing surf school
There are plenty of surf schools in Bali. Most of them are located in Kuta, Seminyak, Canggu and few in Padang-Padang. Most surfers gravitate towards Kuta for all its post surf activities. Saturated with bars, restaurants, and clubs on every corner. You might find it hard to get motivated to surf the next day after an all night extravaganza. Canggu and Padang-Padang is the opposite, with less distractions and more laid back. For those who want a peaceful and tranquil surf adventure, taking surf lessons in this area is recommended. Bali surf conditions can be very tricky and no two surf spots are alike. Going to a surf school or hiring a guide is a must, so save yourself time and frustration trying to figure out when exactly is the best time for you to surf. When choosing a school, I suggest an international, well established surf school. They are well experienced surf instructors who know how to teach. Avoid local beach boys walking around offering private lessons right on the spot. It might seem like a cheaper option but, in the end, it will take more time to learn because those guys usually don’t know how to teach. You don’t need to book a school in advance. Just show up one day early before you want to start your lessons and sign up. The more lessons you book, the cheaper each lesson becomes. An average cost per lesson are around 35-40$ if you book 5-10 lessons in advance. If you are not sure how many lessons you want, I suggest do 3 lessons first. When planning your lessons, consider the following: One lesson usually lasts about 3 hours. Depending on your physical shape, be ready to surf around 5 days a week, with a break every 3 days. Before making a choice about which surf school to choose, ask how many students they will have and the number of instructors for each group? Some surf schools will try to offer cheaper lessons but end up with 15 students in a group with one instructor. Another reason for choosing an international surf school is to teach you about ocean safety, surfing etiquette and wave knowledge. Besides surf schools there are several surf camps and retreats to choose from. The difference between just taking lessons at a school vs. surf camp, is they offer a full package including surf lessons, accommodation and meals. Consider doing a surf camp if you want your itinerary laid out for you and surfing is your main goal while in Bali. Some surf camps are located in Padang Padang (Bukit), or Canggu area. Space is limited so booking a surf camp in advance is suggested.
What you might need for surfing
If you are a beginner, you won’t need to bring anything with you. In fact, you shouldn’t bring a surfboard to avoid any airline odd size baggage fees. You can rent surfboards when you arrive at any surf shop. Some surf schools provide beginner boards for you to use which is included in package cost. The good schools will even provide you with a rash guard and board shorts. The only thing I suggest bringing is sun screen. It can get very expensive here in Bali. If you don’t already have rash guards, board shorts, or other surf apparel,there are plenty of surf shops in Kuta to choose from. All the top name brands have established shops throughout the island. From Billabong, Quicksilver, Roxy, Ripcurl, and many others to choose from. Don’t expect the pricing to be cheaper because you are in Bali. You will find that most things are priced the same as the surf shops at home. Surfboard rental is cheap. In Kuta, surf shops rent boards on average of 5$ a day, or 60$ a month. If you feel the need to own a board while you stay, be ready to fork up about 300-350$ for a used board. You can buy it from someone you may have just run into, or a surf shop. Don’t forget that you can always bargain to get the best possible deal. If you happen to ding your board, repair is inexpensive depending upon the severity of the damage. The worst case scenario of snapping your board in two will cost around 60$. Small minor dings shouldn’t be anymore than 10$, which can be negotiable. The best surf shop & repair in Kuta is Naruki on Benesari Street. Water temperature is always warm, so a wetsuit is not necessary. In the months of July and August, you may feel the need to wear a 2mm jacket, or spring suit. Most people wear rash guards to avoid long exposure to sun.