Learning to surf in Bali

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We decided to go to Bali for two main reasons: we wanted to learn how to surf, and go diving to explore the beautiful underwater world in Bali. Of course sun, beaches and the relaxed island life played a part as well. We would go to Amed for diving, that was a no-brainer, but online we couldn’t figure out what the best place was for learning to surf in Bali in January. We booked a hostel in Kuta, near the airport in Denpasar, and decided we would ask “professionals” for advice.

After a good night’s sleep, we took a stroll along the beach to see the Kuta craze for ourselves. “Surf schools”, in the sense of a couple of guys hanging around a couple of surf boards, are lining up along the shore. It was a funny sight actually and it’s a shame we don’t have a photo to illustrate my description. There were just as much “bars”, a local with a large cooler filled with soft drinks, beer, and ice to keep it all “bloody cold”. All of them had a couple of plastic chairs, most of them owned parasols, and some of them even had a name plate for their little bar. (Old) women walk along the beach asking if you want a massage, (old) men do temporary tattoos. You can also buy sarongs, swimwear, and the like, all on the beach.

Kuta Beach from a Distance
Birthe at the end of her first Surfing Lesson
Beautiful Sunset on Kuta Beach

After a decent walk and a lot of no-thank-you’s to surfers desperately searching for customers, we finally said yes to some capable looking guys from Ro'auli. Fran and another guy whose name we forgot would give us private surfing lessons for 200,000 IDR per person. This includes a surfboard, a rash guard, and at least 2 to 2,5 hours of “lay down, paddle paddle paddle, stand up”, with a decent break. I could still hear Fran saying it when I went to sleep that night.

A decent amount of perseverance is key when learning how to surf, it needs a lot of practice and it will hurt. Just keep trying over and over again, and eventually you’ll be able to catch a wave, a great feeling. Brecht had some surf lessons in Portugal once and he’s an experienced snowboarder, so he stood up on his surfboard a lot more up than I did, that first day. I managed to do so about seven times, fourteen times almost, and I slipped endless times. I never had that much salty seawater in my nose before. We went home feeling exhausted, with scraped knees, fingers and elbows from the beginners surfboard, seemingly made of sandpaper. No pain, no gain, I guess?

Brecht ready to Catch a Wave
Riding a tiny Wave
Struggling to Stay on his Board

After a day of recovering, we went back out there. This time we took lessons with Popo, a guy recommended to Brecht by a former colleague. We had to walk a little further, but he gave more instructions and we felt more like we knew what we were doing. He gave us lessons together for 250,000 IDR per person. Afterward I took another lesson, while Brecht rented a board for 50,000 IDR for a day. We returned for another two days to practice some more on our own before we left for Ubud.

Our plan was to get a good dose of culture in Ubud, explore the underwater world in Amed and then return to Kuta for another week of surfing. We promised Popo we’d learn how to ride a motorbike in the meantime (we did!) so he could take us to some more beaches. Everything was going great until Birthe got sick and had to spend a week in bed. Our time in Bali was running out so we decided to spend another week in Amed to be able to do some diving instead of returning to Kuta. Sorry Popo!

Hiding from the Rain at Popo's
Taking a break from Surfing Practice
Sunset at Popo's

We had a great time learning to surf in Bali, although we still need a lot of practice. We can’t yet stand up straight most of the time and still fall a lot. But we won’t give up! We’ll hopefully be practicing some more in Australia during the next three months, even though it will be a lot more expensive.

Looking for more things to do in Bali? Check out this post.


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