Blessed with 365 days of swell, damn good weather and pristine warm water temps, the island of the Gods is a fave surf destination for travellers.
With 60 plus surf spots scattered across the island, surfers and holidaymakers are spoilt for choice. But before you throw on some board shorts and hit Kuta’s gnarly waves with a longboard in tow, check out our newbies guide to surfing in Bali. It will see you “shredding” beyond the shoreline in no time…
Bali surf seasons
The peak surf season for Bali is from April to October where solid swells hit the reefs around Uluwatu, Nusa Dua and Kuta.
The wet season is from November until March, a time when the surf isn’t quite as large and intimidating, but it’s consistent. Waves are roughly 3 – 5 feet in height, day after day.
Opposing winds offer good conditions, particularly in the clear waters and snoozy spots of Nusa Dua and Sanur – just some of the prized surf locations during the wet season.
A short history of Bali’s golden years of surf…
Way back in 1936, Californian surfer Bob Koke moved from the shores of Hawaii and set up home in Bali, opening the Bali Hotel on Kuta Beach with his wife Louise.
Kuta was an empty coast back then, but with Bob’s arrival it became the island’s first ‘surfer’s beach’.
Surfing didn’t immediately catch on with the locals and tourist folk alike, so fortunately for Bob he had the entire Bukit all to himself.
By the 1960s and 70s, intrepid surfers like Kim Bradley, Jerry Lopez (aka Mr. Pipeline) and Rory Russell came across the Bukit Peninsula, and started trickling into the island for a taste of this surfing sanctuary.
Lopez and Russell were credited for exposing and validating Indonesia and prime spots like Bali as a comprehensive surf destination with immense potential.
Gerry Lopez “Mr Pipeline” in action
Surf, sun, sea, serenity: the ultimate mecca for surfers
Bali has been the ultimate mecca for surfers since the 60s and 70s, from Uluwatu to Bukit and Old Man’s Canguu, the combination of surf, sun, sea and serenity attracts hordes of surfers from learners to professionals and is part of the top ten reasons of Bali’s attraction and mystique.
Bali’s tourism industry owes a lot to the sport, after all it was the surf at Kuta Beach that first attracted the Aussies and Kiwi’s back in the golden years.
Classic surf movies shot in Bali
Cult surf movies followed spreading the gospel of surf in faraway lands, as surf culture went on the move to find the best waves, leaving viewers with a sense of awe and an itch for discovery…
Spreading the gospel of surf in faraway lands, as surf culture went on the move to find the best waves.
Classic gems such as Morning of the Earth features Steve Cooney and Rusty Miller riding perfect peaks in Bali as well as Australia’s north-east coast and Hawaii, ultimately portraying surfers living in spiritual harmony with nature and in search for the perfect wave.
The crown jewel of surf movies, Bruce Brown’s The Endless Summer, adored by critics and surfers alike, shows two West Coast surfers travelling the world in search of amazing waves.
Brown’s film masterfully captures surfing as a fun-loving, sociable, sunny sport, and the production value is like a well-made home video. The Endless Summer II highlights the popularity of the iconic past-time and how far the love of the sport has spread with footage of surf sessions from Java and Bali to South Africa, Costa Rica, France, and even as far as Alaska.
Indonesia’s female surfer Yasnyiar “Bonne” Gea stars in NIAS Point of Change, a recently released doco that focuses on the phenomenal Indo surfer.
Bonne Gea was the first female surfer in Nīas and pursued her passion of surfing. Despite all the odds, she went on to become five times Indonesia’s Women’s Surfing Champion. A true inspiration and local hero!
Best Bali surf spots for newbies…
There are many famed surf spots around the island, however some are often dominated by territorial pros, riding and fighting for the best waves.
The following beaches are in arms reach of major surf schools and sit conveniently within the main tourist hubs.
This sandy beach stretch has fun and easy waves for the virgin surfer and novice to intermediate rider, with small swells and a variety of surf schools lining the beach. The waves are consistent, measuring at an average of one to three feet. However, the currents are sure to increase in the late afternoon.
Known as the sister resort to Kuta Beach. The waves come in a steady variety (similar to Kuta) with a sandy break averaging one to three feet waves, with swells increasing in the late afternoon.
There are also notable surf schools found in Legian, such as the Rip Curl School of Surf and the Surf Academy at the Legian Beach Hotel, accredited by the Australian Academy of Surfing Instructors. The academy also offers fantastic wave-riding courses in the front of its garden pool.
Just north of Legian Beach, Seminyak offers a great deal of swell often double the size of Kuta Beach. The ideal rideable waves offer plenty of lefts and rights as well as short lengths, great for surf virgins and kiddie riders.
Right on the borders of Legian, Dhyana Pura has some decent waves level to Kuta, and is way less crowded with an array of surf schools and camps running across the coast.
Batu Bolong Beach (Echo Beach) and Canguu
Pantai Batu Bolong, as named by the locals, is a beautiful sandy beach stretch from Seminyak boasting amazing views of the Indian Ocean.
The panoramic view of the sunset is simply breathtaking and a fave site for sunset surfs.
Nicknamed ‘Echo Beach‘ by the expat surfers, the waves cater to all types, from learners to the pros. There’s a consistent break and flat rock bed with waves under six feet, but learners should take caution when heading out as there are no lifeguards patrolling the coast.
Even if you’re still learning the art of surfing…take it up notch. Go ahead and impress your surf instructor for the next surf sesh and get your extra dose of the chillest BIGGER wave spots in Bali, but remember to always stay safe and know your limits!
Back to Surf School, with the basics…
Surf schools are a great way to learn how to surf in a short period of time while learning the techniques from scratch, picking up important tips, getting to know surf etiquette and gaining knowledge of the sport. Lessons are taught by fully trained and certified surf teachers in controlled, safe ocean environments. They will guide you through the waves and teach you the best ways to stand up on a surfboard.
A great surf school in Bali can teach you to take off on the first wave, usually in eight one-hour surf lessons. But it takes perseverance, practise and strength from you to make it happen!
In reality, learning how to surf is possible in say one or two months. Before you commence a class it’s important to note the coach to student ratio.
Each class with one surf instructor shouldn’t have more than eight surfers. Surf schools that do not respect the 1/8 ratio rule are violating the official security procedures.
Throughout the course, beginners will learn the primary skills of surfing such as:
- Paddling through the break and onto waves
- Taking off on a wave
- Trimming across the face of a wave
- Turning and cutting back forehand and backhand.
Surf teachers should be able to get a novice surfer to a surfing level in which the have the ability to do carving turns and cope with re-entries.
Great Bali Surf Schools
Canggu Surf School (Echo Beach)
Situated in the North of Kuta and Seminyak, the village of Canguu is a uniquely blended paradise positioned between a beautiful temple and a sprawling metropolis. Alongside an array of high-end shops, cafe culture, day spas and dreamy surf breaks you will find Canguu Surf School. The school is fantastic for beginners and teaches you step by step from the base. The beaches in the area are also suitable conditions for novices. The ISA certified surf instructors teach you the right technique from day one, whilst correcting you when necessary. Canguu also guarantees one professional coach for every two participants, so you’re sure to be catching your first real wave in no time!
Location: Jalan Pantai Sentosa, Echo Beach, Canggu
Tel: +62 (0)361 800 428 4
For more info hit up: www.canggusurfschool.com
Balangan Wave Surf School and Rip Curl School of Surf
With calmer, crystal blue waters, Jimbaran Bay is one of Bali’s best and safest beaches with spectacular sunset spots to boot.
Jimbaran’s waves are great for the newbie surfers, too, and is fast becoming a must-see part of the island to explore.
The crystal blue waters beckon virgin surfers, with an array of surf schools on offer such as the Rip Curl School of Surf and Balangan Wave Surf School, to assist in conquering that first mighty wave.
Rip Curl School of Surf offers surf schools in Legian, Sanur, Kuta and Jimbaran. They cater for kiddies, absolute beginners, as well as the advanced rider.
For more info on their classes and packages hit up: www.ripcurlschoolofsurf.com
Balangan Wave Surf School
For more info on their classes and offers hit up: www.balanganwavesurfschool.com
To view one of the best surf spots in action check out our crew hanging out in Balangan paradise.
Surf school requirements as instructed by ISA
The International Surfing Association (ISA) is the world governing body for surfing. The official ISA certified surf schools must renew their registrations every year. Read the full list of Obligations for a Registered Surf School.
It’s important to review the core guidelines of what surf schools must provide at their facilities:
- Soft-cored surfboards for beginners
- Safety helmets (on request)
- Water resistant sunscreen
- Comprehensive first aid kit
- Uniformly coloured rash vests for participants
- Area flags or markers (unless prohibited by local authorities)
- Rescue board
- Mobile phone
Surfboard hire and price guide in local currency (IDR)
For all your surf renting needs, there’s a large selection of surf rental shops in Bali, particularly in the Kuta beach area.
The chart below is a general guide on the price for specific board rentals and an estimation of costs for the duration of hire. Most surf shops offer shortboards, longboards and mini-mals to hire, as well as wetsuits, a range of surf gear and UV protection surf shirts.
Board Rentals (price estimates from board rentals in the Bali area in IDR – Indonesian Rupiah)
1 hour (hire) 1 day 1 week 2 weeks
Softboards (learners) 50, 000 IDR 100,000 IDR 600,000 IDR 1,000,000 IDR
Mini Malibu 50, 000 IDR 100,000 IDR 600,000 IDR 1,000,000 IDR
Malibu’s 50, 000 IDR 100,000 IDR 600,000 IDR 1,000,000 IDR
Hard Boards 50, 000 IDR 100,000 IDR 600,000 IDR 1,000,000 IDR
Check a currency converter to see what that means in your local coin.
Buying your first surfboard in the foam category
A beginner’s surfboard is quite affordable and can be purchased for roughly $250 AUD. The soft / foam surfboard models are longer, wider and heavier, so beginners can easily take off on their initial waves. Beginner boards are made out of expanded polystyrene (EPS) foam which adds durability. This allows for higher buoyancy levels in order for beginners to easily stand-up while training. Yee-ha!
Weight and height – important surfboard variables…
Weight and height are the initial variables to have in mind when purchasing your first board. Floatation demands volume and a good learner surfboard has high buoyancy.
Surf novices should buy soft top surfboards that will help them catch as many waves as possible in the early white water days. You will paddle much faster and will rapidly pop up on a stable board, despite it being bigger and heavier than your traditional shortboard.
Quality foam surfboards can last a long time. In size, they range from 6′ to 8′ feet. An average adult should be able to get started on an 8′ foot, while a child can learn with a 6′ foot.
Remember: the bigger the board, the faster you’ll be riding the waves!
Surfboard categories (primary styles to rent or buy)
What size? What shape? What style? A shortboard, a funboard or a longboard? Agh!
Most importantly, you have to choose a board that suits your weight and level of experience.
To select a board to rent or even buy whilst in Bali, we’ve provided a simple guide below indicating four surf board categories and their main features. Each has its own benefits for different styles of surfing and experience levels. There’s also a surfboard size to weight chart for beginners on a shortboard, malibu / funboard and longboard.
You will notice that the surfboard market has many names for specific types of boards such as shortboards, fishes, funboards, mini-mal, hybrids, long, mal, guns and paddleboards. In an attempt to strip it down to the surfboard basics, we’ve divided them into 4 categories, listing their characteristics and specific features:
Shortboards are made for the pretty good to expert surfer and are the most common style for the professionals.
Designed to maximise speed and manoeuvrability.
Size: 5’5” to 6’4” long | 16” to 19 wide
Shortboard – Size chart for beginners
45 – 63 kg
63 – 72 kg
72 – 81 kg
81 – 90 kg
+ 90 kg
6′ 2″ – 6′ 4″
6′ 4″ – 6′ 8″
6′ 6″ – 6′ 10″
6′ 10″ – 7′ 4″
+ 7′ 4″
Malibu / Funboard
Mostly designed for the less-experienced surfer to have the turning ability of a shortboard and the paddling ease of a longboard.
Size: 6’6 to 8′ long | 20′ to 22′ wide
Malibu / Funboard – Size chart for beginners
45 – 63 kg
63 – 72 kg
72 – 81 kg
81 – 90 kg
+ 90 kg
7′ 2″ – 7′ 4″
7′ 4″ – 7′ 6″
7′ 6″ – 7′ 8″
+ 7′ 8″
Longboards float better than a shortboard.
They feature greater strength and a rounder nose, making it hard to manoeuvre but easy to paddle with and catch waves. Perfect for the beginner!
Size: 8′ to 10′ feet long.
Beginners should use a 9′ or 10′ foot board in foam. Once you master the art of surfing you can sell it and get a fibre glass version.
Longboard – Size chart for beginners
45 – 63 kg
63 – 72 kg
72 – 81 kg
81 – 90 kg
+ 90 kg
9′ 2” – 9′ 4”
9′ 4” – 9′ 6”
9′ 6” – 9′ 8”
9′ 8” – 10′
Hybrids can fit most kind of waves or surfers, combining elements from other styles.
Particularly targeted at experienced surfers who want a performance board which is heavier or a wider build, or even beginners who want a comfortable surfboard to paddle out on.
Size: 6′ feet long or even longer.
Shortboards are – fast, short and easy to turn but require a level of expertise to ride on. They are way more difficult to catch a wave with and require a lot of balance from the rider.
Malibu’s / funboards are a cross between a longboard and shortboard. They are a lot easier to turn than a longboard and much more buoyant, making it easier to catch a wave.
Longboards range from +8 feet long and will float pretty much anyone. They are slow and not the easiest to manoeuvre, but will ensure better paddling and improve your chances of catching a wave!
Those damn dings…and how to avoid them on a Bali surf vacay
Surfing with a ding in your board can shorten its lifespan remarkably. Unfortunately, if you don’t dry it out completely once the foam meets water, the board will start to de-laminate.
If you don’t want a damn ding ruining all the fun on your Bali surfing vaycay, invest in a mini ding repair kit before you venture across to Bali or purchase a kit in one of the surf stores on the island.
Play Ding Doctor!
There are several surfboard repair kits available on the market. So if you want to play Ding Doctor, reputable brands such as Solarez Pro Travel Kit, Dura Rez, by Phix Doctor and The Ding All Standard Repair Kit will do the trick.
Repair kits such as Solarez won’t discolour your board and best of all can be completed in 10 minutes.
To get the repair started, sand the damaged area thoroughly so that the solution can form a strong bond to your board. It’s advised that you apply it in the shade. Then place the board out in the sun for 5 minutes or so. This product will start to cure in less than a minute.
It’s strongly advised to let the foam dry out before you go ahead and make a permanent repair to your surfboard.
But BAD dings should be left to a professional
Let’s say your board gets knocked around on the plane before you even hit the water or you crack it during an epic wipeout, the best think to do is always have a surfboard repair kit handy or leave it to the professionals. We suggest you hit up Bali’s best ding repair doctors – the knowledgeable craftsmen at Naruki Surf Shop in Kuta.
They are known as the ding repair specialists and come highly recommended to mend all your board injuries. The local crew are masters in fixing surfboard damages and have become an institution with surfers on the island.
They also offer an impressive selection of second hand boards as well as expert advice, so rest assured you’ll be in good hands with these guys and your surfboard will thank you for it.
Location: Naruki Surf Shop – Jl. Benesari (off Poppies 2) Kuta
Check in for up-to-date surf reports, swell forecasts and tide charts in Bali…
Swell forecasts assist in getting the best out of your surfing adventures.
Before hitting the waves, check the latest Swell Forecasts and get the most up-to-date weather and wave forecasts for Bali and Indonesia.
And be sure to check in with Tide Charts and the Daily Surf Report at sites like Indo Surf Life, which will assist with planning your surf sessions according to the surf conditions. Tide charts are also freely available in many surf shops in and around Bali each day.
If you’re still in doubt, go with the pros…
Still a little nervous? Make life simpler and go with the pros. There’s a plethora of Bali surf tours on offer, however choosing the best option is always a challenge. The crew at Bali Surfing Tours have been living and surfing in Bali for over 10 years, so they know exactly where to catch the ultimate wave whilst cruising the shores – and they’re happy to accommodate the full spectrum of surfers, from the total beginner to the very advanced.
Their tours range from the Bali Sunrise Tour, Speed Boat and Beginner Tour. With a wealth of knowledge under their belt, the crew will happily show you the great breaks and also paddle out with you to each surf break, whilst explaining tide changes and supreme take off spots.
For a first class adventure away from the crowds, the renowned Shaka Yacht Tour boasts an epic surf trip aboard their 27 meter yacht. You’ll journey to some ideal remote islands such as Nusa Lembongan, Sumbawa, Lombok and many more depending on the tour – you choose the duration on Shaka’s deluxe floating getaway.
Please note: the Shaka Yacht Tour is for intermediate and advanced surfers only.
Bali Surfing Tours provide:
– SHAKA1″ 80 ft yacht for the best surfing cruise experience
– Experienced surfing guides
– Exclusive surfing speedboat tours
– Surf lessons
– Surf photography
– Private surf instruction
– As well as guest accommodation
For more info on surf package deals hit up: www.bali-surfing.com
For outer surf tours contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Spoil yourself! Bali retreats for surf goddesses
Surf Goddess Retreats Bali is a luxury surf, yoga and Balinese spa boutique retreat for women. This is NO “my-body-is-my-temple” type set-up where dread-locked hippies hang, but a sanctuary for women who seek zen and want to learn how to surf and get pampered in-between.
For more info on slipping into goddess life check out: www.surfgoddessretreats.com
Renting a phenomenal surf villa in a surfer’s paradise
Bali has some of the most exquisite surf villas and hideaways on offer.
We’ve combed through AirBnB and selected six phenomenal surf villas spread across tropical surrounds ranging from stylish Javanese décor, to awesome pop-art and contemporary style villas, all within a stones throw from good surf. Check it out and nab yourself a sweet place to rest your salty bones.
Up for a surf challenge?
The Indonesian Surfing Championships are an organised series of surfing competitions in Bali and across other parts of Indonesia, open to local and foreign surfers. It’s an awesome opportunity to take a gander at some of the best surfing in Indonesia!
Bali is the ideal place for surf newbies…
Bali is the ideal place to learn how to surf and conquer the sport regardless of your skill level.
If you stick to the beginners beaches, Kuta in particular, you’ll be able to embrace the waves and adrenaline rush whilst learning how to ride in no time. All this teamed with the ultimate holiday or a new life chasing an endless summer!
For more inspiration and local opinion, check out the series “Best Surf Breaks in Bali Indonesia’…
…and the GoPro Masters surfing story in Indonesia
Header image via Rip Curl Surf School