The island of Bali is the smallest of the islands of Nusa Tengara, but as a result of its worldwide recognition as an internationally renowned holiday destination, its population is beyond 4.3 million, much greater than all of the other nearby islands.
Due to the number of tourists visiting Bali annually, the island’s surf breaks have become completely accessible.
The Bukit Peninsula as seen from Padang down towards Impossibles, Dreamland and beyond. Photo Sproutdaily.
Surf spots that remained semi secret and relatively uncrowded 2 or 3 decades ago can now be reached easily by hopping in a bemo, telling the driver where you want to go and asking how much it will cost?
Uluwatu furthest, Padang middle and Impossibles foreground. Photo Andy Potts.
Uncrowded East Coast gold. Photo Ben Horvath.
Outside of surfing, Bali is well known for its lush volcanic mountains, scenic rice paddies, wood carvings, paintings, amazing beaches and coral reefs. Bali is home to sacred religious sites such as Cliffside Uluwatu Temple. The beachside towns of Kuta and Legian have lively bars and restaraunts, while Seminyak, Sanur and Nusa Dua are also popular and interesting resort towns. Bali is also well known for its wide variety of yoga and meditation retreats.
Unlike most of Indonesia, which is Muslim, about 90 per cent of Bali’s population is Hindu.
Balinese and Indonesian are the most commonly spoken languages in Bali, English is a very common third language. Many staff working in Bali’s tourist centres are often, by necessity, multilingual to some degree.
The awesome view from Single Fin Bar at Uluwatu. Photo Andy Potts.
Accomodation, auto banks, nightlife and the opposite sex are in abundance, making Bali a genuine tourist trap for surfers and global travellers alike. The Perfect Wave run the surf programme at S-Resorts Hidden Valley Bali, which is ideally located near all the best breaks on the infamous Bukit Peninsula. S-Resorts surf guides also take you to the nearby South Coast swell magnets and over to the East Coast too.
There’s so many surf set ups on both sides of the island, but lets start with the best on the infamous Bukit Peninsula first. As a rule of thumb, the West Coast is generally best during Dry Season April – October.
The most famous break in Bali, and one of the most famous set ups on the planet. Made famous by Albe Falzon’s epic 70’s surf movie “Morning Of The Earth.”
Ulu’s is a goofy footers paradise!
The picturesque set up at Ulu’s. Photo Andy Potts.
The wave itself can be broken down into three main sections depending on the tide. At high tide the main peak directly in front of the warungs is best. A powerful, peaky wedge style take off then delivers the odd barrell section that continues to offer high performance sections that can sometimes even link into the Racetrack section or sometimes shut down, pending angle of swell.
The Peak connecting nicely through to Racetrack. Photo Andy Potts.
At low tide the Racetrack offers a long, hollow and highely rippable reef run along the base of the infamous cliffs. It is impossible for goofyfooters not to get tubed at Racetrack. It is a world class wave at low to mid tide from 3 to 6ft. The prevailing trade winds from April through October blow straight offshore. Can be sharp and shallow, so experienced surfers only.
Late Afternoon golden light as the Peak connects down into the Racetrack section. Photo Andy Potts.
On a 6-8ft plus swell “Outside Corner” comes into its own, as does the outside Bombie beyond The Peak. Both are deeper water waves requiring much longer surfboards to ensure you can paddle into the wave and actually steer some big rail turns. Outside Corner starts breaking at low tide on 6-7ft days, but really comes into its own at 6-8ft plus. It has been ridden at 15ft, even 18ft plus on occassion. The other option to avoid crowds is Temples. Temples is a super fun, hollow double up which breaks out front and to the left of the main break on high tide.
Bigger boards equals bigger bailouts at Outside Corner. Very powerful, but at least it is deep. Photo Andy Potts.
A wave so good they had to name it twice. Padang Padang is an insanely hollow left for experienced tube riders only. When Ulu’s is big you check Padang. Best on the dropping tide, but not dead low as it gets quite shallow. Fun at 4 to 6ft, best at 6 to 8ft and can occassionally handle slightly bigger sets.
Padang Padang is a goofyfooters dream. Photo Sproutdaily.com
Impossibles is a long, fast, sectioning lefthander that is more fun than serious. The water is slightly deeper, the reef a little more forgiving than nearby set ups. Usually less crowded because there are inevitable close out sections, however it can be a fun alternative to sit wide, dodge crowds and enjoy a fast cruisey ride. There are definetely gold waves to be had amongst the inevitable shut downs.
Impossibles looking makeable. Photo Sproutdaily.com
Ah Bingin. What a wave!
Bingin is a beautiful, fun, hollow lefthander. It is a relatively short wave, but it can be oh so perfect. Best at 3-4ft, sometimes even 4-5ft. It is still good even at 2-3ft and sometimes 4 to 6ft, but it starts to wash through a little when it gets beyond 6-7ft and pushes wide of the inside bowl.
Bingin is so perfect at 3-4ft it is ridiculous. Photo Andy Potts.
There are a few more surfable options on the Bukit Peninsula like Dreamland, which offers fun though sometimes slightly wonky half reef/half sand peaks in the 3 to 6ft range, and Balangan that can be a fun, though fatter left reef that can tend to race ahead off you at times. Balangan can offer a fun, less crowded wall on chunky days.
Next up Kuta and Airport Reefs offer some fun reef waves closer to town. Both are good waves in their own right, Kuta Reef a hollow left best in the 4 to 5ft range, Airport Right a powerful wave that can handle a bit more size.
The beach breaks in town at Kuta, Legian and Seminyak are generally best on the mid to high tide in the 2-5ft range. You can score some great rip bowls if you keep an eye on the best gutters that form up and down the beaches. There’s also Canggu, which offers multi peak super consistent sand on reef set ups that act as swell magnets. Canggu boasts a multitude of cafe’s, restaraunts, nightclubs, groovy shops and a variety of food and accom.
Generally speaking the East Coast is the go to during wet season, however personally i often hit the East Coast for the early during dry season before the trades kick in. Popular breaks like Nusa Dua, Keramas and to a lesser extent Sanur are often best when the swell gets solid and when the incoming tide aligns with a morning offshore.
Nusa Dua is a swell magnet. If everywhere is flat, odds on Nusa Dua will still be breaking and rideable. The break is actually 1km or so offshore. You can either paddle out or grab a boat out to the powerful right reef. On smaller days there are often several peaks, when big it can line up and connect right through. Bigger boards and stronger legropes recommended.
Keramas is a world class wave on its day, probably at its best in the 3to 6ft range on the incoming tide with a light offshore or no wind.
East Coast set up. Photo Sproutdaily.com
Keramas doing its thing. Photo Margarita Salyak.