Surfing in Bali, some great tips

Want to learn to surf in Bali? Are you thinking about taking up this amazing sport?

Some great tips on where to surf in Bali for newbies right through to advanced surfers.

If you want to know where the best surfing breaks are in Bali, the following is some great information for all surfers wanting to know where they can score perfect waves in hopefully uncrowded conditions.

Bali has some awesome spots for surfers, in fact, I would have to say that Bali has the most concentrated number of amazing surfing breaks that are all world-class!

Also read: Where to stay for a fun time learning to surf in Bali? Check out these 11 villas for newbies to intermediate surfers!

Goofy, natural it doesn’t matter; there are enough breaks and spots around the island for most surfers at any level. Although I would have to say that surfing in Bali is for the more intermediate to experienced; especially when you are tackling those reef breaks in Nusa Dua, Uluwatu or Bingin. Some of them can be really scary especially if you come off and hit the reef, or your leg rope breaks and you have a lengthy swim in over reef ( not fun!! ) but there are some beach breaks where beginners can try to learn to surf like Old Mans’ or the beach breaks in Seminyak and Legian. In any case, you are going to love surfing in Bali so read on.

Surfing in Uluwatu; definitely for the more experienced

The swell hits Uluwatu from the Indian ocean and when it’s working all I can say is take your big board and get ready for some seriously excellent waves. Located on the southern tip of Bali in the Bukit area, Uluwatu is the mecca of surfing in Bali. Without a doubt, this is the first and top of the list when it comes to getting barrelled and long lefts. If you’re a goofy-footer you’re going to be in heaven.

Uluwatu being the most famous break in Bali does have its disadvantages and that is the crowds. There is really nothing you can do about this except be prepared to wait for the right set and never ever drop in on anyone. Especially a local!

It’s fiercely territorial and a drop-in could earn you some verbal backlash. The crowds, especially on the weekend are absolutely mad, get there early as the sun rises to avoid the insanity.

Getting to Uluwatu is easy as the roads are all paved but paddling out and back in, can prove difficult for the inexperienced surfer. I would only go out there if you are intermediate and above as the rips and currents can be very strong and this is all over a razor-sharp coral reef. Bring your booties if it’s heading towards low tide. Check the following video for a better idea about the conditions and wave intensity at Ulu.

One of the best things about surfing in Uluwatu is the great warungs or restaurants on the cliff that are dotted all over the place above Sulaban Beach. Grab a post-surf nasi goreng or a fruit salad and chill out and watch the incredible sunset with a cold Bintang or two. You will never get tired of visiting Uluwatu, it’s a really magical place and it attracts surfers from all over the world. Again, its popularity and great atmosphere mean the crowds are there as well.

Aussies, Japanese, Brazilians, Europeans and can you believe it Russians, they are all there wanting to score that perfect ride.

Also read if you are thinking about renting a surf villa in the Uluwatu or surrounding areas: Ultimate Surf Villas In Bali

“Bali Villa Escapes Tip: try to surf at Uluwatu mid-week as weekends can get very crowded. Also, you can leave your board bag and clothes at the local warungs while your surfing; it’s safe’.

Surfing in Balangan

Balangan is an extremely fast left over a shallow reef – again bring those booties because you are going to need them. Located on the road back from Uluwatu to Seminyak, turn left at the supermarket roundabout ( Nirmala – you can’t miss it) and keep going for about 15 minutes. It’s a great motorbike ride as the roads weave around down the mountain until you finally hit the beach. There are heaps of restaurants here for post /pre-surf lunch or breakfast. It’s way less hassled than Uluwatu but again there are crowds especially in the peak seasons. If you coming here at low tide brings those booties as you will have to walk out over the reef. Use the magic seaweed site to check the tides. There is also a Balangan webcam where you can check the surf & conditions in the morning before you decide to go there. It’s on the Magic Seaweed site as well.

 Surfing in Bingin

Bingin is a niche beach, almost a ‘too cool’ area where there is an array of accommodation and Villas. It’s a nice climb down to the beach via very steep stairs but once you are there you will feel like you are in another part of Bali.

Charming little warungs (check out our favourite, Kelly’s warung) where you can spend the day chilling out are matched by insanely fast lefts over coral reefs. This place is strictly for those guys or gals who know what they are doing. It’s in the heart of the Bukit area and many people that stay in Bingin tend to never leave it.

It’s got its own kind of culture and is very hidden and tucked away. It’s a cool little place that is at the centre of all the beach breaks in the area. If you are surfing when the tide is low, the wave is going to pitch quickly over the reef so you have to be ready for an extremely quick left-hander take off. If you tank it, it’s going to be the reef for you I’m afraid! Be warned and bring the Betadine and bandages. A point to note about surfing Bingin is that locals dominate so you can’t just paddle into the lineup and expect to get waves. It doesn’t work that way here. There’s one take-off area and you have to give the locals ( however many there are ) priorities. The wave is a steep, fast takeoff and really hollow so this is definitely not for beginners. Only the experienced will survive Bingin.

“Bali Villa Escapes Tip: make a day of Bingin as it’s truly a lovely beach area. It’s a bit of a hassle getting there with the climb done but once there you’ll appreciate its beauty. Also, respect the local surfers here – they can get nasty!”

 Surfing in Kuta / Tuban

This is the tourist heart of Bali and is where all the hotels, fabulous villas, shops, bars and most of the tourists hang out. The beach is really crowded and so is the surf breaks stretching from Kuta right through to Legian and Seminyak. It’s a beach break so there is no coral reef, which is good for beginners, but saying that it can still get very big when it’s working. If you are in the area and don’t have a board there are heaps of places where you can rent one – prices are about Rp50 000 – 100 000 per hour.

If you are a bit more adventurous catch a boat out to Kuta reef, and there you will find some great left-handers. It’s also known as airport lefts, middles or Kuta Reef when you are speaking with locals. It’s a great break and is easy to get to if you are staying in Legian or Kuta and do not want to travel far. The boat ride out to the reef will set you back Rp 50 000  or AUD $5 but it’s well worth it, considering the paddle time you save.

There are a few local villagers that dominate the boat shuttle service and double as warung owners as well. Friendly bunch and more than happy to cut up a coconut after your surf as you relax in their shop. The Kuta Reef area or Pantai Jerman is far more relaxed and less hassled than other surf breaks in Southern Bali so it’s also ideal for beginners to intermediates who want to surf easier waves up to 2-4 feet.

But be warned Kuta Reef can get big so keep your eye on the webcams and apps to see the wave size. Also, talk to the locals when they arrive and if they say it’s too big; don’t go out!

” Bali Villa Escapes Tip: start at the airport left if your a beginner as middles and Kuta Reef can get large”.

Surfing in Nusa Dua; this wave can get very heavy and dangerous; you’ve been warned!

During the wet season when the winds are blowing onshore on the west side of the island, you should hit the east coast of the island and the best place to be is Geger Beach in Nusa Dua. Getting there is easy, either from Legian or round the back if you are in the Bukit. There is also a massive new Tollway that will get you to Nusa Dua really quickly from Seminyak, Canggu or Kuta. It takes about 15 minutes on a scooter. The paddle out is a good fitness test for what lies ahead as the waves out here can get quite big 8-10ft plus – again all over the sharp reef. You can take a boat out to the reef which is advisable to save your energy for what lies ahead. The cost for a 1-way boat trip is Rp 100, 000.

There are both lefts and rights and if you are lucky enough to score a legend right-hander at a break called Sir Lanka, you will be in heaven. Get there early before the tide gets too low and enjoy. Best to get a boat back in as you are going to be stuffed. You will have to arrange this with the local boat owners as you go out.

Surfing Greenbowl

On the Bukit, about a 15-minute scooter ride from Uluwatu is the little known surf spot Greenbowl. A classic right-hander ( one of the very few in Bali) that works when the west coast is blowing onshore. It’s hard to get to as there are about 500 steep stairs taking you down to the beach so after a long session the last thing you want to be doing is climbing all the way back up. When it’s working it’s so worth it. One of the best waves in Bali and you’re going to score long rights that shape into a bowl; hence the name. It’s clean, uncrowded and best surfed when it’s 4-6 feet. Anything bigger can get too heavy with the currents and rips. It’s unpatrolled and very open so if you end up in trouble you are on your own. Go with a buddy.

Surfing Canggu

In a word, Canggu is super popular and is the hipster capital of Bali. Breaks like:  Echo Beach, Berawa and Old Man’s all have great rides. They are all popular and each has its own character. Most people that surf Canggu holiday or live in the area; hence it can get fairly territorial with ex-pats claiming it as their break. Loads of fights can and do happen. For first-timers here; especially at Echo Beach, don’t go too hard too quickly. Give the locals first go at the waves.

Also read: First time to Canggu – Canggu survival guide

Echo Beach – amazing right-hander that works best mid-tide. Super crowded with ex-pats and locals alike. Best in the dry season but you can pretty much score waves here the whole year. There are some great beach bars and cafes here for a post-surf coconut or breakfast. In the late afternoon, everyone comes down here for a Bintang to watch the sunset. You can also score waves in the late afternoon if the wind conditions are right.

Berawa Beach – beginners to advanced come here because it’s a safer beach break. Located outside Finns there are both lefts and rights. Works best on low to mid-tide.

Old Man’s Beach – popular with long borders and beginners and works on all tides and most wind conditions. You will find that the whole beach is packed with beginners so be warned as lost boards are everywhere and can prove hazardous.

Surfing Keramas

A world-class right-hander that is really popular among locals and holidaymakers. Plus it’s crowded with guests that are staying at the resort at Keramas called Komune. It works best mid-tide going low ( and the wet season ) and it’s really for the experienced as the drop is fast and the wall is super quick. It’s a rocky bottom so any falls will end up with some cuts. Most people all say the same thing about Keramas when you talk to them in the surf; that it’s far too crowded and really hassled but the payoff, if you can get a wave, is a sensational ride. The trick with Keramas is to be patient and maybe wait on the inside and get the wave if someone doesn’t make it. If it’s too hassled there are other breaks nearby like Cucukan which is about 5 min further north or Klotok. If you get too frustrated with the crowds at Keramas these are really good viable alternatives!

Surfing Serangan

The road to Serangan beach is closed so you cannot drive your scooter down there and expect to paddle out. You have to now drive all the way down the road ( yes past the smelly rubbish tip ) and turn left and follow the road till you hit the fishing village where all the boats are. Here you’ll find it easy to get a boat out to Serangan reef ( cost is Rp 100, 000 ) or AUD $10 for a return trip. The boat ride out is 15 mins and you share it with other surfers. They won’t do the trip if it’s just 1 surfer – you’ll have to wait till a few more surfers arrive.

It’s super crowded with Japanese and Korean learners who also hire Balinese surf guides to push them onto waves – how annoying!! Having said that there are two breaks at Serangan and there can be enough waves to get a decent right or left. It can get really heavy so be prepared for some big sets that tend to clean all the beginners up. There’s a fabulous right-hander to the right of where the boat anchor and it also occasionally goes left. All up a great break but expect big crowds, especially in the wet season. If you get too bored waiting for the waves you can watch the planes fly overhead as your right under the flight path.

Surfing Medewi

What an amazing left-hander with super-long rides. It’s far far less crowded than other breaks on the island due to the fact that it’s a 2-hour scooter or car ride from Canggu or Seminyak. Surf is better at mid to high tide to avoid those rocks underneath and intermediate to advanced surfers will love this wave!

Surfing in Bali a Few Essential Tips

One of the most important tips anyone is going to give you about surfing in Bali is that if you happen to be in Bali and it’s a month containing the letter ‘R’ go surf the east part of the island. During any of the other months go west. Simple as that. The East coast is the best during the rainy season!

On Bali, you have dozens of absolutely awesome surf breaks to choose from, no matter the part of the island. From Uluwatu in the south in the Bukit up to Medewi or Balian on the west, the choices are endless for the avid surfer. Seriously, when it’s working and the surf is good, you will have the pick of some of the best surf breaks from anywhere on the planet.

Bali was the first place in Asia where surfing really took off and it shows absolutely no signs of slowing down, In fact, some of the best-known breaks can get extremely crowded and if you happen to be staying in a holiday villa in Canggu then you will immediately see the crowds at Echo Beach. For that matter head up to Uluwatu and you will get a really good idea about crowds and the popularity of surfing in Bali it’s insane. Getting a wave to yourself is like winning the lottery. You can see the increase in tourist activity from this article: http://indonesia.embassy.gov.au/jakt/MR16_042.html

Most surfers buzz around the island on motorbikes that have board racks attached. Keep an eye out for these guys and perhaps chat with them to catch up on the best surf breaks for that day. You can always rely on getting some good tips from surfers on bikes. Perhaps rent one yourself and follow them as they search the east and west coast looking for the best waves.

Beginners should try the beach breaks of Kuta or Legian to start out with on the west coast. The beaches are fully patrolled here which makes it a lot safer, but still, keep an eye out for rips in the water and tide movements. It’s also a soft bottom, this way if you fall off your board you are hitting the sand and not sharp coral. For the more advanced surfers, give Uluwatu, Padang Padang or Bingin a try. These can prove quite challenging so make sure that you’re up for it.  They are all left-handers so if you’re a goofy-footer then you’re in luck. Serious drownings and accidents can happen so be fully prepared if you are thinking about these breaks.

You can always hire a surfboard in Bali, but from experience, the boards that you get are somewhat damaged and old. If you want to really give surfing a try then perhaps bring your own board from home. Most airlines allow you to take 1 board free of charge along with your baggage and we know that Garuda & Malindo will allow you to take 2 boards. Other airlines like Virgin and Jetstar will make you pay for the number of boards you decide to take with you. Make sure they are securely wrapped in plastic and a sturdy board bag cover. You can always buy your surfboards when in Bali and if you happen to be staying in one of our Seminyak villas, then there are heaps of surf shops selling big name brands like Al Merrick, Chili, and Hayden Shapes where you can buy your board close by Jalan Kayu Aya.

If you have any dings or fin snaps there are heaps of ding repair places on the island. Most are quick, cheap and very happy to help.

A really good tip is that getting injured in Bali is quite common when surfing over the reefs. All surfers know the dangers and they are prepared to take the risks to score some perfect waves. You can see the signs of injuries from surfing accidents everywhere. Scratched backs, legs and arms are all too common a sight. My tip is to take a medical kit with you in case you are not near a pharmacy and something bad happens. There are tons of pharmacies ( also known as Apotek in Bali) but bring a kit with Betadine and bandages and have them with you at all times especially if you surfing over a reef. Below is your typical Balinese pharmacy in case you need it.

If you are thinking about a surf trip in Bali why not stay in one of our luxurious holiday villas – it’s better than a hotel and you can get a crew together with mates to get the cost down.

We have villas all over Bali with special rates for surfers & their families, so there will be some close enough to most of the best surf breaks in Bali.

By the end of your holiday, you will be completely surfed out.

steven waldberg founder of Bali villa escapesThis post was written by Steven Waldberg one of the marketing team of Bali Villa Escapes whose an absolute avid surfer. He’s travelled the island extensively and knows ( if he says so himself) a fair bit about the breaks in the southern part of Bali. He’s out there most mornings in Canggu or Kuta.