There was only one wetsuit top remaining for my first surfing lesson, and it was pink. Not to mention I spent most of my first day on a surfboard coughing up murky brown saltwater from my lungs. Kelly Slater I was not. But despite the humiliations involved in learning to surf for the first time, there are rewards for the patient. For instance the moment you catch your first wave, you will be struck by a feeling of indescribable euphoria and bliss – particularly if you’re catching that wave in Bali, one of the world’s great surfing hotspots.
Hawaii and California might be more famous with American surfers, but mention the word Bali to anyone with a board and a suntan, and their eyes will widen like saucers, a smile spreading across their face. Bali, it seems, is one of the world’s greatest places to surf: a paradise of consistent waves, warm water and some of the world’s most legendary surf spots.
But trying to get the hang of surfing, particularly during a short visit to this intriguing island, can be difficult. Which surfing school should you choose? Where are the best places to surf? Will you be able to get up after just a single lesson? The process can feel downright intimidating.
Thankfully, we’re here to help. Keep reading below to find out how you can learn to ride the waves in Bali.Picking an Instructor
The most difficult task when you’re interested in learning to surf is finding the right person to learn from. A tremendous array of surfing schools, profiteering guesthouses and private instructors compete for your hard earned tourist dollar. Frankly, it can get confusing. But there a few key ways to ensure you get the best possible result.
No matter which company you end up choosing, ask the right surfing questions before you start. Will you have your own personal instructor or is it with a group? Do they get in the water with you to help you learn? These issues may seem trivial now, but with a sport like surfing that takes awhile to learn, it’s crucial you get lots of help when you start.
Brand-name surfing schools like Rip Curl and ProSurf may be the best-known names in Bali, but they’re not always the best option. As it turns out, the surfing classes are often more expensive, conducted in large groups and the teachers don’t always get in the water with you. Eventually, based on recommendations I found on Southeast Asian backpacker site Travelfish, I ended up going with OBB Surf Adventures, a smaller surf company that prides itself on offering one-on-one in-water instruction for all students.
Where to Go
If you’re taking a lesson, the school/instructor will likely pick the location with the most beginner friendly waves that day. Often this will mean the beaches near Kuta. On the day I went surfing, the waves were rather strong at Kuta, so we moved to the practically smooth bay at Jimbaran Beach. As it turned out, Jimbaran was a good place to learn – the small waves are forgiving to beginners and there’s less people (this also means fewer onlookers will have a chance to laugh at you).
As you begin to get the hang of it and try out more surf spots, many of Bali’s best breaks are found around the island’s South. Ulu Watu, the most famous surf spot in Bali, is a popular choice, though probably too advanced for beginners. For more info on current water conditions and tips, check out the waverider resources at Wanna Surf, and of course, ask around when you arrive.
What It’s Like
Minor humiliations aside, my very first surfing lesson was a resounding success. My choice of OBB Surf Adventures proved a good one – their in-water instruction method ensured I was standing up (and riding on) waves after only a single lesson. Whichever company you choose, I can’t recommend this method enough. After helping position me properly, board facing toward the beach, to catch a wave the instructor helped me get the timing right for when to stand and how to stay up.
After a few wave misfires, I rode my first mini swell all the way to the beach. It’s hard to describe the feeling of confidence, excitement and joy that this moment will bring. That said, learning to surf requires a lot patience and swallowing of pride. You will fall down a lot. Little Balinese children will giggle at your awkwardness. And at the end of the day, you will be incredibly sore, bruised and sunburned. But you will also have gained something else – a chance to learn and explore the fun of surfing in the laid-back paradise of Bali.
Dreaming of your own visit to Bali? Read more about Gadling’s “visit to paradise” HERE.
[Special thanks to Gadling writer Mike Barish for use of the above video]