Bali is not just a tropical getaway for honeymooners or backpackers, it’s also a paradise for surfers, with some great surfing beaches for beginners to give surfing a go for the first time.
The island’s first ‘surfer’s beach’, Kuta was discovered as a surfers beach in 1936 by an American expat hotelier, who set out riding waves on his homemade Honolulu-style board. This was soon followed by young locals and transformed in the 1960s by the ‘hippie’ surfers and its popularity grew from there.
Although much has changed, Kuta is still a favourite spot for learners. The long sandy stretch has fun waves for beginners in small swells, but beware of the currents when they get bigger later in the afternoon. Therefore the best time to surf if you are starting out is in the mornings where the waves offer a variety (left and right beach breaks of varying distances from 50m to 150m) but are generally consistent, with average waves measuring one to three feet.
Along the beach are peddlers and hawkers, some selling cold drinks and others renting out used surfboards for up to 25,000 – 30,000 rupiah an hour (variable and mostly negotiable). Complete novices can book a course at any of the surf schools lining the beach.
Legian Beach borders Kuta to the north and is considered its sister resort, accessible via the same Jalan Pantai from the south and many other side streets north of Kuta’s great white beach wall.
Legian’s waves come in a variety, similar to Kuta, with a sandy break and average one to three-feet waves.
Although there are not as many board rentals and peddlers as in Kuta, Legian has several notable surf schools.
Like at Kuta beach, swells grow bigger later in the afternoons so try and surf in the mornings when its smaler and cleaner.
Seminyak is a beautiful white-grey sandy beach just north of Legian. It offers plenty of swell, which can be double the size of that found at Kuta.
Almost all the famous establishments in Seminyak have views of great rideable waves in front of them, the likes of Ku De Ta and La Lucciola, best known as Petitenget Beach, owing to the landmark temple there.
Here you’ll get lefts and rights, with short lengths suitable for kids and beginners.
Another favourite coast belonging to Seminyak is known as Dhyana Pura, right on the borders of Legian. It’s a good beach break, about the same quality as Kuta, but less crowded and there are several surf camps and schools along the coast, that enable you to eat, sleep and hone your wave riding skills.
Batu Bolong, Canggu and Echo Beach
Half-hour drive from Kuta (depending on traffic) and is called Pantai Batu Bolong by locals after the temple of the same name there, and nicknamed ‘Echo Beach’ by expat surfers. The coast features small rocky crags that hide a white-sand beach from the beach road and parking area.
A favourite site for sunset surfs, you can rent surfboards from various stalls near the parking lot and just behind the temple. The waves cater to all types of surfers, from beginners to pros, although learners should take care as no lifeguards patrol the coast. A consistent break, flat rock bed and under six-feet waves make Echo Beach a favourite beginner to intermediate-level surf spot. During and after sunset, the warung food stalls come to life offering great seafood grill and cold Bintang.
The Ngurah Rai International Airport’s strip juts out to sea around 1.5 kilometres south of the Kuta break.
The surf spots here are aptly named ‘Airport Lefts’ and ‘Airport Rights’, and only should be attempted by intermediate skilled and above surfers. The greater swells of up to five feet are beyond a reef that requires a rented boat ride out, while beginners can enjoy the considerably rideable waves near the shore.
Crowds are unpredictable, but most of the time it is not as busy as Kuta.