Surfing in Bali & Indonesia, from empty days of old to crowded days of surfschools

Hi. My name is…oh, it doesn’t matter. I’m a grumpy, balding, middle-aged man, but once upon a time, I was a golden haired surfer boy who had the great good fortune of being born in Bali in 1956, where I was raised, and where I still live, hermit-like, with an occasional public sighting.

Bali’s surfing history starts with Bob Koke, an American who in the 1930s built a hotel in the empty coconut groves of Kuta beach and who surfed the empty waves on his wooden Waikiki style boards. I missed that era by a world war, but apart from that, I’ve pretty much quietly witnessed most of Bali’s surf history

Some time ago I was surfing at Serangan, two hundred souls bobbing in the water, and motorheads banging the waves down the way on jetskis, and I said to myself, “Well, I’m getting wet and it’s warm and I did get half a wave to myself, and I do have the memories.”

Memories of actually having to take an outrigger to Serangan, back when there was no connecting road, the present landfill a half-mile wide lagoon, complete with seagrass and the odd turtle, which was by far the longest paddle in Bali, even longer than the Hyatt paddle out. I did this once, and never again–boats thereafter. But this wasn’t often. Serangan can get good, but it’s a B grade spot, really, and if it was firing, then so was Sanur and other places much easier to get to.

My parents came to Bali in 1952. My father was a native New Yawker, my mother was an expat American born in Tibet who lived there until the Communist takeover. I attended American boarding schools, and I’m often mistaken as an American tourist or expat. As for the surfing, I body surfed at Kuta on my own and then learned to board surf, when boards first appeared, with the first generation of Balinese surfers. My (green) hat is off to them. I’ve seen it all, but more or less as an underground and background observer. This is not going to be a thorough and comprehensive history. Just me, talking my stories. I’ve done the feral thing, I’ve been up to Sumatra before the media implosion and stumbled across places that other ferals had long camped out at. I’ve had a local boat since the early 80s, cruising through the eastern islands with a few friends, soloing at a bunch of spots, one of which is in the header of this blog. No names, though.

I’ll be blogging once a week or so, until I don’t have anything to say anymore. If you have your own stories you want to share on this blog, I’ll try to get something set up for that later.

I’m a writer. I’m not trying to be completely anonymous here, so if you want that side, then go to my website or my general Bali blog

Oh, as for the memories, well, riding one of the waves in the memory banks is fine and all that, but I’d rather ride one for real.

On my old man’s longboard, of course.

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2 Responses to Surfing in Bali & Indonesia, from empty days of old to crowded days of surfschools

  1. sil says:

    I recall the first time you walked down Poppies Lane mate, to Micks house.
    From then on in a pleasure :]

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