I bought my first real surfboard in 1973 in Kuta from a passing Australian. A 7’0 single fin, with red deck and yellow rails. No logo on it, with reef ding holes on the bottom I patched with wood glue. I was pretty clueless about surfboards. I thought the “stringer” was actually that, a piece of string that went from nose to tail and back round again, kind of a like a carpenter’s string to keep things symmetrical.
I loved that board. Surfed the Kuta beachbreak pretty much by myself. You could pick a peak back in those days. Anyway, after a few weeks of solo surfs in the off-season, another Aussie surfer showed up on a pretty good four foot day. Stoked to see him, I paddled over from my peak to join his. I was pretty clueless about surf etiquette, too, you see. The more the merrier, I thought. In fact, if he paddled for a wave, why shouldn’t I paddle for the same one?
I thought we were having fun.
He was getting pissed.
I’d grown up in Bali, and I tended to forget that to tourists I looked like a tourist myself. I didn’t realize that as a white tanned kid with sun-bleached hair, I looked to this surfer like a surf rat teen grommet from a beach and surf culture, somebody who should have known surf etiquette. So of course he thought I was being an cheeky a**hole, especially when I was trying to chat with him after having shared a wave. “How big waves do you surf? Why do they call it goofyfoot? Why don’t they just take the string off before they put the fiberglass on? Oh, here comes another good one!”
After the third wave I shared with him, he went off on me like a bobcat in a wringer, with lots of frothy saliva and words I’d certainly never learned at boarding school. Already a brawny guy, he puffed up even larger and in no uncertain sign language, with more froth and fury, sent me to the beach. Shocked, I paddled in, practically crying.
Over the years, many guys to Indonesia claim to have been the first to surf this spot or that spot.
Me? I guess my claim to fame is that I was the first surfer in Bali ever to be ordered out of the water.