Ah the joys of surfing Nusa Dua. Heaven on the half-shell, hell with a half-nelson. One session, Nusa Dua offers some of best waves you’ve ever surfed, three hundred yards of big blue walls; the next session, you are teased and tormented and trashed. You know those dreams of trying to paddle to gorgeous waves but never quite getting to the peak? That’s Nusa Dua, for real. The nightmare come true.
Nusa Dua is the place where you can master the art of drift surfing. On spring tides, you paddle out at the temple keyhole, and then put your head down and stroke into the current hoping to nail one of the three or four peaks along the big arena before the current sweeps you to the Hilton channel. Three waves in three hours of non-stop paddling is a common count. Or you get caught inside…almost just making it out the middle keyhole…when a little two foot reform slaps you back…and that’s that…it’s either back to the beach or the circuit around Chicken Wings.
Not to mention that a lot of times it’s just crap, small crap or big crap, but crap, too peaky or walled or washed.
Even so, your blog writer was one of a bunch of regulars who surfed decades of wet seasons at Nusa Dua, back when the received common knowledge about Bali was that the wet season had no waves. (I never surfed the Ulu side of the Bukit much– Middles, Airport Lefts, low tide Impossibles, secret Dreamlands being the exception in the 80s–mostly because that time of year me and friends were doodling along outer islands).
A bunch of people could tell you about Nusa Dua from the seventies until now. What I remember is just a little part of the whole, and maybe not accurately. Peculiar to me.
I don’t know who was the first to surf the place, but it would have been around the same time as “Morning of the Earth” in the early seventies. A bunch of Australians, the Kedin Connection you could say, were exploring, seeking what could be found, Kim Bradley and Steven Palmer and Robert Wilson among them. There was only one old Dutch road in terrible condition from the top of the Bukit, going down to Bualu village. Then you had make your way through the coconut groves and the peanut fields (where the Hilton is now) to the beach. I can imagine how it was, on the empty forlorn beach with a board under your arm, not a person in sight, and a kilometer away these blue water waves grinning white, unknown reef, unknown water, an ocean stretching clear to Antarctica. Just you and the sea. These days of instant video and boat service and crowds, I think we tend to forget the courage, and the gut-wrench excitement, of doing something like that. I never was one to get all touchy-feely mother womb mystical about surfing but there was truly something magical about such experiences.
Anyway, the government plowed through a limestone road, which is the main road now, and warungs for surfers sprung up at the field by Mushroom Rock, where a lot of surfers surfed (a crappy C grade wave). Not too many hoofed it around to Nusa Dua: long hike, long paddle, as there was as yet no boats. As I recall, more surfers were chasing Sri Lanka at that time than Nusa Dua.
Then the warungs were kicked out and moved south to the other side of Mushroom Rock. That’s when boat service started, surfers begging outrigger fishermen for rides, and the fishermen realizing they could make a living off surfers.
Then those warungs were shut down for the hotel development. Nusa Dua fell off the surfers’ radar for a good deal of the eighties. There was basically just one shack owned and run by a crusty veteran of Sukarno’s revolution against the Dutch. If you were a Nusa Dua regular, you had many, many solo sessions during those years. A couple of the regulars would warm up for the surfs by strolling through the meadows above the beach looking for golden top mushrooms sprouting from cow pies to munch.
Then entrepreneurs, with some Westerners thrown in, opened another series of warungs half-way down the beach, where the banjar now has their brick building and rows of beach lounges and umbrellas. Those warungs-slash–restaurant shacks served truly excellent food, from tofu burgers to fresh-caught tuna sandwiches to fresh baked cakes and pies. A young grommet-y Lee Wilson paddled into 6 ft surf, three times over his s head, and then disappeared, but his father remained unconcerned, saying the kid had been earlier eyeing a warung’s chocolate brownies and was probably on the beach eating one before they were all gone, or more likely eating them all himself. Ganti Yasa and Budin were among local regulars. One day the water got very cold, the coldest I’ve ever experienced in Bali, what a Balinese would call frigid. Ganti rode out on the outrigger, threw his board into the water, and dove off. I swear, once his fingers touched the water, he realized just cold it was, didn’t want anything to do with it, and walked on his finger tips back to the outrigger.
At that time, developers threw up housing in Siligita, and expat surfers began to settle down in the area, many of them on “Kook Hill” (a inside joke, because these guys were serious surfers–Curt and Fred and John and Johnnie and Stew and others, including a shady bunch of nefarious characters — but for many years a sign by the road side said KOOK HILL, and I swear I don’t know who put that sign there). Nusa Dua got busy again.
Then those warungs got kicked off so the village could have its own gig going, and the Nusa Dua Beach Bar and Grill migrated further south toward the temple. I haven’t been to Nusa Dua much the last ten years, because of the traffic. It’s bad enough to only get three waves in three hours without having to put another two hours driving in nerve-wracking traffic from where I live. I hear the Russians have taken over.