Bali’s First Surf Shops

(Note: I will be Internetless for three weeks, and won’t be able to respond to comments. Comments are open for this time, no moderation.

An important chapter in the history of Bali surfing would have to be the first surf shops.

While foreigners were the ones to introduce surfing to Bali, it was the Balinese of Kuta and Uluwatu who first made a living off the surfing industry, if “industry” is right term for the small, home-grown businesses of the 70s.

From my memory, the first people to sell surf related products were the Kuta shopkeepers along the dusty unpaved Jalan Pantai who made clothes and bags out of USAID flour sacks for the hippies, Bali’s first constant stream of tourists.


(The USAID logo that showed up on the garments)

It wasn’t long before they were selling board bags made of the flour sacks. Surfers slung these over their shoulders as they clambered onto their rented Honda 90cc motorbikes to make the long bumpy trek to Uluwatu. Some would drive up the beach to Canggu when the Petitengent stream was low. There weren’t any scooters with racks back then. The safest way to ride with a board bag was with it slung off one shoulder and not around the neck. I heard a story of a guy racing up the Bukit with his board bag slung around his neck. A truck barreling downhill caught the nose of the board bag and spun it around, decapitating the unfortunate fellow.

It wasn’t long before young Balinese entrepreneurs from Bali’s first generation of local surfers opened basic surf shops. These guys are all surfing legends now.

Below is a brief listing, drawn from memory and a few emails and SMSs. This isn’t a history. I’m leaving tomorrow for a three week trip to outer islands, and a few inner ones too, and I’ve run out of time to track down these legends for a “meat meet”, face to face without a single monitor between us. Any errors, please leave a comment.

Made Darsana, known as “Joe”, opened the first shop on Jalan Pantai (I’m not even sure that track was even officially named back then—it was just the road to the beach, or “jalan pantai”). Joe’s Surf Shop sold the basics and rented boards. When I was saving up money for my first proper surfboard, I’d rent from Joe’s for a day of Kuta beach break surf. All you had to was walk to the end of the track and paddle out and get waves all day long.

Around the same time in the mid 70’s, Gede Narmada opened an early surf shop on Jalan Pantai, called Ulu’s Surf Shop. He says, “it was little, maybe two and a half by three meters. l had two or three second-hand boards, ten blocks of wax, five singlets, ten shorts, a few leg-ropes. Surfers from overseas often helped me” (http://www.baliwww.net/becho/52/bsurfer2.htm)

Ketut Menda is of “Bali Barrel” fame, but I’m channeling another surf shop name from that era associated with Menda: “Trade Winds Surf Shop”. Could I be right, or am I getting senile? I remember Bali Barrel being the first surf shop on Jalan Legian, if I’m not mistaken. Jalan Legian was once just an unpaved track, with coconut groves and a few traditional Balinese compounds/homes.

Ganti Yasa kept it simple: “The Surf Shop.”

Made Kasim, who became the licensee of the Da Hui in later years, also had a shop, but damned if I can dredge up the name from the depths of my mossy memory. I think it was later, though.

Ketut Artha, “Mad Cats.” I thought that was a cool name.

In the early 90s, the international surf brands moved into Bali, with local licensees. Rip Curl, with Robert Wilson as licensee, was the first to open its surf shop doors as “The Curl” in 1991.


(That’s young Lee Wilson in the doorway — note the bandage pn his leg. Lee was probably doing something that scared the living daylights out of his mum)

Ketut Kasih sewed “King Kong” board shorts that Joe and Narmada stocked, and then later had his own shop called Action Sports.

The surf garment industry is another whole chapter, and would have include the late Wayan Suwenda and “Bali Balance”.

(Suwenda, Kasih, Narmada, Kasim, with Kim Bradley in the white shirt)

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11 Responses to Bali’s First Surf Shops

  1. Bukit Bear says:

    Next chapter please…

  2. Sil says:

    I believe that’s Bob Mc Tavish in the white shirt, Hawaiian Legends meet early 90’s.

  3. Sil says:

    Now ya mention it I also recall Ketut’s first shop was ‘ Trade Winds ‘ .. Grub Mc Cabe and Ketut go back a long way.

  4. Kevin Gordon says:

    We stayed in Wayan Suwenda’s fathers Kuta losmen in 1976. Wayan was a shy kid around 14 or 15, who smiled all the time and didn’t speak much. He won a lightning bolt surfboard from Jerry Lopez in his first contest while we were there. Wayan also accompanied us on our first expedition to the small island Nusa Lembongan off the Sanur coast that year. He was a pleasure to be around. I still have the faded Kodak photos.

    • !976! You must have been one of the first over there. Did you stay at Tarzin’s, down on the south end of the beach? Not exactly high on creature comforts. How about scanning and posting those photographs? Thanks for the comment!

      • Kevin Gordon says:

        Wayan’s father was Made Degel – we stayed in his losmen, in the main street of Kuta, just south of Bemo corner. It was a 5 minute walk from the beach and cost us $1 AUS per night including a cup of tea & banana for breakfast. Those were the days when you paddled out to Kuta reef and tucked into a huge bowl of fruit salad & black rice pudding at the warrong on the beach afterwards.

  5. Hard to find black rice pudding these days. You have know the places that serve it. Tarzin’s was the Nusa Lembongan chief.

  6. robert says:

    It’s nice to come back after awhile and see these further comments, great :]

  7. Sally Herrero says:

    Just got back from Bali trip………Legian St is a jungle now. Good to see Ketut Menda’s “Bali Barrell” still doing well even with Billabong, Rip Curl and other big names there.
    Went through photos of my 1982 trip……….Jalan Legian was a dirt track, few buildings with bemos here and there. Found photo of said road and have it in frame near my bed. Nice to still remember the way it was.

  8. Thanks for the comment, Sally. Menda’s one of the Original Boys. Any chance of scanning the photo and sharing it with us?

  9. Lance Parmigiana says:

    I remember meeting Joe from Joe’s Surf Shop in the late 80’s – a friendly guy on land and in the water. I recall kooking out on a poor wave at Legian and Joe paddled past seconds after my wipe out grinning from ear to ear and saying ‘bad wave’. Such a friendly smile – how could I take offence

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