Wayan Suwenda and Kevin Gordon at Balangan, Bali, 1979

How many surfers had made it to Bali during the first decade of Bali’s modern era of surfing (arbitrarily defined from 1970-1980)? An order of magnitude calculation: say an average of two flights a day landing at Tuban airport during May through September, which was the surf season (very few surfers came in the wet season; for point of interest, there used to be only two flights a week in the ’60s, DC-3s with canvas bucket seats). So 200 passengers, of which, say, 20 were surfers. That’s roughly 3000 surfers a year, or 30000 for the decade. A rough order of magnitude for sure, but the point being is that there are a lot of memories and snapshots lurking in various heads and photo albums around the world.

So your blog correspondent was delighted to get these photos from Kevin Gordon, one of those early surfers, who surfed with the late Wayan Suwenda, when Suwenda was a grom.


Above: Suwenda at Lembongan Island, 1979, with tuna (tongkol) given to them by the islanders. Lembongan in those days was a pretty sketchy place, minimal accommodation and food, so I’m sure the fish was drift-wood barbecued on the beach and eaten with delight.


Above: The grom with a Lightning Bolt given to him by Gerry Lopez (from Kuta to Uluwatu and beyond, Lopez acquired a measure of fame that went beyond the surfing — all the Balinese seemed to know who he was).

wayan's father

Above: Made Degel, Wayan’s father, preparing babi guling for the guests at their homestay. (Homestays: the classic early Balinese surfing experience, tea and banana breakfast on the cement verandah, the old ibu in the kitchen hut, cows in the yard).

wayan balangan

Above: Balangan. Kevin says, “Our first glimpse of Balangan line up as we walked over the last hill. This was a place we had only heard about so we took boards & backpacks for a half day bemo ride & trek through the cactus to be greeted by this view. We camped on the big rock outcrop for 3 days and surfed until we dropped.”

A half day to Balangan — the Dutch-built road to Uluwatu was a ruined, atrocious track from hell. Part of paying the dues. These days, kids think paying dues means getting stuck in a traffic jam and then caught inside at Serangan.

Many thanks, Kevin!

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4 Responses to Wayan Suwenda and Kevin Gordon at Balangan, Bali, 1979

  1. Kevin Gordon says:

    As a footnote, the accommodation in Made Degel’s losmen in 1976 was equivalent to $1 AU per night, including the cup of tea and banana for breakfast.

    • Kevin also adds: 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.

      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 and banana for breakfast. Those were the days when you paddled out to Kuta reef and tucked into a huge bowl of fruit salad and black rice pudding at the warrong on the beach afterwards.

  2. Kymberley Price says:

    The first photo was Adi, holding up the fish!

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