The early Ulu surfboard carriers

Surfing Uluwatu in the 1970s was a lung-busting affair even before you paddled out, because you first had to hike over hill-and-dale and through pastures just to get to the famous cave. Balinese living alongside the main road to Uluwatu temple (and road is a generous term, as it was a pot-holed ribbon of tarmac) would wait for surfers to rock up and offer to carry their surfboards. Not just young lads, either, but adult farmers scrabbling out a living.

ulu board carrier

(photo courtesy Peter Neely of Indo Surf and Lingo).

Ah, the infamous bamboo ladder of Uluwatu cave. A rite of passage, in a way. The man carrying the board probably earned more cash money for this day then he did in a month of farming. It was really, really tough living for the Bukit locals back in the day. Now, it’s premier real estate (and a lot of the locals got kicked off their land…)

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2 Responses to The early Ulu surfboard carriers

  1. Anonymous says:

    Just out of interest. How did some of the locals get kicked off their land.

    • Robert Wilson comments:

      The Bukit used to be quite a harsh environment, the locals had it tough eking out a living growing peanuts once it rained along with grazing a few cattle. Some land owners were known to give their land away rather than having to be responsible for the land tax.


      Those who did pay the land tax only had the tax payment records to “prove” they owned the land, a leftover from the Dutch colonial days. When the Indonesian government implemented a land certificate system, many of these farmers didn’t get the certificate. Greedy money came in and easily got the certificates issued in their names, forcing (with a minor pittance) locals off the land they’d farmed for centuries. This was one way it happened. Another was simply strong arm tactics…

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