As my brother pro surfer Harry Timson and my dad Vince (photographer) had told me about their visits to Indonesia I felt I had to experience Bali myself. I mean I had heard about how the waves and beaches are so unbelievably unreal.
As soon as I got off the plane from Denpasar to Bima a heat like I’d never experienced before hit me. I was looking around seeing mountainous lime green forests and perfect blue sky – it was something else. From Bima we got a taxi to Lakey Peak, getting into the taxi and not knowing actually where you were was scary but driving through the jungle and seeing monkeys everywhere was pretty cool. As we came closer we passed villages with huts built with wood and tin roofs, it was amazing to see how people live, using everything to create a life. Chickens running across the road, goats, cats, dogs and cows not even caring if a car or moped was approaching, being in the taxi I felt a little cautious haha… Moments later we drove past an open scenic landscape where the sea met the sky; it was breath taking and I felt how lucky I was to be there. We were driving into the hotel gates on a small road with cobbled stones when behind we saw 10 people on mopeds following the car, after we got out they were trying to sell one to us -it was quite the sight I must say! As soon as we got the boards and bags we fled to our room, walking down the path and seeing the peak and the tower for the first time was crazy, I saw lots of pictures before and didn’t think it would be quite so overwhelming! It was really beautiful. Our room was along the front, so you could even check the surf from your bed heaven or what?!
After being there a week, we had a good routine: early breakfast, a surf check and to decide where we would go, sometimes we would moped to check the surf which was one of my favourite things to do or even just to cool down, that feeling of being so free and driving past open parts of the trees where you could see the ocean break onto coral reefs, buffalo being lead by farmers. Children with the biggest smiles on their faces shouting “Hello Miss” or “Hello Mr” they just seemed to be so full life and happy. The warungs you pass by selling petrol, sweets, drinks and traditional Indonesian food were so well thought of, you could see how much time people had spent over them, families that owned them with all the children and family members sat nearby waving if you went pass. When we had reached our destination, we would observe everything and make the decision. I would say 98% of the time the surf looked was so perfect, even the other 2% would still be better than any other surf I’ve surfed before. I say this because at those moments it was either cloudy or rainy ha, ha! Surfing cobblestones, Periscopes, Nungadora, and The Peak was an experience that could never be forgot.
Duck diving is a whole new thing, luckily most surf spots had a channel. It felt so good with warm water, hot sun on your face, with little kids cheering and ripping!! Seeing waves break from the channel was incredible, you could see and feel the power. It did scare me at first but it got pretty easy after a while. I definitely had a few close shaves and hitting on the reefs, getting in and out was tricky in a some places as I’ve never experienced this before, trying to dodge sea urchins and sharp parts of reef whilst looking out for sea snakes! After surfing 3 times a day for hours each surf, some Asian food was on the cards, Nasi/ Mie Goreng or Nasi Champur -basically noodles, rice, tempeh, vegetables and samba (very spicy hot sauce).
It was amazing to enjoy Indonesian culture, Lakey’s isn’t like Bali, Sumbawa is uncrowded and is three times the size of Bali, it has less than a fourth the population so it’s more than perfect. A month into our trip we decided to head to East Java, a place called Pacitan it is is seaside town, it takes 3hours to drive away from the Central Java city of Jogjakarta. Looking through the windows and seeing luminous green jungle with vines and fruit hanging, not to mention the numerous encounter of animals and the occasional encountering with fast driving and small windy roads. I was relived when we arrived! We walked for 5 minutes down the road to see white sand that lay in lines, from the river to the cliff (in the east) and a small harbour (west). There are lots of breaks to surf beach breaks and reef too. The place where I surfed the most was called Watu Karang, the beach was close to our homestay, we were welcomed with a left and a right, it’s world class when the waves are pumping. I thought it was tricky to surf but fun at the same time, we had good waves and overall it was pretty breath taking. The sand is so pristine and the water is turquoise and translucent, lines of hand made fishing boats were perched along the beach; fisher men waited for the tide unpicking and fixing their nets and sailed out when the tide was high, it was kind of our tide clock for everyday! If you imagine what a surfer’s paradise is, then this is it.
We flew back to Lakey’s for a last couple of weeks, and had a good swell to finish. Every surf I had I felt improvement, there were a couple of girls in the water most of the time which made me want to perform better, it was great to talk to them hearing their stories and experiences it, the locals were so friendly but I think I might have my brother (Harry) to thank as he’s been coming here for many years! Even so, you still had to wait and take your turn in the line up, I did feel a little scared when the sets came through you had to go if it was your turn, the boys shouting for me to go (love/hate). I got washed about quite a few times and made lots of take off’s too. Seeing the good surfers was truly inspiring, spitting barrels to power turns and lay backs!
Being a surfer girl in Indonesia is pretty exciting, I mean surfing for hours and hours in a bikini with sick waves and weather?! There was still a large male population in the water but i enjoyed meeting foreigners and locals- they would help me to get waves sometimes. When paddling out at a new spot, it felt like I had to prove myself first, foreign breaks can be complicated fields to negotiate. I felt like as a girl the first wave you take – all eyes are on you, after you get the first wave you can relax and not care about what anyone thinks, but missing waves when you have priority will decrease your chance of additional waves in that spot, (following standard etiquette ingratiates you into the line up). In Indonesia there’s waves for all people, being a girl I think some of us tend to worry about size, condition and what type of break, locals know everything so they will show you around for a price of course. If I travelled alone back to Indonesia, I would feel confident as I know information about surf spots and places to go. It’s easy to get into a routine, you meet so many people from everywhere, there’s not much to worry about. You may also need to learn how to drive a moped, luckily enough my dad was with me on the trip so we found a marshland area and it only took a couple of goes, driving there isn’t bad as it’s just mopeds no cars, Bali on the other hand is a little hectic, you have to be real careful.
Surfing in Bali was another good experience, the first place we surfed was Canggu which is a small village on the beach, 20 minutes from north of Seminyak. It has a right hand river mouth with a reef and rock bottom, a left hand sand bar with a sand bottom and a left hand reef break, the left was my favourite, the right was good too but the beachie was a little hardcore, if you’ve ever been to France, Hossegor is similar. The best time of tide is mid to high on the run and mid to high on the way out, the wind is best on a NNE, but can be surfed all year. I enjoyed the place, there’s lots of little cafes/ warungs and places to chill, it has a long beach with black volcanic sand with scenic views with paddy fields and coconut groves. The second place in Bali I surfed was Ulutwatu- a place on the SW tip of Bukit peninsula and is home to Pura Luhur Uluwatu Temple and suitable for all abilities, it was great to see the set up; nothing like I expected, situated on Impossible Beach, with dramatic cliffs and sheer drops into the Indian Ocean. You basically have to set up camp in one of the cafes and walk down to the surf. The surf breaks: starting from the top of the series of wave breaks to the bottom, The Bombie, Temple, Outside Corner, Racetracks, and The Peak. For me I only surfed Racetracks as we weren’t there for long, it is super fast with low tide is its prime time. During low tide, you can get barrels forming at the end of the ride, it’s not deep so you have to take a little more care. Mid tide is good too, with more water and you’re more likely to reach the end (easy barrels) but there are turn sections also. They have little shops everywhere; the usual souvenir shops, restaurants, and cool cafes. However it is busy most of the time so it can be difficult to catch waves!
After this we decided to head to Medewi which is 3 hours from Kuta, located west of Denpasar on the main south coast road, it is a tiny remote village in one of the least visited areas of Bali. It offers a glimpse of what so much of Bali was like before the growth of mass tourism, it’s a place I recommend. There is a long left hand wave at Medewi Beach rolls all year and is popular with surfers for that reason, every ability welcome, being goofy it was absolute heaven. There is also right-hand break less than 100 metres away around the northern point – I loved surfing this, I had some of the best waves of my life! When the surf is small there beach break, working mid-tide, over the river mouth about 250 metres to the south south. There’s lots of great places to eat Indonesian cuisine, enjoy sunsets and relax in the very quiet coastal village, seeing fishermen working (their day to day business) and trying to not get in the way whilst paddling in. In Medewi where we stayed was right on the beach so I could have breakfast and check the waves, locals are pretty awesome and are quite helpful, I met so many good people, it was an unforgettable experience the only bad thing was that I couldn’t stay for long enough! I love how different their life is to ours, it made me realise that having less doesn’t matter, everyone is always happy there and I love it.
If you haven’t been to Indonesia then should, whether you travel alone or with people it’s a place to go.
1. Travel light – you just need the essentials, you can buy anything abroad for a lot cheaper.
2. When travelling to an undeveloped country, take items like pens, pencils and stickers for local children. When they’re older their view on surfers visiting is positive.
3. Surfing is all you want to do right? But it’s not the only thing to do, if the surf goes small or you’re surfed out, go and explore!
4. Make friends with the locals, it’s the best way to find out when and where to surf local breaks.
5. The more surfboards the better, just in case you break one and also for different conditions.
6. Ding repair; a small ding repair kit is essential, it’s inexpensive and doesn’t take up a lot of room.
7. Board leash and spare fins, it can be hard to find these when in the middle of nowhere… so stock up!
8. Oh yes don’t forget the essentials – tickets, money and passport!
Thanks to my sponsors Animal, Reef, C-skins, Redwood girls, Sambazon UK, Getfruity, Errant, and Roos Beach.
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