Surf’s Up on Kuta Beach, Bali
Kuta was our first taste of life in Bali, Indonesia. I had always thought of Bali as some overpriced small resort island of the same ilk as Figi. While you can find plenty of $1,000/night resorts and the requisite Hard Rock that comes with an overdeveloped tourist spot, Bali can actually be pretty cheap if you look in the right places, freeing up your funds for surfing, food, and nightlife (the essentials in Kuta).
This was the first beach area we’d visited since leaving the secluded paradise of Port Barton and it was like walking into the twilight zone compared to those peaceful sands. At first glance Kuta is overrun with drunk Aussies and the vibe was much more like the fratty Phangnan than I’d imagined; complete with sidewalk shops touting psychedelic mushrooms for sale and raunchy souvenirs overflowing store fronts onto the sidewalks. Wood carved dicks were everywhere and we were curious who this Rhonda chick was whose name graced the front of so many t-shirts. Not sure who she is, but if everyone’s fucked her as the t-shirts say, she must be the biggest slut around (turns out she’s from some Aussie commercial).
Okay, maybe the first impression of the main strip is unfair to judge Kuta by, so we headed to the beach. The walk off the main strip was better, lined more with surf shops and little restaurants than raunchy souvenirs. The beach though, was jam packed with people and the water was elbow to elbow with surfers. I haven’t hit the waves for a while, and was not looking forward to getting my feet back under me in such a deep line up. Thinking this wasn’t anywhere near what we expected we went to dinner where things started to turn around. Funny how an inexpensive seafood feast can do that.
What really turned our impression of Kuta around was hitting the beach the next morning. I found a friendly local dude named Agi renting boards on the beach and hit the much less crowded waves. It took a few goes but these waves were much easier than what I was used to in California and I was popping up in no time with an ear to ear smile on my face. It was great to have an easy paddle out and be able to surf for the first time in water warm enough to not need a wetsuit. I was so focused on the waves I didn’t realize until it was too late that the board was rubbing my nipples raw. Toweling off that night was not fun!
The next day we were back out and after being fired by Alex as surf instructor after an unsuccessful lesson yesterday, we recruited surf guru Agi to give her a private lesson. Before we left on this trip, we thought learning to dive in Koh Tao and surf camp in Bali were going to be our two big Asia expenses. Luckily we didn’t pull the trigger on the camp. Seeing the piles of campers in the water with only a few instructors between them, made Alex’s private lesson look so much better. Instead of dishing out $700 each for the week, we got a 2 hour, $20 lesson and Alex got some personalized attention. The huge smile across his face and sound effects he used in describing things made Agi a favorite of ours. I think his washboard abs probably helped hold Alex’s attention too (seriously Agi, put on a shirt already).
After full days of surfing the food was plentiful to help recharge your batteries, and the cheap massages helped rejuvenate your body and ease the soreness. There was also tons of nightlife around to aid in the story telling of that massive wave we shredded, brah. We quickly got past the grimy surface level of Kuta and loved it so much we decided to come back for a few more days to sharpen our surfing skills at the end of our stay in Indonesia.
Unfortunately for us novices, when we returned to Kuta after a few weeks, the swells were friggen huge. I’m talking like 10-12 feet, which is about double what I’d be comfortable with. Not one to be deterred by a little thing like an inadequate skill level I did try to go out. That ended horribly, with me getting caught in a current without realizing it and looking up to see myself a good 20 yards farther out than the line up. It took all my energy and every kind of different paddle stroke I could think of to get back to shore.
Instead of the last few days being an opportunity to hit the waves, they turned into a great chance to rest and relax. We “splurged” on a $30/night room, which was easily the swankiest place we’ve been on this trip. We hung in the comfortable confines of the room more than usual, relaxing in the A/C and the comfy bed and using the best Internet we’ve had in a while to load up our computer with things to watch over the rest of the trip. Even the rain couldn’t keep us down with such a comfortable oasis at hand and plentiful entertainment on our street. We left Bali completely ready for all the exploring we’d be doing over the next few weeks in Cambodia.