Surf Trip Diaries: Bukit Peninsula
Hi! My name is Andrew and I fell in love with Bali from the first time I stepped on this island. I’ve been to Indonesia a couple of times and would like to share a bit of my experience with all of you. I hope you guys enjoy my adventures and maybe this blog will be helpful for those who want to visit and explore this beautiful place also known as Island of Gods.
It was a Tuesday night when I arrived at Bali International Airport and took a cab straight to the hotel. I had previously booked two nights in a very cool hotel with ocean view right in front of Uluwatu. It was a bit out of my budget but I decided to give me that luxury on my first days on the Island. It was probably around midnight when I arrived at the hotel but the staff was there waiting for me to do the check-in. Maybe because of the jet lag or because of the excitement of being back to Bali, falling asleep that night was very hard but waking up was no sacrifice. I woke up with the sunrise and the sound of the waves and went straight to the balcony to check the surf. From the balcony, I could see most of the line up of Ulus. There was not much light but I could tell that the tide was low, there was no one out and the surf was pumping. The forecast predicted 4-6ft, and they nailed it. I waxed my board and bolted out of the room for the first surf session of my surf trip. By the time I got to the cave, there were already some surfers paddling out.
Everybody was friendly but in a quiet vibe, probably still waking up. My board of choice was a 6’0” Luke Studer model Thrasher. The waves were solid overhead with long walls and occasional barrels. Everybody was taking turns and I managed to catch a lot of waves. After a couple of hours, the tide got too high and I was hungry. Luckily the hotel served breakfast until 10 am and I got back in time. After a very fulfilling meal, it was time to have a long and deserved nap.
I turned on the A.C. and set the alarm for noon because I didn’t want to miss the midday session. I woke a few hours later and was ready for another surf. I got down to the lobby to arrange a scooter in order to be able to explore some nearby surf spots. I already had in mind where I wanted to go. Bingin gets really good when the tide starts to drop and I headed straight to the cliff to check the waves from above. The views from the cliffs of the Bukit Peninsula are breathtaking. After a few minutes admiring the scenario, a set came and I decided to go down and give it a shot.
There were about 10 guys in the water and a few locals were dominating the take-off zone. My standard procedure in these situations is to paddle out with a big smile on my face, say hello to everyone, sit wide and wait for my turn. By doing this you show that you are patient but also that you want to catch a good wave. After a few sets, I was sitting in position when a big one came. I looked at one of the locals as if asking for permission to go and he gave me a small nod with his head. That’s all I needed. I started to paddle hard with my eyes down the line and I could tell that this one would be a sick ride. The best way to take off in Bingin is behind the peak. If you manage to do that with speed you can backdoor the barrel and optimize your time in the green room and that’s exactly what happened. I took off straight into the barrel and put both hands on the wall in order to slow down. When you are in the barrel the perception of time is different. A few seconds feel like an eternity and when you come out of the tube everything speeds up again. After the barrel, I did a couple of turns before the wave closed out on the reef. It was a great way to start the session and I paddle back and did the same thing.
If you don’t want to wait a long time for a wave you can always sit a bit under the crowd and try to sneak a smaller one. Just be careful not to be on the way of the other surfers and if you get caught inside when a set comes, please be polite and paddle to the foam and take the hit. After many sets and a few barrels, the tide got dangerously low and was time for the second meal of the day. I took one last wave and ended up in a dry reef. Some people think it's annoying to walk barefooted on dry reef. If that’s the case, don’t forget to wear booties if you are surfing when the tide is going down. I’m already used to step on the reef and don’t feel comfortable surfing with booties. Besides, people with booties tend to damage more the reefs so that’s a personal choice not to use them. After I got to the beach I ordered a juice at Kelly’s Warung. They have really good food and smoothies but I was craving a dish from a different place. The only downside of Bingin is getting back up. When you surf for a few hours and you have to carry your backpack and your surfboard all the way up you will probably have to take a break in the middle but that’s not a big issue. The view from the stairs is amazing and it’s always a good excuse to stop to see someone getting barrelled. On the way up to the parking lot,
I accidentally met Bernardo, a Brazilian friend, and asked if he wanted to join me for lunch.
He as also starving and instantly agreed to come with me to the Bukit Cafe. This place is located on the Main street of Uluwatu (Jl. Labuan Sait) right next to the White Monkey Surf Shop. They have amazing pancakes for breakfast (Grandma’s Pancakes) and also really good options for lunch and dinner. I already knew what I wanted to order and asked for the Tuna Tataki. This is my favorite dish at this place, its delicious and not too heavy. Perfect if you still want to stay light for one more sunset surf session. Bernardo ordered the Bukit Burger which meant he was not going to surf again today. That was very clear when our dishes arrived at the table. His burger was massive and he started eating with enthusiasm. My Tuna Tataki was exactly what I expected. The presentation was beautiful and the taste was precisely as I remembered. The presentation was beautiful and the taste was precisely as I remembered. After we split the bill he told me he was heading back home but I should meet him at Single Fin around sunset for a beer. On Wednesdays and Sundays, they have really good parties there so I told him I would stop by after the surf if I still had some energy left. Then I went straight back to Ulus for the last surf of the day.
The swell was picking up and so was the tide. Some solid 8 ft sets were coming and neither my board or my level of energy were appropriated for that. I felt that those beers with Bernardo were a way better idea and cut the surf session short after a couple of waves and only half an hour surfing. This time the water was covering the reef and I could lay on my board and be pushed almost all the way to the cave. My hotel was right next to the Single Fin so I had a shower and in no time was watching the sunset with a beer in my hand. I looked around for Bernardo and found him chatting with some other friends. Bali has such an easy-going vibe, everybody that lives here transmits a feeling of casualness and soon I was already integrated into the group. We had a few beers together but soon was time to go to bed. I was a bit sunburnt and all the paddle made me exhausted. Something was telling me I would have any problem sleeping tonight.
Rise with the sun they say and that’s how my second day started on the Island of Gods. I woke up feeling refreshed and ready for a surf. I step out into the balcony and checked the surf. I was very impressed with what I saw. Massive sets were breaking on top of the shallow reef. The biggest wave of the set probably had 10ft. In these conditions, Uluwatu can be super scary and I didn’t even think that my step-up board would hold that size. The most obvious option was Padang Padang and that’s where I headed. I packed two boards just in case, jumped on the scooter and drove to a spot where I could check the break. When I got to the cliff there was a set breaking and I still have goosebumps remembering what I saw. Padang Padang is such a beautiful and mechanical wave. Two waves broke one after another, always on the same spot, slightly different from each other because the first wave pushed water to the reef making the second one even better.
There were already some surfers on the water and I could observe one of them taking off straight into the barrel, coming out of the first tube stalling and standing up tall to get the second one. He completely vanished for a while until I saw him again being spat out in the channel. That was enough for me. I turned around and bolted to a surf camp where I knew I could leave my extra board, my backpack, and have easy access to the water. While paddling out in the channel the challenge was to control the excitement. I had the same board from the day before under my belly. I thought that was better to stick to the equipment that I was already surfing with. When I got to the line up I saw a dude sitting on a red board and all made sense. The surfer that I saw before getting shacked was Bruno Santos, a Brazilian tube rider that spends a lot of time in Bali and every time Padang Padang it's ON he is in the water.
His technique and know-how of the break are flawless so I said hello and sat right next to him. I told him about the wave I saw from the top of the cliff and he said that the waves were just going to get better. It was already hard to control my level of frothiness and after this statement coming from him was almost impossible to stay in the line and wait for my turn, but I hold my horses. There must be a surf etiquette in the lineup so everyone is happy and most important safe during the surf session. When my turn finally came I asked Bruno if the best wave was the first or the second one of the set. He confirmed what I saw before from the cliff and told me that the second wave was coming more perfect and more hollow than the first. When the set came I let the first one pass by and paddle straight to the back to get ready for the second one. I turned around and started to paddle with all the commitment and excitement that I had stored inside me.
Padang can be super scary but at that moment I wasn’t thinking about the danger. All I wanted was to get on that wave and get absolutely barrelled. There weren’t many locals surfing this day and you can’t miss an opportunity like that. After the take-off I dunno if I missed it or if the first barrel didn’t really form but I was focused down the line waiting for what was about to come. It’s important to surf all the way to the channel in Padang Padang so you don’t get caught by another wave and end up in the shallows. When the wave finally got close to the channel I could see the wall getting steeper and was sure what was gonna happen. I bent my knee and got my whole body closer to the wall to guarantee that the lip was not going to hit my head. This time everything happened so fast The lip threw on top of my head and I ducked a little bit more, not because the barrel wasn’t big enough but to have some extra stability.
Finally, I got out of the barrel and was safe in the channel and a mix of emotions invaded my whole body. It’s crazy to think how many things go through your mind after a barrel but the first instinct was to start paddling back to the lineup to get another one. More and more surfers were arriving at the break and sooner than I expected the lineup got really busy. I was already happy with my first wave and decided to get one more and head somewhere else. Not everyone was respecting the line and that was very frustrating. I got one more wave to go out but it wasn't from the set and nowhere near the quality of the first one. On the way back I took a look at Baby Padang and the waves there looked quite fun. Because of the big swell, there weren’t many surf schools or beginners on the line-up. I decided to give it a try and end up having a lot of fun surfing the right and left-handers that were constantly coming.
All of a sudden my belly felt terribly empty and I thought that breakfast was a great idea. After breakfast was time to check out and say goodbye to the luxurious hotel. It was awesome to enjoy the nice room and the massive swimming pool but I couldn’t afford more nights in such a fancy place. I packed my bags and headed to the surf camp where I left my stuff earlier. This accommodation is right in front of Padang Padang and they have cheap rooms with an ocean view. That was exactly what I needed. The waves would probably still be pumping at Padang Padang on the next day so I thought that staying there was a good idea. And indeed as soon as I got there I knew I made the right choice. It is funny how cool places attract cool people because I only met cool people at this accommodation. I stayed in a shared room but there was no one staying there so I had the whole place for myself.
There was no AC in this room but the fan and the sea breeze were more than enough to refresh the air and I decided to have a nap listening to the waves breaking on the rocks outside. I skipped the midday surf in order to be fit enough for the afternoon. I realized that if I surfed three times a day soon I would be surfed out. Instead, I went snorkeling with some other guests. The surf camp has a little beach that is almost private. On low tide, you can walk all the way to the beach of Padang Padang, but on high tide, the access is exclusively through the camp. We jumped in the water at this beach and started to explore. The reef was not particularly colorful but it was full of wildlife. We got back to the camp and sat to have some food. They have an excellent menu and we decided to share some starters and ordered some dishes as well. Everything was delicious and I couldn’t be happier with the company. We sat at the balcony overlooking the ocean and talked for a couple of hours until was time to surf again.
Impossibles was on fire and It was right in front of the camp. All I had to do was wax my board and jump in the water. Some dudes joined me and together we had an easy paddle to the line-up. There were some bombs coming and for our delight, the sections were connecting beautifully. Impossibles have this name because it’s really hard to connect all the sections from the wave. But on large south swells, this wave turns into a wave machine that allows you to do several turns and on the low tide, you can get some sick barrels. After some long rides and even longer paddles back to the line up I was exhausted. I had my share of top turns and barrels for the day and was happy to get back to the camp and drink a cold Bintang with the crew. When I got to my room I saw that Bernardo had sent me a message asking if I wanted to eat some pizza at an Italian restaurant called La Barraca. I already been to the place before and knew that the food there was really good.
I went upstairs to get my scooter and went to meet him. When I got there he was already sat in a table with his Bali friends that I met at Single Fin the other night. We ordered one pizza each and shared them all so we could all have different flavors. They were all delicious and after a few Bintangs, I was ready to go to sleep.
Against the forecast and all expectations, the swell dropped a lot and Padang Padang was no longer on fire. There were some waves breaking but not like the day before. That was a bit of a bummer but I had already surfed there and the crowd situation was too annoying to do it again anyway. I decided to get my scooter and explore the East Coast of the Bukit. This side of the peninsula is known for having low crowds and consistent waves. I invited my new friends to join me but most of them didn’t surf Padang Padang on the day before and they were willing to give it a try. I wish them luck and was about to go upstairs when one girl called Becca said that she was keen to go but she didn’t have a bike. I told her that was not a problem and she agreed to jump on the back of mine. We headed to a beach called Green Bowl that was supposed to be good in the mornings when there is no wind an on the upcoming tide. Both of us never been there before so we found the place using Google Maps and that worked really well. The place is absolutely beautiful. From the parking lot, you can check the waves and the view of the reef from above is impressive. The color of the water was so blue and contrasted with the green from the hillside creating a paradisiac setup. We started our way down to the beach and a few steps later reached the sand. There are no warungs at this beach but some Balinese ladies were there with some coolers offering cold drinks, souvenirs and massage for the people who arrive. We went to explore the beach and found a massive cave were Becca could get some shade while I went for a surf. She said she was happy with that so I waxed my board and start to walk across the reef to reach the channel.
Once in the channel, the paddle was super easy and in no time I was surfing some really good right-handers. This surf spot has a few sections. You can either stay close to the channel and surf the shoulder or you can paddle deeper into the reef and get some steeper waves that end up closing out when they get closer to the reef. On the other side of the channel, there was also a left-hander but someone in the water told me that the currents there were really strong and from where I was it didn’t look like it was working anyway. I decided to paddle a bit deeper and sat with two other guys. I always say hello to people in the water to be polite and sometimes I ended up making really good friends this way. One of the dudes got a wave and I started a conversation with the other. His name was Chris and he was from Australia. We surfed for a few hours together at this break and had a good chat in between waves. In the end, we found out that we had friends in common from Sydney. Such a small world. At some point, the tide got too high and the waves were not as good as before. After a long period with no waves, I decided to paddle even a bit deeper to a place where I saw a left-hander breaking. It was a sketchy wave because it broke straight into the shallow reef but right before it closed out I could tell that there was a barrel section and I thought to myself “why not”. I sat there and waited. I tried to paddle on one but the wave just sucked all the water from the reef and I had to pull the nose on that one. When I was about to give up I saw one approaching. I started to paddle to get in position and had a feeling that this was the one. The take-off was super steep and I barely made it, after that I had to make a quick decision: pull in the barrel or go straight. If I whipped out in the barrel it was almost certain that I would hit the reef. If I went straight I was gonna end up in shallow reef with waves breaking on my head. I took the first option, did the bottom turn and pulled in the barrel hoping for the best. It was easier than I thought. The barrel was not too deep but super hollow and square. All I did was bend my knees to lower my gravity center and soon I was out of the tube safe and sound. I was happy to go in with that wave but wasn’t sure if there was enough water covering the reef so I decided to play safe and paddle to the channel in order to reach the beach.
By the time I got there Chris was already sitting with his girlfriend, Carol, and Becca was sitting with them. She met Carol at the beach and they started talking just like we did in the water. Chris and I had decided that was time to go find some more waves and explore another surf spot. The girls were happy to see a different beach and the four of us started to go up the stairs to the parking lot. To our surprise when we got to our bikes a group of monkeys was raiding all the scooters from the parking lot. A particularly big one was sitting on Chris's bike. He left a bottle of water in the front pocket and the monkey was grabbing it. For our shock, the monkey managed to open the water and started drinking it just like a normal person. So crazy!!! Soon one of the local Balinese ladies that was chilling under a tree saw the situation and came with a stick to scare the monkey away but no before we had a few laughs about the whole situation. After the monkey episode was finished we decided to go to a beach called Pandawa. The tide was already dropping but there was still time for one more surf session. Pandawa is a really beautiful beach right next to Green Bowl. To get to the beach you have to pay a fee (15k per person) but its definitely worth it. You can park your bike right in front of the beach and they have toilets and showers available for free. There are also many warungs at the beach and before paddling out we had a couple of beers so we could get to know each other better. The surf break is located on the left side of the beach so we took our boards and left the girls chatting and headed to the channel. There was an onshore breeze starting to blow but the conditions were still pretty good. The wave was really fun allowing high-performance tricks, especially at the end section. We surfed for approximately 1 hour before the tide got too low and the wind was also picking up fast.
When we got to the beach it was already 5 pm and the girls said they were starving so it was time for a late lunch. I suggested that we could have a grilled fish at the Jimbaran local fish market and everybody loved the idea. This is one of my favorite things to do in Bali. At the fish market, you can find any kind of seafood you want: prawns, Red Snapper, Sea Bass, Mahi Mahi, lobster, calamari, etc. You buy as much as you want and take it across the street where the local warungs cook it for you. There are many warungs but my favorite one is called Warung Bu Wywin. They have a special sauce that is unbelievably yum. We bought 2kg of prawns, 1kg of Red Snapper and 1kg of Sea Bass. We took it to the warung where they clean the fish and grill for you while all you have to do is sit back, enjoy the sunset and have cold Bintang. Not a bad way to finish a day. After we savored our seafood feast it was time to head back home. We exchanged contacts with the aussie couple and headed back to the surf camp. When we got there everyone was wondering where have we’ve been and we told them about our amazing day. The guys that paddled out at Padang Padang were jealous when I told them about the empty line ups of the East Coast. They said it was not worth to sit and wait for hours for a wave at Padang and I controlled myself not to say “hate to say I told you so”. We had a few more Bintangs at the balcony admiring the moon rise and listening to the waves but it was time to sleep. I was planning to go early the next morning to Canggu so I wanted to pack my things and sleep. One more time we all exchanged contacts and promised to meet again soon somewhere on the island. That's how Bali works, you meet so many cool people along the way and our paths keep bumping to each other every now and then. It’s a cool feeling that even if I was traveling by myself I was never alone.
Next stop Canggu!