Updated: Feb 23
A travelers Note by Janine Reith
After four seasons of traveling around in Indonesia, this year I've decided to spend the season in Canggu and not travel around as much as I used too. There's good surf around here and all over Bali and I love it. I know, being from Germany, for me it's safe to say, the waves are always better than back home, but the funny reactions I got to my recent Insta- Story of me and a couple friends surfing at Kuta Beach really got me thinking about how 'good waves' can be defined.
Apparently there are many people who don't like Kuta Beach and put it down as a shitty surf break owned exclusively by kooks and beginners.
Here are just a few quotes of the messages I got to start off this topic:
“What??? Why Kuta Beach?” “haha you surf at Kuta?” “seriously? Why?”
“Kuta? Why do you not surf Ulus?”
“Are you beginner still?”
I could go on. But long story short… Everyone asked the same question:
WHY KUTA BEACH?
First of all, the question should not be, “Why‘ Kuta Beach?” Rather‚ “Why not Kuta Beach?”
Sure it once was an empty beach when Californian Surfer Bob Koke moved there from Hawaii in 1936. Sure some things have changed since then. Surely not the waves he came for though!
It's a beach break: shifting sandbanks, currents and rips, conditions that change pretty much every hour, from fat and slow to steep and hollow, there are close outs and long rides, barrels and playful walls. When you wipe out, you can't just paddle around the break, you'll have to make a few duck dives to get back out there. To surf good waves you'll have to choose the right ones, the ones that don't shut down on you but peel off right or left. This means you need to know how to read waves. Because other than at most reef breaks in Bali, the waves don't break the same way all the time.
Considering you have to be able to adapt your surfing skills to the constantly changing conditions and actually combine them with your knowledge about the ocean – this is a perfect training ground.
You can try out new things like practicing steep take offs in closing waves without getting
smashed on dry reef, you can learn how to speed pump through faster sections and practice bottom to top turns in peeling waves, and you can learn to control your board, maneuvering it through the crowd. To actually surf and catch good waves in Kuta, you need to know what you're doing aka surfing without getting called or pushed into a wave by your local surf guide!
First reason why I like to surf Kuta:
So out of all the world class waves in and around Bali, why do I sometimes choose to surf Kuta Beach? It's simple. I am no world class surfer. When I surf at Bingin, the maximum amount of barrels I catch in one session is two, if I'm lucky. And this is due to 15 other’s out there who surf better than I do. Most of them have surfed their entire lives to be able to surf at this level. I am not going there, sitting and waiting for two hours to maybe catch a wave or two. I mean of course do somedays, because even one little barrel is worth the wait and this is why we're all here at some point, isn't it?
But generally it's best for surfers like me to keep the balance by surfing as many waves as possible to work on your skills or else, to just surf as many waves as possible!
So the second reason for me to surf at Kuta Beach is the crowd factor!
There's no pressure, resulting in stress and thus poor performance, while surfing at a beach where most people are learning and improving. You are not paddling against four other surfers, who are pushing it deeper and deeper, fearing to not get another chance when you don't go (It's important to always go in this case). The amount of waves I catch at Kuta Beach lays in my hands, literally! It's all on me and my ability to position myself, fishing for the good ones.
Here's another example which leads to the third reason why I sometimes choose Kuta over everything else.
Berawa Beach on small days attracts many many surfer girls and self-called intermediates without surf guides. Pretty much all of them manage to sit where the waves are breaking – at the right spot. And while a lot of the girls are just ditching their boards through three foot sets, wearing pretty bikinis, a lot of the boys fail on the attempt to duck dive through them. Worst case: Guys who can surf, trying to teach their girlfriend how to surf for the first time and they of course do this out in the line up.
So to me, this actually is a more of an annoying crowd than the beginners in Kuta.
Beginners are humble. They know their not good at surfing because it's their first time. And it's perfectly fine for them. They don't have the need to prove anything to anyone. Beginners in Kuta take sets on their heads as it would be nothing, without whining! On top they're not in anyone's way because they don't paddle for what you are paddling for. Most times they don't even sit in the right spot.
On the bigger days in Berawa you won't have many girls out but a few more talented surfers, often dropping in on each other and getting really frustrated about it still being too small, windy, mushy, too west, too cold or just not the Mentawais.
In Kuta, people always have fun in the water because most of them don't know anything about surfing. They just take it as it is! They're just trying something new, on their own will (not their boyfriends), with a lot of commitment and asmile on their face. There is nothing better than seeing someone catching their first wave. Pure happiness! In Kuta, you see that all the time, while you are catching waves too!
To me, these people actually live the ‚good vibes‘, most people Bukit or Canggu ways just talk about in their Surf-yoga-classes.
If you still think it's an annoying crowd of kooks and beginners at Kuta, then you could just take a walk on the beach and search for your own little peak because the beach in Kuta is freakin long!
Still, there are a ton of better options living in Canggu, Eco beach for example – you'll say now?! Surfing with all the pro's at Eco I would not exactly catch a satisfying amount of good waves. I still need more time on waves to actually be able to progress, which is what I aim for. So I find it makes more sense to catch a few more waves somewhere else instead of just surfing one with the pro's. I really enjoy watching them surf at sunset though. I always go there… watching them pulling huge alley oops and throwing sprays doing turns… I absolutely love it!
So why I sometimes choose Kuta beach as the better option is simple as this:
I don't think surfing at Uluwatu, Bingin or Eco Beach automatically makes one a good surfer. I think a good surfer can have a good surf anywhere. At Kuta Beach, at full on onshore in Berawa or crowded Canggu, in small conditions and shitty waves. A good surfer can catch good waves in shit surf – if such thing even exists.
It doesn't matter how good the surf is, to me it matters more how I surf it. And as I said above, it's important to keep it balanced and surf different spots and conditions. I don't really have a favorite spot in Bali, I think any spot has it's good days. Sometimes you'll like it more, sometimes less.
In the end maybe, this isn't just about Kuta Beach and is applicable to a lot of breaks. Sometimes it's just a simple shift in perspective that can make big a difference.