The Indonesian Push

stunet's picture
By Stu Nettle (stunet)

The Indonesian Push

Stu Nettle picture
Stu Nettle (stunet)
Surfpolitik

Bali, East Coast, 2008:

The surfer paddles out to a black sand beach on the then-quiet east coast. The waves are a mellow four feet, no wind. Approaching the lineup he scans the crowd, where there’s maybe half a dozen surfers, all tourists, probably Australian, sitting slightly down the line. At the head of the reef is one local.

As is his way, the surfer gently seeks to make contact with the surfers already in the water, a friendly g’day, a tilt of the chin, a subtle acknowledgement of fraternity, yet no-one in the water makes eye contact. They all stare straight ahead, jaws clenched tight, not even speaking to each other. The water is warm as a bath yet the atmosphere is frosty. 

A set approaches the reef and the local paddles for it. The pack remains still except for one surfer who also paddles for the wave. The local catches it from thirty metres deeper and gets to his feet, while the interloper, unperturbed, also paddles and gets to his feet, at which point the local flicks off and the tourist rides the wave unmolested.

It was an entirely unexpected scenario and the surfer slowly takes it in. As the set finishes and the players all return to their places, the lineup remains strangely mute. This time, however, the surfer sees the eyes of the crowd stealing glances at the tourist who took the first wave of the set, and who would take a wave from every set over the following hour. The surfer would also note that the interloper didn’t speak a word all session, and his presence, and also that of the local who’d occasionally shout instructions, made for a hostile atmosphere.

The surfer had navigated crowded lineups around the world but this was the first time he’d seen the rules of surfing transgressed so flagrantly and he was affronted by it. Furthest inside, waiting longest, don’t drop in, none of these concepts would hold water in a court of law but to the surfer they may as well have been chiselled in stone, sermonised by a prophet on a hilltop, and stored on parchment for surfers down the ages to follow.

Call him precious, but the surfer felt scandalised.

I know how he felt because the surfer was me.

Since that experience, I’ve returned to Bali many times and each time the surf guiding business has expanded, this happening in tandem with Bali’s growing tourism industry of course. In 2008, Bali received 1.5 million tourists per year, while this year Bali’s Provincial Tourism Service expects 7 million tourists will cross the threshold at Ngurah Rai airport and want to indulge in the Balinese experience - which includes surfing.

I’ve also become less precious about the practice of surf guides blocking for their customers, now able to see it in a more generous light, yet recent reports from Bali and Lombok paint a startling vision of the surfing future. Stories of good surfers simply unable to get waves at Uluwatu, the breaks around Canggu, Keramas, and the Gerupuk region of Lombok too, as local surf guides co-opt the waves for their paying clientele. What was once a cottage industry, affecting only a few breaks and surfers, has now spilled over from learner waves to the marquee reefs, and if the trend continues it will get much worse.

While digging into the history of Balinese surf guiding, I found that it wasn’t actually so new; way back in the nineties, for instance, surfers visiting Bali, mostly from Japan, paid local guides to take them to waves up the east coast, then a very quiet stretch of waves. The guides arranged transport and food, with some friendly advice on the side. So quiet was Bali’s east coast then that there was never, or at least very rarely, a need for local guides to block waves. They were the surfing equivalent of Sherpas, directing and carrying the loads of their cashed-up clientele.

It was only with the arrival of crowds that the job role of the local surf guide expanded to make sure the paying customers copped their fill of waves and went home surf stoked.

Riffing on Tibetan Sherpas, US author Peter Maguire calls the new breed of surf guides 'Surfpas'. Instead of leading their rich clients up mountains, Surfpas lead them into waves

Paying to get surf stoked. It might be worth focussing on that concept for a moment, because the idea predates the Balinese surf guides and by a fair margin. In the first decades of the last century, both Duke Kahanamoku and George Freeth were paid to popularise surfing, including taking customers out on boards - Freeth’s customers include author Jack London and US president Ted Roosevelt - while the Waikiki Beachboys turned a buck by hiring boards and giving surf lessons to rich but gormless mainlanders. All made a dollar promoting surfing, even pushing learners into waves, and all were mythologised for their efforts. Life is better when you surf, right?

Right..?

Well that’s the spiel, and when you look up surf guides in Indonesia you’ll see numerous versions of the same phrase. Maybe a slight rewording but always the same rhetoric. Surfing is good! Try it! Read on and you’ll notice…or at least I noticed, that of the many surf guides advertising their wares online, none explicitly say they’ll guarantee the customer waves.

So how, I wondered, does this customer expectation endure? To find out I rang a few numbers, enquired about surf lessons, and asked the person on the other end how many waves I’ll catch. Mostly, the answer was surprisingly specific. “Ten waves in an hour”, or “thirty waves for a half-day.”

Outwardly, the guides’ advertise a “surf experience”, perhaps an opportunity to see “the real Indonesia”, but in conversation they provide an unrealistic idea of surfing. Until wavepools came along, who could ever know how many waves you’d catch in a session? And using a guide to leapfrog over more experienced surfers to get those waves..? It transgresses all the rules of surfing, and yet that’s the expectation if you’re paying an Indonesian surf guide.

Surfing's first ambassador and its first professional - in a loose sense of the term - Duke Kahanamoku was paid to give exhibitions and spread the gospel of surfing

“It sometimes makes me uncomfortable,” admits Dedi Gunn of the way his occupation can cause problems in the water. “But if the customer doesn’t get any waves then they’re not happy; they’ll go elsewhere.”

If you’ve been paying any attention to Indonesian surfing you’ll be aware of Dedi Gun. Ascended from Lakey Peak street urchin to the star of Rip Curl’s Indonesia team, travelling to exotic coastlines, surfing the best waves, becoming worldly.

Like so many surf stars before him, Dedi is a surf coach, he trades on his decades of surf knowledge, sharing it with paying customers. Dedi would prefer to coach intermediate surfers, as that provides a challenge and brings out his best. Yet the demand isn’t there. Instead the customers can be summed up thus: Mainly European, mostly beginners. And the queue is inexhaustible.

Dedi finds himself in a tough spot. If he abides by the rules of surfing, then hordes of surfers paddle up the inside of his clients, who’ll be unhappy. His work will dry up.

So for his part he tries to operate within the system and let other surfers also get waves. It doesn’t always work and he’ll have to calmly explain to tourist surfers that he’s trying to do his job. “Of course I understand their frustration,” says Dedi who’s used to being the conduit between angry surfers and indignant customers.

At the same time, Dedi will explain to his clients why the rules of surfing are important. Remember, this is a guy who’s surfed the world, who’s seen how the rules of surfing work irrespective of the language spoken or currency exchanged.

“Part of teaching people surfing is educating them,” says Dedi. “Being in the water is great, we can make great friends, but we must know when it is our time to go and when it isn’t.”

"Once they leave my lessons, what then..?" Dedi leaves the question hanging but it's obvious he's talking about the long game - no-one learns to surf in a morning, or even in a week.

Sometimes the talks work, sometimes they don’t. Why would a newly-minted surfer from Slovenia care about decades of convention when the guide over there can guarantee them more waves for the same rate?

Like I said, tough spot.

Captain of the groms, Dedi Gun, has much to teach young Indonesian surfers, from rising above circumstance to threading the best and hollowest waves in the world.

I’ve mentioned the rules of surfing a few times already; they were ideas that I considered immutable - rock solid and superior - yet in Indonesia they’re being trumped by a different set of rules. Those new rules being the right of local surfers to make a buck off their own waves. Considering the plunder that’s occurred since Indonesia’s surf riches were uncovered, who wouldn’t begrudge the locals asserting themselves and funnelling some of that money their way? Not only is it a square-up of sorts, tourists buy the land and build the resorts, but the locals can also squeeze the teat of the tourism cash cow.

Also, the dream in the West is to find a job that allows you to surf, whether it be within the surf industry or a knowledge-class job with lots of flexibility. Make no mistake, the dream is the same with Indonesian surfers but the economic conditions don’t allow it. If the pro career fails - and Indonesia has how many surfers on the Championship Tour..? - then they’re scooped up in occupations that require the clock to be punched, such as hospitality or retail, or perhaps agriculture in the outer islands where the luxury of playing in the ocean becomes a distant indulgence.

So they work as surf guides. Lots of them. And being both willing to please and commercially sharp they’ll offer what the customer wants, even if it means the rules of surfing no longer apply. Where that leaves surfers who don’t need guides yet rely on the rules of surfing is anyone’s guess.

Recently, a friend returned from Uluwatu commenting that, out of sheer frustration, he entertained paying a guide to secure waves for him. This friend, by the way, is an ex-pro surfer so he knows how to work a crowded lineup, but Uluwatu with fifty surfers and ten guides was too much for him. If you can’t beat them, you know how the rest of the saying goes.

As it happened, he didn’t join them, but the thought remained. After all, the price for an hour was a fraction of the cost to enter a wavepool back home.

Wave sharing at Uluwatu in 1973, Gerry Lopez on the inside, Terry Fitz on the outside (Dick Hoole)

Here’s another thought: What if Indonesian-style surf guiding came to Australia?

Would our sense of fair play and ocean access for all be enough to withstand the forces of surfing capitalism?

Possibly. We’re all locals here and often not afraid to pipe up about it either. But if not Australia, what if the system caught on outside of Indonesia? Sri Lanka, Maldives, Taiwan, Costa Rica etc. The colonised avenge their fate and surf rules be damned. Future travel would look a little less rosy.

Tipi Jabrik was born and raised in Legian, Bali, and after a lukewarm shot at a pro career he became the Managing Director of the Asian Surf Co and the Secretary General of Persatuan Selancar Ombak Indonesia, the domestic version of Surfing Australia.

A pecking order exists in every surfing lineup around the world, it dictates who gets what waves and when. Yet what Tipi now sees on Bali is a different kind of order. At small Uluwatu, for instance, there are three kinds of surfers:

  1. Surfers with surf guides who are real locals.
  2. Surfers with surf guides from elsewhere, sometimes even outside of Bali.
  3. Tourists without any guide or coaches.

By the way, that list is in descending order of importance. It doesn’t matter how well a tourist surfs, they’re going to occupy the bottom rung, at least while the surf remains small.

“It’s a hard one,” says Tipi of the current situation regarding surf guides. “They all have the right to have fun and they also all contribute to the local economy.”

“My suggestion,” continues Tipi, “is to explore more of the island, as you might get lucky as between Uluwatu to Canggu there are lots of banks that no-one surfs.”

That advice applies to both surf guides and also to lone-wolf tourists.

Lessons cancelled. When the surf gets serious the numbers dwindle and even surf guides can find some space (Trevor Murphy//WSL)

In such a situation, where rich customers pay guides to run roughshod over convention, it’s tempting to seek who’s at fault and how it can be remedied. It’s a classic supply vs demand equation, yet when the demand is always fresh and unrelenting, the only hope is to look at supply - the Indonesia surf guides.

At present, if one guide doesn’t push or block or guarantee waves for their customer, then his competitor will. Meaning it’s either all or none: They all stick to the rules of surfing, or none stick to them.

Tim Hain is the long-serving Communications Manager of the Asian Surf Co, and he also wears a few other hats. Adding to the list is the newly-formed Asian Surf Performance Academy (ASPA).

“We plan to create a few levels of courses for roles such as training, coaching, guiding, and the like,” says Tim of the ASPA, “and that's where we'll be addressing this type of behaviour.”

It’s not the first time there’s been a joint effort to fix the situation. Many know that surfing is Bali’s Golden Goose and they don’t want to kill it. Yet collective action is difficult.

“There has been efforts like the [Balinese] surf schools forming an association and getting some local government support, in order to create and enforce some ground rules,” explains Tim before describing the outcome, “but in a tourist island like this, where everybody is more concerned with their income and their piece of the pie, it's really a tough sell.”

While writing this article some friends returned from a boat trip to an outer island. There were three boats anchored in the bay next to a wave that’s notoriously hard to reach by land. One boat, a luxury cruiser, reportedly cost the guests USD $25K per night. Who knows what mod-cons were inside but it also had a surf guide to push the punters into waves and a PWC to ferry surfers from the end of the wave back to the start. A classic Surfpa set up.

Half a day into this arrangement of queue cutting and constant wake up the face of the sets, the line was drawn. When it came it wasn’t aggressive, wasn’t belittling, just a frank entreaty to fairness and the rules of surfing.

It started with one voice, yet was quickly backed by many others in the lineup, at which point the offenders fell into line.

//STU NETTLE

Comments

freeride76's picture
freeride76's picture
freeride76 Thursday, 16 May 2024 at 12:52pm

It'll definitely spread to other locations- too much easy money to be made.

Gotta say though- I've only had one direct experience with it at a Kuta reef last year on the dag end of a G-land trip.
Me and a mate were happy to sit right out the back and wait for the very infrequent sets, watching the jumbo jets come in out of the setting sun and land on the runway.
Bali surf guide, came up to us- explained what he was doing, who his client was (Italian I think- hard to say he was in a wetsuit, possibly with booties and a hood on) and how we could co-exist in the line-up ( we stay there and wait for sets and occ. pick up a wide swinger on the paddle back out) while he shepherded his client into the middle size waves he preferred.
It probably didn't hurt the mood that he spent the entire session whistling and singing "don't worry, be happy".

Also probably didn't hurt that we had full bellies after a week of pumping G-land.

JB1's picture
JB1's picture
JB1 Thursday, 16 May 2024 at 1:17pm

Dads pushing their entitled groms into waves here is just as fkn rude.

juegasiempre's picture
juegasiempre's picture
juegasiempre Thursday, 16 May 2024 at 1:28pm

And dumb. If they want their kids to be like Slater, they should read his fucking book. Tom Carroll's book too. They tell you how they did it and it's not from getting pushed into waves above their pay grade.

JB1's picture
JB1's picture
JB1 Thursday, 16 May 2024 at 1:39pm

100% there.

Lanky Dean's picture
Lanky Dean's picture
Lanky Dean Thursday, 16 May 2024 at 2:55pm

Fucken salty ......

tubeshooter's picture
tubeshooter's picture
tubeshooter Thursday, 16 May 2024 at 5:20pm

Gone are the days your parents wanted you to be anything but a surfer, especially a pro surfer.

seaslug's picture
seaslug's picture
seaslug Thursday, 16 May 2024 at 7:59pm

Haha dis is true TS

rich74's picture
rich74's picture
rich74 Thursday, 16 May 2024 at 6:34pm

yeah fair enough but i watched a tiny grom getting pushed in to crowded point breaks for years around byron around 20 years ago..it was soli bailey

Juliang's picture
Juliang's picture
Juliang Friday, 17 May 2024 at 7:09am

Yes good point you’ve got to get them away from the Play Station somehow

Bubble elder's picture
Bubble elder's picture
Bubble elder Friday, 17 May 2024 at 10:17pm

Hahaha I had the same experience with Soli and his dad at Nias in 2007, his dad was pushing him into waves out wide just blatantly burning everyone... There was no doubt the kid was a ripper but everyone was off the dad.

Juliang's picture
Juliang's picture
Juliang Friday, 17 May 2024 at 11:10am

Surfings not all about copying Tom Carroll or Kelly Slater. How many groms are going to win 11 world titles.It’s about having fun, not riding a board that’s too short ,with a squat unco style because the pros do.

Baron von Spatula's picture
Baron von Spatula's picture
Baron von Spatula Thursday, 16 May 2024 at 4:52pm

… fck! 110% agree.
Utter stupidity.

plops's picture
plops's picture
plops Thursday, 16 May 2024 at 6:36pm

Amen

benwaa's picture
benwaa's picture
benwaa Friday, 17 May 2024 at 8:42pm

... or the Dads on the beach taking videos of their kids to analyse after every surf.. jeez just let the kids surf.!

zoomzoom's picture
zoomzoom's picture
zoomzoom Saturday, 18 May 2024 at 8:48am

Couldn’t agree more. They are often the same guys that would lose their shit at anyone who dared to drop in on them.!

zoomzoom's picture
zoomzoom's picture
zoomzoom Saturday, 18 May 2024 at 8:48am

Couldn’t agree more. They are often the same guys that would lose their shit at anyone who dared to drop in on them.!

juegasiempre's picture
juegasiempre's picture
juegasiempre Thursday, 16 May 2024 at 1:42pm

I experienced this and other 'bad' behaviour from locals when I was in Bali. At first I was angry, then on reflection I thought well, we're visitors to their island, they're poor AF and it's the way it is. If you don't like it, you don't have to go although if you're going to a third world country to surf with good waves, the locals just look at you as a source of income unfortunately and if you're not giving them money, they'll treat you with disdain. Add to that the fact that Indo is a floating landfill is enough for me to not want to go back for a while.

andy-mac's picture
andy-mac's picture
andy-mac Thursday, 16 May 2024 at 1:41pm

Good write up, the older I get the better the past looked ey.
Sanur has notorious for it for years with Japanese guests. They would only be out on smaller days and it would be best just to go in and wait it out.
Last time at Ulu's was watching beginners getting pushed into waves there, some must be getting some pretty serious injuries/ reef cuts.

Panman's picture
Panman's picture
Panman Thursday, 16 May 2024 at 2:03pm

I surfed Sanur in the late 70s and the Balinese were taking Japanese guys out there guiding them for money. I don’t think I could handle that circus now, those tourist numbers are frightening.

Thegrowingtrend.com's picture
Thegrowingtrend.com's picture
Thegrowingtrend.com Thursday, 16 May 2024 at 2:27pm

Iv Blown up at Two Manly Surf School Coaches from out of town blatantly pushing their clients on waves already been ridden by other people.

Name and shame I say.
Iv done my years.

simsurf's picture
simsurf's picture
simsurf Thursday, 16 May 2024 at 2:34pm

Dedi is a legend, truly one of the easiest going and funniest guys you will ever meet.

On the other side of the coin, I was attacked at Keramas years ago by a guide years ago after he told me i couldn't paddle out when it was barely breaking at had some japanese tourists with him.

helmet-not-hose's picture
helmet-not-hose's picture
helmet-not-hose Thursday, 16 May 2024 at 2:56pm

+1 for the captain. I've had some great sessions with Dedi in the water.

andy-mac's picture
andy-mac's picture
andy-mac Thursday, 16 May 2024 at 3:44pm

Dedi's section starts a 4.50

https://m.

&pp=ygUibm90IGZvciBzYWxlIG1vdmllIHN1cmYgSW5kb25lc2lhIA%3D%3D

Bubble elder's picture
Bubble elder's picture
Bubble elder Friday, 17 May 2024 at 10:21pm

+2 for Dedi, he is a legend.

JB1's picture
JB1's picture
JB1 Thursday, 16 May 2024 at 2:48pm

Common denominator seems to be Japanese tourists... not cnts themselves, but the yen speaks.

Cimaja west java, decades ago, first witnessed the same Japanese yen and guides taking over the line. Lucky, as Freeride said above, had full belly after month out Painitain.

Sprout's picture
Sprout's picture
Sprout Thursday, 16 May 2024 at 2:49pm

Great work stu!

gingeryeti's picture
gingeryeti's picture
gingeryeti Thursday, 16 May 2024 at 2:58pm

This year's adult learner at small high tide Ulus is chandeliering your barrel next year at Racetrack.

Lanky Dean's picture
Lanky Dean's picture
Lanky Dean Thursday, 16 May 2024 at 2:59pm

Re ...ethics of surfing.......
Out the door.

Standupgoleft's picture
Standupgoleft's picture
Standupgoleft Thursday, 16 May 2024 at 3:04pm

Any point anywhere You here the frustration of the locals. You feel bad at times but you just want a break from sand breaks and stretch out on some walls! It is not just the surf thats crowded its everywhere thats nice. So whats the answer? Rules, ownership or shit fight

Wandi's picture
Wandi's picture
Wandi Thursday, 16 May 2024 at 5:06pm

The answer is to spend your time doing/exploring other sports.
Surfing is fun but you're not always going to have fun when you surf, especially when it's too crowded to surf.
Or chase the waves that the kooks won't touch.

Plasticspastic's picture
Plasticspastic's picture
Plasticspastic Thursday, 16 May 2024 at 3:32pm

Jeez dunno, I have been travelling to indo for the last 20 years, and am now not as able or efficeint as getting set waves as I was in my 20's or 30's and I have a bit more coin these days.. maybe I will sign up for a surf guide next time I am in indo....

memlasurf's picture
memlasurf's picture
memlasurf Sunday, 19 May 2024 at 7:38am

Ha ha my thoughts exactly can’t beat them join them.

lindo's picture
lindo's picture
lindo Thursday, 16 May 2024 at 3:32pm

As noted, the Hawaiian beach boys had been doing this for decades with rich foreigners, prior to surf guiding / coaching going globally viral, as the mass commercialization by the multinat surfwear companies kicked in. As others here have noted, we can't blame the Balinese for trying to make a few $ off the massive numbers of tourists there. Indeed it's probably a lot easier than trying to sell a carving or painting or massage ... to a sunburned tourist, as has happened since the early days of tourism. We also shouldn't expect the old 'rules of surfing' to apply, esp. in increasingly overcrowded lineups. Looking back to the 1st generation of Balinese surfers mostly riding boards left by visiting surfers, including me - gifted a 6'11'' flier-pin to Wayan Suwenda in '75 - we did not, in our wildest daydreams, imagine what would happen, as the hippy trail and beginnings of surf tourism morphed from losmons (with a few upper-class hotels in Kuta - Sanur - Ubud) to the massive affair it is today, as electricity was introduced to Kuta - Legian, and as the dirt streets were tarred. So it goes. The rapid transformation of Nusa Lembongan and Lagundri were equally remarkable, and no doubt such changes have ramified through other more-remote parts of that remarkable archipelago as surfing has grown.

seaslug's picture
seaslug's picture
seaslug Thursday, 16 May 2024 at 4:10pm

Its the only time I think to myself, thank fuck I'm getting old

seaslug's picture
seaslug's picture
seaslug Thursday, 16 May 2024 at 4:11pm

and next time, if, I go to Bali, I guess I will be guide hunting and have to suck it up...

seaslug's picture
seaslug's picture
seaslug Thursday, 16 May 2024 at 4:14pm

with a few extra Bin Juice's and Kretek's

I focus's picture
I focus's picture
I focus Thursday, 16 May 2024 at 4:22pm

On small days I have been blocked by guides, just smiled and waved thankfully in bigger swells much of that disappears.

A mate one of the better waves sneaks I know hired a guide on impulse one day and went out Ulus he couldn't believe the quality waves he was getting.

He said the only problem was when a bomb set came waves he wouldn't normally go the guide would pick the biggest one and say that's yours all the Balinese around him would part and he would have to go ended up with a photo with one 4 to 5 times over head.

Wandi's picture
Wandi's picture
Wandi Thursday, 16 May 2024 at 5:01pm

Is anyone really surprised as to what surfing has evolved into.
It's almost a curse growing up in a time when surfing was completely different because i know better.

geoffrey's picture
geoffrey's picture
geoffrey Saturday, 18 May 2024 at 10:27am

100%

tubeshooter's picture
tubeshooter's picture
tubeshooter Thursday, 16 May 2024 at 5:25pm

You can see the guides in action in a lot of clips these days.
See below

flollo's picture
flollo's picture
flollo Thursday, 16 May 2024 at 7:11pm

This is so depressing. No thanks, I’ll rather surf at home.

Juliang's picture
Juliang's picture
Juliang Friday, 17 May 2024 at 12:17am

Think I’ll take my chances at Super Bank , less drop ins!

Spuddups's picture
Spuddups's picture
Spuddups Saturday, 18 May 2024 at 9:14am

Haha, underrated comment!

Pato_'s picture
Pato_'s picture
Pato_ Thursday, 16 May 2024 at 5:36pm

So I can pay a guide and basically get called onto the sets at Ulu's for an hour or so? Sounds like a good deal for all but the non paying tourist.

OHV500's picture
OHV500's picture
OHV500 Thursday, 16 May 2024 at 5:53pm

So I've just booked a holiday in Bali. Haven't been for 45 years. Not sure what to expect now.

JB1's picture
JB1's picture
JB1 Thursday, 16 May 2024 at 5:54pm

Book a guide

OHV500's picture
OHV500's picture
OHV500 Thursday, 16 May 2024 at 5:59pm

Really !!!

JB1's picture
JB1's picture
JB1 Thursday, 16 May 2024 at 7:28pm

... alternatively, keep small bills on you in the lineup for on the spot wave purchases.

velocityjohnno's picture
velocityjohnno's picture
velocityjohnno Friday, 17 May 2024 at 12:47pm

Haha!

But who needs the inconvenience of cash? Try swiping with PayABitofItNowAndMostLater and you can have a wave in 4 easy-to-repay automatic debits from your savings account over 4 months!

Bungan33's picture
Bungan33's picture
Bungan33 Sunday, 19 May 2024 at 4:38pm

45 years!?!?! That’s a serious gap.
I don’t think there is anything anyone can tell you that will prepare you for Bali 2024 vs Bali 1980.
Different freaking planet to my first trip in 92. It just makes me utterly despondent but…: change is the universal constant and you can only be disappointed if you have an expectation. So…. I say shed ANY romantic notions you have of street side Nasi’s in Poppies II and crowdless earlies at Ulus and just expect a complete zoo overwhelm. Then you will land in the middle and love it as something new.

OHV500's picture
OHV500's picture
OHV500 Monday, 20 May 2024 at 9:43am

Yeah - keeping an open mind and just going with it. Hopefully it gets bigger and I have a few waves. Maybe it only happens at the known spots and I can grab a few elsewhere.

smallpants's picture
smallpants's picture
smallpants Thursday, 16 May 2024 at 6:00pm

The intentional, dangerous and relentless drop-ins on non-paying surfers by "guides" blows. You have to pay to not get dropped in on ... nothing to do with surf guiding.

RealityTV's picture
RealityTV's picture
RealityTV Sunday, 19 May 2024 at 9:14am

100%. This is a few small steps away from a protection racket. Pay up, or get stood over and sent in. Local cops in on the job etc etc...

B.B.Blitz's picture
B.B.Blitz's picture
B.B.Blitz Thursday, 16 May 2024 at 6:04pm

Saw it firsthand at a previously semi secret right way north of Keramas, old bowling ball head Sanur heavy guy turning up and intimidating locals and bules alike so the Japanese learners could get a wave.Got ugly ,local police called, after much to and fro Sunday was declared 'locals only' inclusive of guests staying over nearby.'Locals only' quickly became the drawcard as surf was clear of Sanur heavies and Japaneses learners....Line up was never crowded over 5 ft funnily enough.At one point it was 100k per wave for the learners, guess it's gone up by now...

jezza64's picture
jezza64's picture
jezza64 Thursday, 16 May 2024 at 8:08pm

He was a scary dude, but the real locals got pissed off as he was scaring everyone away. Invited not to come back.....pre-covid.

Balbero's picture
Balbero's picture
Balbero Thursday, 16 May 2024 at 6:38pm

Enlightening and sad state of the situation in Indo and other prime surf spots around the globe.
No cunt owns the ocean or waves. They are nothing we have made or even understand in full.
Just lazy hypocrite's selling their soul and identity to the love of ego and mamon...

tubeshooter's picture
tubeshooter's picture
tubeshooter Thursday, 16 May 2024 at 7:00pm

I can't really see it taking off in Oz though, surely.

I'm trying to imagine a local bloke in my area turning into a paid 'guide', and then blocking for a couple of tourist customers at the local breaks day after day.

I doubt he'd be a local much longer.

MGB's picture
MGB's picture
MGB Friday, 17 May 2024 at 10:03pm

Its already here, just the guide is on the beach with a camera telling the 12 kids around him to not worry about anyone out there and take anything you want. If you hassle them you will have the paying parents in your face when you come in. Its just so fucked.

greg-n.williams's picture
greg-n.williams's picture
greg-n.williams Thursday, 16 May 2024 at 7:14pm

Been surfing in Indo since the early 80's & have come across some GR8 waves & people (locals & visitors). First experience with surf gides was @ Serangan (early 2000's) where a mate & I were surfing by ourselves & were joined by several learners & a couple of Indo guides. After they pushed a couple of their clients into waves we were surfing we simply paddled up to the next reef. Then a few years later @ lombok with my then 15yr old son we were joined by several Euros & their gorilla guide! Needless to say things got a bit ugly after old mate pushed these kooks in front of my son a few times. He blew up saying we Aussies think we're so good & we had better be very careful in Lombok otherwise we would have to leave! He soon shut up though when my 6'6", 120kg, Kiwi mate paddled over & asked if there was a problem?? Next day was well over 5ft & they were nowhere to be seen, go figure! I get there maKing money, but we had a local driver, accommodation & eating in local restaurants etc. so we were also supporting the locals. Respect works both ways!

views from the cockpit's picture
views from the cockpit's picture
views from the ... Thursday, 16 May 2024 at 7:37pm

1989-90 Hikkaduwa Sri Lanka; a pom got speared for dropping in on a local.
I got harassed for tuning in a Swedish chick a local had his eyes on.
The jungle continues...

sypkan's picture
sypkan's picture
sypkan Thursday, 16 May 2024 at 9:24pm

coupla things:

spreading - it has already...

been reading reports of it now commonly happening across indonesia, specifically - lakey, banyaks, nias, and apparently is already well established practice in sri lanka

spreading 2 - to non local guides...

euro 'guides' now trying to pull the same trick in sumatra with their 'clients'

euro's clearly have a different introduction and indoctrination to surfing - and seem to think somehow this is all 'normal'. and now social media is jam packed with them referring their favourite guides to newbies

it's become the norm

a right of passage of sorts

right down to step by step instructions to live the dream...

seems cashed up, bulbous lipped, fully entouraged, russian half baked 'models' are all over it too...

are they european?

...were? ...still?

the other thing is the surf / yoga camp / retreat. fully packaged shit... accom. food, cars, 'vibes', guides, waves...

guaranteed...

ulus - bit tricky with a couple of camp loads of 10 - 15 competent surfers, and 4 or 5 guides each, ruling the take off...

one soon gets the feeling you're not 'entitled' to fairly aquire any set waves at all...

pretty much pay to play

'poor' locals...

should give em a break... true...

however, many simply are not, they're fucking killing it! ...and some of the well established ones have been for considerable time...

I don't buy at all thar they have little other option but to do so...

it's a choice that they make

good luck to them... but...

it's a choice the 'surfers' make too...

sorry, but I'm personally growing beyond tired of bule's with 'white knight' justifications for all sorts of unscrupulous behaviours across indonesia...

eases the internal pain I guess...

but it's pretty bloody naive and egocentric at best

Lanky Dean's picture
Lanky Dean's picture
Lanky Dean Thursday, 16 May 2024 at 9:40pm

I'd like to.buy some "VIBES" please

Solitude's picture
Solitude's picture
Solitude Thursday, 16 May 2024 at 8:55pm

Surfed outer island Indonesia on several trips. Have had no desire to surf Bali, have never been. Seems like Goldy crowds on reef.

What blows my mind is full blown beginners surfing reefs? They must get messed up.

A mate was in the Ments recently and couldn’t believe the kind of crowd that now goes there. He reckons a couple of Aussies or yanks here or there but heaps of Euros who could barely surf. As such the etiquette was rank.

Makes quiet corners of Oz seem pretty ideal. Thanks for the interesting report Stu.

memlasurf's picture
memlasurf's picture
memlasurf Sunday, 19 May 2024 at 7:48am

Yep euros are the worst.

Mickieyoyo's picture
Mickieyoyo's picture
Mickieyoyo Friday, 24 May 2024 at 11:36am

Yep! I love my Aussie swell chasing missions

tyzee63's picture
tyzee63's picture
tyzee63 Thursday, 16 May 2024 at 9:14pm

I was once out at Keramas on a fairly solid day, around 5-6ft. There was this Russian chick out there getting called into sets by her guide. She could barely get to her feet and had no business being out there, and we all just sat back and watched this circus play out. Back on land she openly acknowledged that's the only way she can get waves out there. Naturally she was totally clueless about surf culture and appropriate etiquette. Hence I'm done visiting Bali.

Supafreak's picture
Supafreak's picture
Supafreak Thursday, 16 May 2024 at 9:53pm

Great article, coming back from ments on ferry and noticed a lot of europeans traveling with indonesian surf guides , most were carrying mals , no idea where they surfed . Today out at the wreck was waist high occasionally bigger and very inconsistent. A surf coach that’s a good mate had a female who looked about 40 odd with lots of tattoos, even her eyebrows were tattooed on , looked weird . Anyway she was pushed into 3 waves and fell off immediately after standing up , the other european crew who were advanced enough not to need a guide were getting pissed off . I just waited patiently got 3 shoulder high waves then bailed . It’s certainly changed but once over 4ft you don’t see them .

eat-your-vegies's picture
eat-your-vegies's picture
eat-your-vegies Thursday, 16 May 2024 at 9:59pm

Localism has morphed into …..
Commercial localism
Gasp…

Roystein's picture
Roystein's picture
Roystein Thursday, 16 May 2024 at 10:04pm

No coming back unfortunately
Lombok south coast full of it and creeping into Sumbawa
“Picking the eyes out it” will become more and more difficult I n these areas.
It’s a shame but that’s progress…I don’t think we can hold back the inertia

Balbero's picture
Balbero's picture
Balbero Friday, 17 May 2024 at 4:51pm

Howzit Roystein, "progress" have no idea in what that means in this context guy...

Juliang's picture
Juliang's picture
Juliang Thursday, 16 May 2024 at 11:04pm

Surfing’s rules were written in a 1st world country, where everyone has a good job or gets the dole. In a 3rd world country, the survival of the fittest rule takes precedence over surfing’s rules, where necessity is the mother of invention.

benjis babe's picture
benjis babe's picture
benjis babe Friday, 17 May 2024 at 7:05am

in the 90's it was happening at Sanur, the indos who were doing it back then were arseholes in the water. same thing, couldn't work out why the bad vibe in the water

Phil Jarratt's picture
Phil Jarratt's picture
Phil Jarratt Friday, 17 May 2024 at 7:43am

My Bali dreams remain from the Bukit mid-'70s, but for the past 15 years my base has been on the Canggu coast, whose B-minus waves are now governed by surf guides/coaches and their clients. I still paddle out and get a few left-overs lefts at the predominantly right-breaking River Mouth before the onshores get up, but let's just say it's been a long time since I went to Bali for the surfing experience. But while we're doing the hand-wringing, it's worthy of note that an argument can be made that the first local surf guides worked for Bob Koke at his Kuta Beach Hotel in the 1930s, pushing guests into little shoreys at Halfways on a couple of wooden belly boards. So it's their fault!

Lanky Dean's picture
Lanky Dean's picture
Lanky Dean Friday, 17 May 2024 at 12:37pm

So Phil,
How do feel in indo nowdays?
Given your early hedonistic pioneering travels.
Moving through to the radical 80s
To the underground exploration in the 90s
The tumultuous 2000s
The development in the naughties......
What Era bested the others?
I'd be interested to find out.

amb's picture
amb's picture
amb Friday, 24 May 2024 at 5:33pm

same (Phil?)

scott.kempton's picture
scott.kempton's picture
scott.kempton Friday, 17 May 2024 at 7:44am

Don’t worry about Bali it’s outa hand here with some surf schools doing the same , and you guessed they start doing it without the surf coaches beside them later on . So you guessed it they get taught to just go oh then there’s good ol dad pushing there super grom into anything without any worry and they learn to just go . So no rules apply anymore full stop . As for indo glad we had the best of it back in the 80s and 90s in my time wouldn’t go back there if you paid me now tourism git the better of the place is all I here

Mick Lawrence's picture
Mick Lawrence's picture
Mick Lawrence Friday, 17 May 2024 at 7:58am

Great article as usual Stu.

To quote old mate Roger:

No tears to cry
No feelings left.
This species has amused itself to death.

ashsam's picture
ashsam's picture
ashsam Friday, 17 May 2024 at 8:44am

Spent 6 days surfing Canguu rights and 9 days at Kommune/Keramas in December.
Never saw a surf guide.

memlasurf's picture
memlasurf's picture
memlasurf Sunday, 19 May 2024 at 7:54am

Out of season no euros

Supafreak's picture
Supafreak's picture
Supafreak Sunday, 19 May 2024 at 10:41am

Hahaha , you wish

NDC's picture
NDC's picture
NDC Friday, 17 May 2024 at 8:46am

TLDR: sad.

Had zero idea this was a thing - great articel Stu - very sad to hear of it though...

I find it hard to imagine how the fee-paying client in the tale could have enjoyed that experience. I should know better as I like most have run into self-obsessed characters who are blind to the bitter seeds they're sowing and that they and also we will harvest. Having an entire crew your sitting shoulder to shoulder with freezing you for two hours. Like ice. No thanks.

Sadly, I can only see it spreading in places like bali. Then the pile on when non-paying surfers start to drop in on the fee-paying client. Then; might will become right - physical intimidation, fights etc. It's ugly and nothing to do with the reasons I fell in love with surfing.

I think I heard of a snapper local (who I won't name as I'm not 100% about this) running paid clients through the apex of the peak at snapper on a ski some years ago. So the client could could do a jet-ski assisted and local enabled step-off and jag waves they hadn't earned. Thankfully it seems this has not become commonplace in Oz yet and can only imagine in this case the rest of the local crew had a few words.

Guess I will graviatae to other less populous places and remain in touch with the real joys of surfing when and where I can. Also be grateful that I have enjoyed a full life of surfing without this kind of shit.

Surfalot67's picture
Surfalot67's picture
Surfalot67 Saturday, 18 May 2024 at 11:02am

Yep. Dingo

McQuartzie's picture
McQuartzie's picture
McQuartzie Friday, 17 May 2024 at 9:25am

You can shove bali up ya A$#E.

freeride76's picture
freeride76's picture
freeride76 Friday, 17 May 2024 at 9:38am

I think wave pools have ushered in a major philosophical shift in surfing.

For the first time ever, there is now a direct commercial price put on a wave.

As it turns out- it's pretty high.

You pay this money- you get X waves.

Those growing up with this mentality- I paid my money, now I get those waves- will not understand the older method of meritocracy and experience, and connection to a place or wave. That will be alien to them. There will be growing numbers in Europe where wavepools seem most prevalent.
All they will understand is a pure transaction- I paid my money, I get my waves.

I want my waves at Ulus, I will pay x dollars and get them.

Line-ups for these people will be a: people who have paid and get their waves and b: the rest who will be like the spectators at a wave pool.

Ben Elvy's picture
Ben Elvy's picture
Ben Elvy Monday, 20 May 2024 at 11:56am

Maybe that's the Euro way of thinking after growing up skiing? (Them, not me).
"I've paid for my lift ticket, I'm getting my runs in. The quicker I get back up the hill, the more runs I get!"
As for the guides, that's also a likely relic of the ski industry. Makes sense why Euro's (& others) would want that same level of experience, they simply don't know, don't want to know or pretend not to know the "accepted/right/traditional/agreed" etc ways of surf etiquette.

campbell's picture
campbell's picture
campbell Friday, 17 May 2024 at 10:01am

Another part of the reason visiting / travelling surfers are so disrespectful these days. Learn to surf at a school in Bali...Shame they dont teach them the rules too.
Had a late surf last night, average waves, lineup full of accents , the snaking and dropping in was next level, constant paddling right back up the inside. Sad really, worse even that most of them are totally oblivious to their lack of etiquette so no hope for improvement.
I,ve travelled heaps, Aus and overseas, always solo or +1, always kept the head down and sat at the end of the line in a new spot, a nod or g,day , show the locals respect, dont park up all day in the best spots and ease your way in, be a quiet Haole etc etc (not that hard).
Hard to fathom how you can rock up to someone elses break and be a hassling cunt. Old days would have gotten tuned pretty quickly at most places but now the locals are the minority so chaos reigns.
Australia is on its way to being the next Bali.

juegasiempre's picture
juegasiempre's picture
juegasiempre Friday, 17 May 2024 at 11:24am

Outside of the chaotic breaks and angry old men, I thought the etiquette of everywhere I travelled, on the east coast at least, was really good. Victorians weren't too friendly to someone with a QLD numberplated vehicle but I'd be sad and grumpy too if I lived in Victoria as a surfer!

memlasurf's picture
memlasurf's picture
memlasurf Sunday, 19 May 2024 at 7:59am

Well we aren’t jumping hoops for you to come back. Avoid the hassle stay where you are.

Surfalot67's picture
Surfalot67's picture
Surfalot67 Sunday, 19 May 2024 at 8:08am

That’s pretty lame mate. Surfed Vicco from 75-89 before moving to the GC. Then came back 92-95. Does that make me a blow in when I come back for a visit? Probably still surfed longer in Vicco than most self proclaimed “locals”. Frankly that attitude is the root of the problem

memlasurf's picture
memlasurf's picture
memlasurf Monday, 20 May 2024 at 10:19am

You must be a smidgen older than I. I didn't mention blowins and you are welcome anytime I love a chat in the water so much so I miss waves or give them away. My socialising time. Not sure where you got hassled however I am guessing west coast which I no longer surf, way too busy and too much work to get there (good waves though). Attitude is a problem anywhere it is crowded try to broaden your selection chosen surf spots here and you may be enlightened. I too remember uncrowded waves back in the dark ages of late 70's/early 80's unfortunately it is just a memory.

Dx3's picture
Dx3's picture
Dx3 Monday, 20 May 2024 at 10:07am

Yeh I'm sure those you surfed with in Victoria saw your QLD number plate in the car-park and then treated you differently in the water, sounds highly believable.... who the hell bothers checking someone's number plate in the carpark.

You came here during the worst time of year for surf, got skunked, and now have a chip on your shoulder about Vicco surfers.

JB1's picture
JB1's picture
JB1 Monday, 20 May 2024 at 5:43pm

Victoria has to be the most mellow place to surf in Australia... very chilled and very welcoming.

Maybe you were just a knob jugaisempre.

Juliang's picture
Juliang's picture
Juliang Friday, 17 May 2024 at 11:51am

Except Australia is many times bigger than Bali, with thousands more waves , known and unknown.

goofyfoot's picture
goofyfoot's picture
goofyfoot Friday, 17 May 2024 at 10:09am

As long as they stay away from G-land…

soggydog's picture
soggydog's picture
soggydog Friday, 17 May 2024 at 10:43am

I think zee Russians have been onto it already GF. Joyo’s Instagram re posting Russian surfschool footage.

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet Friday, 17 May 2024 at 10:53am

I watched two of them do a low tide reef hop near Fan Palms that was like the beginning of a Betadine commercial. God knows they'd need to cover themselves in it that night.

A bunch of them had booked out Jawa Jiwa, most had gone to 20/20s but these two wanted a shot at the main stage.

soggydog's picture
soggydog's picture
soggydog Friday, 17 May 2024 at 11:00am

Yeah, I’d planned to take my daughter this year with 20/20’s and tigers in mind for her. Still mite but the thought of competing with a Russian surf school, doesn’t really appeal. I’ve booked T land for September-October.

ashsam's picture
ashsam's picture
ashsam Friday, 17 May 2024 at 11:19am

Did a boat trip to T Land 27 years ago.

goofyfoot's picture
goofyfoot's picture
goofyfoot Friday, 17 May 2024 at 12:27pm

Ughhh makes me cringe

ashsam's picture
ashsam's picture
ashsam Friday, 17 May 2024 at 12:41pm

goofyfoot in mouth disease

goofyfoot's picture
goofyfoot's picture
goofyfoot Friday, 17 May 2024 at 12:50pm

Wasn’t talking to you ya fuckwit.
Replied to soggydog.

soggydog's picture
soggydog's picture
soggydog Friday, 17 May 2024 at 12:59pm

I had to share a room at Joyo's with a Russian dude the year before last for a couple of days. Not the friendliest dude at all. Big group of then doing dawneys to 20/20’s + Tigers. Trying to strike a conversation was like pulling teeth.

goofyfoot's picture
goofyfoot's picture
goofyfoot Friday, 17 May 2024 at 1:28pm

Ha! How awkward!
I still find it strange that they have really taken to Indo the last few years. Would never have guessed it.

ashsam's picture
ashsam's picture
ashsam Friday, 17 May 2024 at 1:38pm

sorry innocent mistake

goofyfoot's picture
goofyfoot's picture
goofyfoot Friday, 17 May 2024 at 2:10pm

Cmon mate don’t edit it now..

ashsam's picture
ashsam's picture
ashsam Friday, 17 May 2024 at 2:20pm

you have a short fuse lol

Lanky Dean's picture
Lanky Dean's picture
Lanky Dean Friday, 17 May 2024 at 10:17am

I was talking to a buddy who heads down to mainland mex, 150$ a day to surf ............spots
Food also provided and protection.
Been happening for a few years he said.

peabo's picture
peabo's picture
peabo Friday, 17 May 2024 at 11:11am

Reading this makes me appreciate the average cold water waves I get with no one around all the more

spinafex's picture
spinafex's picture
spinafex Friday, 17 May 2024 at 11:13am

I was in Medewi over xmas admittedly opposite of peak season. The surf guides there have the rules posted on a board which parts of the wave guides can take learners to. The guides would call me onto waves if their clients paddled inside me. This worked because the crowd was small. But I'm guessing would fall apart with decent crowds.

wally's picture
wally's picture
wally Friday, 17 May 2024 at 11:18am

It seems a simple case of a new phenomenon (the adult learner surfer) meeting an old phenomenon (cash-poor locals monetizing wealthy visitors).

sypkan's picture
sypkan's picture
sypkan Friday, 17 May 2024 at 2:09pm

totally this...

blame surfschools

(european and ozzie ones too!)

blame covid

blame social media

blame capitalism

blame digital 'nomads'

blame the decades long marketing of the surfing lifestyle

it's all of the above...

the most stark obvious change in bali / indo over recent times is the change in the people that now go there

I may have a romantic outlook about my prime years... but bali etc. was once full of hardy independent travellers, backpacker types, and everything had a modest grungy tinge to it all...

now it's gone full glam, with cashed up 'entrepeneaural' types seeking a glamourous beach side lifesyle, frequenting oz price cafes, restaurants, and beyond oz price beach clubs...

it is very european in nature now, the architecture, the feel, even the names...

right down to every beach and bar now being jam packed with sun lounges and sun umbrellas (something we still don't really seem to do in oz....)

it's not surprising europeans and russians are so attracted to such a glamouous, stunning weather and surroundings lifestyle...

and if I may be a little sexist for a moment... it appears the chicks are attracted to this glam element just as much, if not more, than the actual surfing... not surprising really, they can fill their SM with top notch 'content' whilst barely leaving the villa...

they also can hire local photogs and and entourage of light catcher minions for a fraction of the price at home

post covid - this, and the whole 'learn to surf in bali' pheomenen, has dovetailed rather perfectly with the push from indo higher authorities to seek '...a higher class of tourist...'

'class' is a funny concept in indonesia...

and from my perspective, the whole scene is pretty trashy, right down to the behaviours of the supposed 'higher class of tourists'

in a ten year period, bingin beach has basically gone from grungy surfer types, wearing little more than a well worn pair of boardies, to absolute glam, with the boys dining in their designer shirts and sunnies, and the girls dressed to the beach glam nines, with associated designer bikinis, bags, and botox...

it's all a bit odd to be totally honest, such a contrast to what it recently was... but also the contrast to the local people's lifestyle - which one hardly sees now btw - as there is a now a clear divisiion between the players and 'staff'

something that was always there I guess... but the friendliness and warm relationship element seems lost...

Lanky Dean's picture
Lanky Dean's picture
Lanky Dean Friday, 17 May 2024 at 9:06pm

From a client aspect, I think you've summed it up.
Everywhere changes generationally, so the funny question is to wonder what will Bali be like in ten years time?

The tourists have created this dilemma, though like the saying goes ...."becareful what you wish for" .....

Don't think the surf industry and pros aren't responsible for this problem......

AFTER THE OLYMPICS, TEAHUPO'O is next .........

delay_pdl's picture
delay_pdl's picture
delay_pdl Sunday, 19 May 2024 at 6:02pm

Ohhh sypkan.. ya shoulda put in a trigger warning.. cos how fkn hilarious are bulbous, pouty, botox lips!! Hahahahaha.. I can't wait to see 'em in 10-20 years when their 'lips' are sitting on their clavicles or fallen off altogether.. fuck SM..

Peter Reynolds's picture
Peter Reynolds's picture
Peter Reynolds Friday, 17 May 2024 at 12:52pm

This story is really interesting, this is why I subscribe to this site! I hung off every word of it, thanks Stu! It's quite sad as well but I suppose it doesn't surprise me, I haven't been to Bali in 15 years but it is very similar to a trip I did to PNG over 20 years ago. Some of the locals in the village I stayed at had never seen a white person before that's how remote we went and there was a dominant local that absolutely ripped. He welcomed us into the village, it was me and a friend on one of those companies (now defunct) that organised surf trips. I felt bad because every set wave he let it pass for me and my friend to gobble up, and gobble up we did. He said he didn't mind because we should tell our friends how good the waves are so more people would go there and surf, he probably got a little kick back from the surf company I don't know. I guess this was the first kind of local surf guide business in PNG but it left me feeling uneasy how we took whatever waves we wanted, at said locals blessing, when he did get a wave he destroyed it so much more gracefully then we did. I had no idea this is going on in Bali and I'm not sure I'm down for it!

maddogmorley's picture
maddogmorley's picture
maddogmorley Friday, 17 May 2024 at 1:08pm

Hi Peter - don't suppose you were surfing a long left in Lavongai (New Hanover Island) were you?

Peter Reynolds's picture
Peter Reynolds's picture
Peter Reynolds Friday, 17 May 2024 at 2:59pm

Hey maddog, nah mate it was on the mainland up near the border to Indonesia, the village was called Lido, about 7 stops up on the mail plane, basically a headland that jutted out from the coast, a longish left on the main side and small but totally fun right on the other side when wind/swell played ball. I can even remember the locals name in English it translated to "David", we called him "The David" as he was one fine specimen, perfectly cut like Michaelangelo's statue hahaha, ran the village.
You get some good waves in Lavongai?

maddogmorley's picture
maddogmorley's picture
maddogmorley Friday, 17 May 2024 at 4:15pm

Ahhh ok - thought it might have been same place as i was up Lavongai way similar time frame as you on a catamaran run by Adam and Dani and the island we were moored off hadn't seen a white woman until 5 yrs prior. Dani was that woman. Yes got some very good waves - long left running down the island on the incoming tide, a short barrelling right on the big island (New Hanover Island) and a slightly longer right down down the reef a bit. At that point no-one else was up there (Clem's place didn't exist yet) and only 1 other boat did that area (PNG surfaris) and we only saw them once or twice. Think at that stage they used to do the run from Manus down to Kavieng. Pretty wild part of the world that's for sure - or was back then - so primitive and remote. Don't think they actually had any money (nowhere to spend it), tobacco from the trees and trade using shells. Kids would canoe to the big island every morning for school and the women would canoe over late morning to attend their vegie gardens, talk and smash beetlenut all day.Can't remember having a lay-day in 2 x 10 days trips.

Juliang's picture
Juliang's picture
Juliang Friday, 17 May 2024 at 7:40pm

Guess where the Bali hordes might be going next?

maddogmorley's picture
maddogmorley's picture
maddogmorley Saturday, 18 May 2024 at 5:13pm

That's the beauty of it Juliang. The hordes can't go there cause they have a surf management plan. The numbers are capped at 15 at Levongai and 20 at Kavieng :)

Juliang's picture
Juliang's picture
Juliang Saturday, 18 May 2024 at 5:39pm

Yes the numbers are capped at those places , but there must be other waves there ,if you look that are possibly empty.I found perfect waves with no one in sight in another country,which I won’t name now,capped at 1

velocityjohnno's picture
velocityjohnno's picture
velocityjohnno Friday, 17 May 2024 at 1:02pm

The New World's Oldest Profession.

vicbloke's picture
vicbloke's picture
vicbloke Friday, 17 May 2024 at 1:22pm

was at a well known break in Bali last year with a bit of size and could not believe the carnage I witnessed due to the surf schools. Saw one young pretty Euro girl cop a board to the head. She come up coughing and spluttering after a decent hold down and the guide paddle over and laughed. was about 6 of them on the one wave all being pushed in. stick to cold miserable Victoria as I know the surf guide industry will never take off down here due to the weather

harrycoopr's picture
harrycoopr's picture
harrycoopr Friday, 17 May 2024 at 1:23pm

I'm still a a soul surfer... the romanticised nostalgic image still lives on.

mredhill's picture
mredhill's picture
mredhill Friday, 17 May 2024 at 1:52pm

Can we actually stop calling them 'guides'? Hiring someone to paddle onto a wave so you can take off unimpeded is just employing private security guard.

sypkan's picture
sypkan's picture
sypkan Friday, 17 May 2024 at 2:40pm

yep

local mafia thugs to a certain extent...

how about 'coach'?

that's a much thrown around term...

and further to my point above re. class and calibre of tourist

this 'coach' term fits in with the wider language and phenomenen...

where it has become quite normal for upper lowly classes to now have a 'personal trainer', a 'life coach', a yoga guru, a 'surf coach'

bali is chock full of these supposed 'life coach' digital nomad types...

preaching - and I mean preaching! - all sorts of questionable indulgent garbage

throw in the crypto bros.

and its just like the 80's all over again!

pyramid scheme selling... 'golden wave' gurus... self help marketers... dodgy propety deal spruiking... lifestyle selling charletans...

all rolled in, with some seriously questionable ethics it would seem...

80's gold coast on steroids

soggydog's picture
soggydog's picture
soggydog Friday, 17 May 2024 at 4:19pm

Hired “Blockers” maybe.

Lanky Dean's picture
Lanky Dean's picture
Lanky Dean Friday, 17 May 2024 at 9:11pm

Throw some white shoes on em.....

RockyIsland's picture
RockyIsland's picture
RockyIsland Friday, 17 May 2024 at 7:57pm

Been going on for decades in the ski industry with cashed up punters hiring a private instructor to cut lift lines.
Was down the beach with my Kelpie the other week.
Usually walk and find a nice bank to myself and surf without a leggie whilst she sits on my towel and guards my stuff. If I lose my board she runs to it in the shorey and I grab it and give her a pat. She runs back to my stuff. Anyway I digress.
Had to walk past 2 perfect banks the other day as elite gentlemen colleges had flagged the bank with their flags proclaiming their Latin mottos and laying claim to their version of "OURS".
Spewin as they were the best banks I I had seen for years.
No sign of lessons, a registered surf school or teachers on the beach.
They were there all day and it wasn't a comp (another con ) they were having a ball and they were all ripping.
Rejoined my local board riders recently to surf a once non contest popular reef now open for comps.
Worth it to surf it with just 4 in the water.
Not interested in competing just want to catch as many waves as I can in 20 mins.
Surfing is definitely an elitist sport now.

Halfscousehalfcockneyfullaussie's picture
Halfscousehalfcockneyfullaussie's picture
Halfscousehalfc... Friday, 17 May 2024 at 8:22pm

Surfed average Legian beach last year and watched the same Japanese woman get pushed in on the good ones and everyone else blocked by the Balo surf guides. Couldn’t take it anymore and dropped in…… copped a spray for me efforts by the Balo surf guide and tried to send me in but I wouldn’t budge……. I would dare say if that was in Australia there would be a punch up on the beach……. Just the unknown in Bali… Not the right attitude granted but i don’t think aussies would cop that in there own country

Richard Allen's picture
Richard Allen's picture
Richard Allen Friday, 17 May 2024 at 10:30pm

There were japs at periscopes getting pushed in last year. And japs at cimaja. I am over indo

simonh's picture
simonh's picture
simonh Friday, 17 May 2024 at 11:23pm

Sadly it's happened in Australia already thanks to Surfing Australia

dandandan's picture
dandandan's picture
dandandan Friday, 17 May 2024 at 11:33pm

Great conversation starter on a really sad and frustrating topic Stu. I've sat down to write about these issues so many times the last five years or so, but I actually get too fired up and existentially depressed whenever I do haha.

I'm going to Indonesia for a month this year, and I'm spending no more than a fortnight of that surfing. The allure of it - at least from a distance - is waning. I know the magic still exists, that there are empty waves all over the place, and quiet perfect mornings and afternoons to be had even in the most crowded line ups. But the images and videos I have seen from crowds right across the archipelago - Bali, Lombok, Sumbawa, Sumba, Krui, Mentawais, Pactian, Aceh, Banyaks - has just been so depressing. The amount of foreigners desperately plugging their surf resorts and trying to funnel thousands of people through their doors is wild and shameful. I feel like I'll have a more enjoyable month hanging out away from what have become cookie-cutter, cosmopolitan surf coasts and spending time in the mountains and on less developed surfless islands east. Such a thought was unimaginable ten years ago.

And on where all this could go... Everybody in the 90s and 2000s said the Ments would never get crowded as it was so remote. People used to say Uluwatu would never be overrun with beginners because it was a "real surfers wave". People said noone would travel all the way to the Telos to surf 1-2 foot burgers. Noone 20 years ago expected the Russians to be running clandestine surf schools, or taking over surfbreaks Sri Lanka. Time and time again things people think would never happen to surfing, happen. A world where you have to pay for every wave you catch in Indonesia is entirely possible, as is a world where surf guides block you in Australia.

Juliang's picture
Juliang's picture
Juliang Saturday, 18 May 2024 at 7:41am

If the banks are good and the wind from the west there are waves from Sydney to Noosa,I can’t see guides becoming an issue here or out in the desert .

Surfalot67's picture
Surfalot67's picture
Surfalot67 Saturday, 18 May 2024 at 8:10am

Remember Occ tried this on the GC. Rich f wits from down south paying him to block and take them to wherever was working on the day. Didn’t last long as the crew pushed back and cooked his punters

Batswana's picture
Batswana's picture
Batswana Saturday, 18 May 2024 at 8:32am

You're kidding yourself if you think it's not happening here as well.

On the northern Goldy about 10 years ago, out for the early, only one out, mid week. Banks are good. See a crew of about 6 all wearing helmets rock up on the beach and start stretching. The bank to the south (empty) is the same as the one I'm on. The bank to the north, a left (also empty) is fun.

Within minutes I'm surrounded by middle aged men, in helmets mostly struggling with their boards. I know two of the blokes, good surfers, they're embarrassed and apologise profusely. They all work for a local hotel chain in upper/middle management and somehow their corporate leader has conned head office into using surfing as training for "leadership and team bonding".

The "coach" has sent them straight out on top of me, and is giving them all instructions from the beach through a head set into their helmets, telling them when to paddle, where to sit etc. After the first drop in, I lose my shit and tell them all to get fucked, and one of them (turns out later to be the "leader") has a crack back. I give him a run down on the "rules", and the blokes I know settle him down and tell them all to move to the other bank, again, apologising profusely.

I get one in and confront the "coach" on the way past, a recent arrival to the area who gives me the classic "not your beach bru".

That didn't go down well - needless to say we didn't see them back there again. I still surf with those other two blokes and we laugh about it now - it's pretty shit how low some blokes will go to make money though.

Spuddups's picture
Spuddups's picture
Spuddups Saturday, 18 May 2024 at 9:31am

I reckon there's still parts of Indo where you can get away from the crowds and have the old style feral experience. You're just going to have to do a lot of travelling and endure some hardship... which is basically what it used to be like. I'm never going back to Bali.

lamph1's picture
lamph1's picture
lamph1 Saturday, 18 May 2024 at 10:23am

oh god the mental images make me shudder....in crowds like that...no thanks

shraz's picture
shraz's picture
shraz Saturday, 18 May 2024 at 11:10am

What's the difference between that and here in Oz where a handful of 'local boardrider club' heros will block everyone from the takeoff area on a good day at any good point break along the east coast or a reef elsewhere while they take turns, and then they'll burn you if you manage to outwit them for a bomb you waited wide for! Happens all the time no matter how patient and respectful you are, what a shitty generation of entitled wankers.

Ben Elvy's picture
Ben Elvy's picture
Ben Elvy Monday, 20 May 2024 at 12:02pm

+100

Pinilok's picture
Pinilok's picture
Pinilok Saturday, 18 May 2024 at 11:57am

A long time Mentawai charter boat guide told me a few days ago the last swell at Telescopes was the worst display of surf etiquette he had ever seen. Mostly surf school euros with no clue wanting to get their instagram shot. Not their fault but their guides/hosts. Nyang Island (Ebay, pitstops, etc) has 63 accommodations on it now. The place is cooked.

stew_asu's picture
stew_asu's picture
stew_asu Saturday, 18 May 2024 at 12:00pm

25k a day for a chater boat? doubt it.

basesix's picture
basesix's picture
basesix Saturday, 18 May 2024 at 12:27pm

takes all sorts, this 1968 ex-British Naval vessel was decked out in 2006 in, umm, "1980-manhattan-bachelor-penthouse chic"... now gets chartered for a half-million US$ p/w in peak season East Indo..

jsc's picture
jsc's picture
jsc Saturday, 18 May 2024 at 1:12pm

Nothing wrong with Balinese and other Indonesian surfers leveraging their waves to make a living from visiting surfers - they don't share the same egalitarian cultural values as Australians, Americans, Brits and other peoples influenced for the previous millennia by English common law and Anglo-Saxon communal values.

Egalitarian - believing in or based on the principle that all people are equal and deserve equal rights and opportunities.

Doesn't apply in Indonesia, Indonesians do what is necessary to make a living - the government doesn't pay people who don't have a job, people have to do what they can to make money and being a "surf coach" is a good job in Bali and elsewhere in Indonesia.

This trend is unlikely to catch on to any large degree in Australia - Australians are too rich for the most part and there are many other options to earn an income without the forceful (if not violent pushback) from people in the water to these practices, as Australia IS the most egalitarian-minded of the English-speaking nations, far more than Americans.

This kind of thing has been practiced for decades in Hawaii, both in Waikiki and with modern surf guides and their Japanese clients, and likely in California as well, but it would be a hard sell in Australia.

There are literally hundreds of empty waves on both sides of Indonesia, the Indian Ocean side and the Pacific Ocean, but you do have to take the time and make the effort to find them and then; make the effort to get off the beaten track to get there, which in many cases, is not easy nor convenient.

It's a lot easier to just book a flight to Bali and stay in a nice accommodation, with good waves nearby. That's why it's crowded!

Here is feature we did in February in Pacific Indonesia - well-off the beaten track, we were the first group of surfers ever to stay in the village on this island, a village carved out of the forest with no roads or vehicles, boat travel is the only way in or out.

These text and image materials were offered to Swellnet for publication, but were rejected for philosophical reasons, so you can view the feature instead on Medium -

https://medium.com/@johnseatoncallahan_64069/distant-islands-d23ffa983cfa

Plenty of unridden waves and surfing adventure travel out there, if you are willing to make the effort.

Michael Adam's picture
Michael Adam's picture
Michael Adam Sunday, 19 May 2024 at 11:05am

You are part of the problem.

dandandan's picture
dandandan's picture
dandandan Sunday, 19 May 2024 at 6:53pm

It's really strange how he doesn't see that given it's so obvious.

jsc's picture
jsc's picture
jsc Sunday, 19 May 2024 at 8:47pm

We were invited by an Indonesian citizen to visit this island and make a surfing project - thanks

JB1's picture
JB1's picture
JB1 Monday, 20 May 2024 at 2:43pm

100%

jsc's picture
jsc's picture
jsc Sunday, 19 May 2024 at 10:36pm

I am not the problem. The problem is you and people like you.

You complaining long and bitterly, with great emotion and resentment, that places like Bali and Siargao have been ruined by development and crowds of "kooks", never giving a moment of consideration or any thought whatsoever to the thousands of jobs created for locals by this development, only that it impedes your ability to spend your holidays as cheaply as possible, surfing with as few rich, white western people like yourself as possible.

Then, when someone like myself shows you a surfing location with warm water tropical waves and no one surfing - you respond by complaining long and bitterly, with great emotion and resentment, that I am the problem?

Maybe you should simply quit surfing, as it seems to bring you a great deal of agony, bitterness and disappointment.

dandandan's picture
dandandan's picture
dandandan Monday, 20 May 2024 at 1:18am

Don't be so disingenuous. There's a lot more nuanced conversation going on than that, and not just here and other surfing media but in Indonesia as well.

I focus's picture
I focus's picture
I focus Monday, 20 May 2024 at 11:49am

Actually Dandandan I don't think there is to much nuance going on, most don't want to hear it but reading though the complaints (I am guilty as well) there is an overbearing feel of self entitlement that somehow we deserve less crowds and input from the Balinese for our own pleasure / fulfillment to satisfy (temporarily) our surfing addiction.

All the while we are happy that Balinese live a subsistence based life on the edge.

Moralizing I know suspect closer to reality perhaps.

jsc's picture
jsc's picture
jsc Tuesday, 21 May 2024 at 11:31am

Thank you -

In my opinion, the entitlement is obvious and more than a little racist in that rich, white Australian surfers EXPECT to be treated well by servile brown people on their holidays - and they expect those servile brown people to STAY POOR as long as possible, so they can continue to enjoy their cheap surfing holidays for as little money as possible and with as few fellow rich, white western surfers as themselves as possible to share the waves with.

The fact that Balinese are not following that template makes some people angry - that Balinese are using what they have (waves) to make money from non-Australian surfers is somehow wrong and a violation of some sort of unwritten code, dictated by Australian surfers, that Balinese are supposed to follow?

Rubbish - Balinese can do what they like to make money on their island, in their country.

JB1's picture
JB1's picture
JB1 Monday, 20 May 2024 at 5:54pm

Flog.

andrew-pitt's picture
andrew-pitt's picture
andrew-pitt Saturday, 18 May 2024 at 1:58pm

Went to Ulu's a few years back.
Writing on the cliff face, in massive bold white letters - "Your Rules Do Not Apply"
Ok, i get the message.

Lanky Dean's picture
Lanky Dean's picture
Lanky Dean Monday, 20 May 2024 at 9:42am

Do you think the indos used Google translate?
Or was it an expat?
Wonder how many expats employ these guides ?

ashsam's picture
ashsam's picture
ashsam Saturday, 18 May 2024 at 7:42pm

No different than the Gold Coast now.
Would still rather go to Bali for a holiday than Coolangatta though.
Plenty of other places than between Canguu and Ulu..
Look at it as a holiday with the Mrs/ Girlfriend, stay within walking distance to a break and surf early.
Then enjoy the day if you get another one in bonus.
The good old days are over.

Lucre's picture
Lucre's picture
Lucre Saturday, 18 May 2024 at 10:51pm

Don’t agree but I reckon I’d pay a $1000 for a good one at pipe haha

Lanky Dean's picture
Lanky Dean's picture
Lanky Dean Monday, 20 May 2024 at 9:20am

Ha, I guess some are pretty rich....
Won't happen on the Northshore
The waves are so heavy they'll rip your boardies off.
Not a good look for social media......

Juliang's picture
Juliang's picture
Juliang Sunday, 19 May 2024 at 8:01am

Hassling which can be viewed as wave theft,is allowed under surfing’s ‘rules’.Not everyone enjoys hasslings dog eat dog mentality,so why not pay someone to hassle for you?

Juliang's picture
Juliang's picture
Juliang Sunday, 19 May 2024 at 8:06am

Hassling which can be viewed as wave theft,is allowed under surfing’s ‘rules’.Not everyone enjoys hasslings dog eat dog mentality,so why not pay someone to hassle for you?

hamishbro's picture
hamishbro's picture
hamishbro Sunday, 19 May 2024 at 10:06am

This is horrible. Just horrible. Cold water and remote locations the last refuge.

garyg1412's picture
garyg1412's picture
garyg1412 Monday, 20 May 2024 at 10:14am

Agree.
Simple solution. Just surf where the thickness of your neoprene is no less than 5mm!!!
No surf guides in those zones nor will there ever be.

Fatnuts's picture
Fatnuts's picture
Fatnuts Sunday, 19 May 2024 at 10:32am

Err while on the topic of Indo searching. There’s another way you’ll pay…..they’ve just upped the baggage cost per surfboard per leg from 500G IDR to 1Mill IDR
And they’re opening board bags to count em!

bbbird's picture
bbbird's picture
bbbird Sunday, 19 May 2024 at 10:58am

This is a monthly travesty at busy beaches in NSW. Guys put up flags & tents then, take over all the best waves, on the weekend,
trying to ride the latest craze,
in and out of their 'zone'
score their mates high ....with a megaphone, .... just in case you forget & find a solitary wave... bout 1km away.
reference
https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/travesty

Seaweed's picture
Seaweed's picture
Seaweed Sunday, 19 May 2024 at 12:47pm

As a place I once loved so much it pains me to say I’ll never return after my last visit, not only were the lineups dis functionally dangerous but the attitude of the tourists on land was disgusting, as much as I once loved surf travel now I get more waves at home and don’t even take boards on holiday anymore.

harrycoopr's picture
harrycoopr's picture
harrycoopr Sunday, 19 May 2024 at 5:16pm

"Luxury Surf Resort"
"Surf Villa"

F$ck $ff

dandandan's picture
dandandan's picture
dandandan Sunday, 19 May 2024 at 6:57pm

Agreed. The commodification of it all is maddening.

burleigh's picture
burleigh's picture
burleigh Sunday, 19 May 2024 at 5:42pm

i don'e even bring boards to bali anymore. I still enjoy being there, just not in the fucking ocean.

ashsam's picture
ashsam's picture
ashsam Sunday, 19 May 2024 at 6:29pm

Maybe this could be your thing there now Burleigh :)

harrycoopr's picture
harrycoopr's picture
harrycoopr Sunday, 19 May 2024 at 10:09pm

Jeezuz...hoop yoga whatsathingy.
Unfortunately capital and its masters find a way to commodify and trendify everything... ie the first guys who made a buck on the surf lifestyle they loved. The current culture is a symptom of this taken to the nth degree what with reality tv and "influencers"... it's not just that we're getting older but that the culture itself is getting commodified...
But, as Tenzin Gyatsu put it... "The planet doesn't need more ""successful"" people." The planet desperately needs more people who cultivate peace, people who help heal and rehabilitate, who tell stories and give love in every way possible. It needs people who live meaningfully in their places of origin, with moral courage, willing to fight for a more habitable and humane world; and these qualities, have very little to do with success as our current culture understands it

Halfscousehalfcockneyfullaussie's picture
Halfscousehalfcockneyfullaussie's picture
Halfscousehalfc... Sunday, 19 May 2024 at 5:52pm

Reading the above comments, I think the biggest gripe is that most of us have had to start at the bottom of the food chain and had to work our way up to be confident enough to surf half decent waves, and stand on our own two feet (literally) to get a wave……. But it shits ya when someone is getting a leg up……. Surfing is a selfish sport, but there is a general order of things…..but when you see some euro or Japanese by passing the order in Indo and getting spoon fed…..it shits everyone…..

bonza's picture
bonza's picture
bonza Sunday, 19 May 2024 at 7:18pm

I think there is that but it’s much more. The ocean is now or will be a wave pool. It’s pay per wave or session. Not everywhere of course. I expected the wave pool thing to lead to peak euro & china crowds but this has blindsided me. With hindsight makes totally sense. It’s just good business. Future (current?) surf rage will be between the surf guide cartels and the upstart disrupters. Punters will know their place.

udo's picture
udo's picture
udo Sunday, 19 May 2024 at 6:28pm

OHV 500
Google Earth Street View go for a Cruise....Betcha ya cant find Bemo Corner :-}

Juliang's picture
Juliang's picture
Juliang Sunday, 19 May 2024 at 8:48pm

Balis always been a trendy place to go for Australians.Went there once 20 years ago , didn’t like it then , good waves but crowded ,Westerners everywhere, very sceney ,So now it’s had all this attention for 40 years,,everyone wants a piece of it.Aussies get to surf all the time back home, but how often do these ‘evil’ Russian tourists get to surf, Once a year in Bali?

soggydog's picture
soggydog's picture
soggydog Monday, 20 May 2024 at 5:50pm

Most of those Russians aren’t going home. They’re digital nomads staying for as long as the gravy train allows.

Juliang's picture
Juliang's picture
Juliang Monday, 20 May 2024 at 7:49pm

Well if the Indonesian government is letting them stay in Bali there’s not much we can do about it.

Juliang's picture
Juliang's picture
Juliang Monday, 20 May 2024 at 11:33pm

Even if they are kooks!

andy-mac's picture
andy-mac's picture
andy-mac Monday, 20 May 2024 at 3:56pm

Too many surfers, not enough waves.
Paying for guides, or going exclusive. Save ya pennies....

https://m.

&pp=ygUdSW5kb25lc2lhIG1vdG9yY3ljbGUgZGlhcmllcyA%3D

Juliang's picture
Juliang's picture
Juliang Monday, 20 May 2024 at 5:20pm

Just exposed a whole new island!

ron's picture
ron's picture
ron Monday, 20 May 2024 at 4:21pm

Seen a bunch of this around the Bukit and elsewhere but you soon realise the people that pay for this cant surf. They miss 75% of the waves they paddle for. When the blocker paddles don't pull back straight away, keep watching until customer misses it. Pays off most of the time.

Surfdude818's picture
Surfdude818's picture
Surfdude818 Monday, 20 May 2024 at 7:14pm

They're also sooooooo loud! I was out at Padma yesterday - lucky I had my plugs in....... Balo's yelling the waves in, customer cohort just going OFF when one of their group gets (pushed) into a wave. It was quite an eye opener I have to say - ear closer...

Really enjoyed the article.

Oh, also saw the bloody cliff fall down as well - from Padma!!

canetoad's picture
canetoad's picture
canetoad Wednesday, 22 May 2024 at 2:29pm

Just remember
We are guests there. Manners are very important from guests. Australians have some of the worst reputations along with our Brazilian friends.
Respect the locals always.

dbut's picture
dbut's picture
dbut Friday, 24 May 2024 at 3:04pm


The quintessential Indonesian push at 2.13m into this vid among many in this channels vids

Juliang's picture
Juliang's picture
Juliang Saturday, 25 May 2024 at 7:52am

At 2.13 wow she almost got the wave of her life! But there were a lot more drop ins that weren’t being pushed, so what’s the difference?