Dispatch from Bali: Let’s hear it for Global Nyepi!

Matt George
Swellnet Dispatch

So I'm sitting out front of the Best Western Mini Mart again, wiping my bottle of warm beer down with a baby wipe.

I happen to be looking through the rickety bamboo beach closure barriers that still block the entrance to the very empty beachbreak line-up of 'Halfaway' on Kuta beach. The very spot where every single famous Indonesian surfer in history rode their first wave (and to this day, much to the chagrin of visitors, still surf it with the same enthusiasm). A short board away from me is the second most infamous surf photographer in the world, Pete Frieden. He’s working the neck of his bottle with a baby wipe too.

We are both thinking that it’s not such a bad thing, this pandemic lockdown. It’s like a Global Nyepi Day. The Balinese ceremony where you must stay indoors, shut out the lights and reflect on your life for 36 hours or get thrown in the slammer. Hence the need for a beer in front of the Best Western Mini Mart as soon as the lockdown rules were relaxed and we were able to roll away the stones from our self-quarantined dwellings.

The first places to open were the mini-marts. Being deemed essential services, they are the new social gathering places here. Seems everybody could use a bag of potato chips and a Have-A-Heart after all that lockdown reflection. Warm beer too (It appears the fridges were on self-quarantine as well).

This afternoon Frieden and I are watching a trickle of people making their way down to the empty beach past the Happy Face Surf School billboard. Some triathlete guy in a pair of sluggos and goggles going for a swim, and a super skinny longboarder. A pair of Russians bodyboarders strolled by. You know they are Russian because they carry their bodyboards like AK-47s and are peppered with those scary tattoos you see in movies about Russian assassins. These guys never have to worry about social distancing - no-one wants to go anywhere near them. There are a few pedestrians out, and packs of fixy cyclists dodging antiseptic spray trucks, plus some hungry hookers who are zooming around on their scooter looking for the lonely. Both male, female and…well… in between. The hookers I mean. 

There is a reason this island has never fallen to a foreign power even though Bali has never had a military: the Balinese follow the rules. They are devotees to their culture. And it keeps the order. Unlike the dickhead American who wanted to 'exercise his personal rights' by jumping the barrier and sitting on the beach anyway. He looked pretty chastened after he was dragged by the ear off the beach and thrown like raw meat into a cell of enthusiastic criminals at the Hotel K.

Frieden me was telling me about what was going on over in South Africa. He owns some apartments at J'Bay that he rents out to the ...lost team during the contests, hoping against hope they don’t burn the place down or graffiti clever slogans on the walls. Anyway, Frieden’s telling me that a big J'Bay swell is coming but the beaches are still shut down. Now I don’t know if any of you have ever had to deal with South African cops, but I have and I can tell you I would rather face the Russian bodyboarders. Aside from Afrikaner cops being among the world’s gnarliest bruisers they are also really, really bright.

So, how to keep the surfers off a perfect J'Bay swell? Easy. Shake down surfers for info on where the best place is to be stationed to stop their own kind. So there they stand today, two gnarly Afrikaner cops with bullwhips, as a gauntlet in front of the J'Bay keyhole. Problem solved. One can close one’s eyes and imagine Bruce Brown’s dulcet tones about all those millions of perfect empty waves breaking right now. Unfortunately the surf in front of me was only two foot and the Polisi were starting to blow their whistles for everyone to get out of the water and go home.

Yet taking it all in, Frieden and I reckoned things were going okay here in Bali. The beaches will open soon and the Aussie hordes will return for their just rewards. So fear not for us expat sinners who are weathering out here in Bali; all is as well as it could be in these troubling times.

After all, the sunset was beautiful, and the beer, though warm, was at least in hand and somewhere a speaker was playing the music of Jack Johnson singing about a monkey named George. 

There are worse places to be.

// MATT GEORGE

Comments

amb's picture
amb's picture
amb commented Thursday, 28 May 2020 at 1:21pm

good read but:

"There is a reason this island has never fallen to a foreign power even though Bali has never had a military"

0 from 2 . Dutch & Ciung Wanara Battalion

Blowin's picture
Blowin's picture
Blowin commented Thursday, 28 May 2020 at 3:55pm

I miss Indo like a drowning man misses the atmosphere.

Cheers for the connection.

Ash's picture
Ash's picture
Ash commented Thursday, 28 May 2020 at 5:37pm

Don't forget the Japanese in WW2, for the duration of the occupation it didn't work out well for any Indonesians.

Mishad's picture
Mishad's picture
Mishad commented Thursday, 28 May 2020 at 6:03pm

Matt, you're way off the mark regarding South Africa. You do realise its been over a quarter of a century since the Nationalist Party gave way to the ANC into national government? Afrikaner cops are now morphed into darker shades of colour and are using this lockdown as an excuse to target the soft targets -surfers and white female joggers as a form of reverse apartheid. The townships and CBDs of most poorer towns and its business as usual with cops no where in sight, or if present, outnumbered and simply standing by doing nothing. Public relief funds are used to help only those businesses that have a larger than 51% black ownership. So if you are white, own and business, employ many people of all colours, pay taxes to the government, and are not BEEE compliant then you will not see a cent from the govt for their Covid relief funds. Many businesses will not recover, adding to unemployment which is pushing to 50%. I can go on and on about whats going on here but its all available online for those journalists who care to do any basic research instead of speculating their ill-informed ideas.

I can't speak for Jbay (was maxing out last 2 days) but the last 2 days here at Bruces have seen some of the best swell in recent years throwing out some thick barrels for more than 2 dozen spread out along the point. Cops attempted to make their presence felt early in the morning by showing up at the car parks during the allotted 3 hours exercise window outside of imposed curfew and thumping their chests. 5 mins after they left the surfers regathered and surf the rest of the day uninterrupted.

Smorto's picture
Smorto's picture
Smorto commented Thursday, 28 May 2020 at 6:39pm

How does this guy not know about the Dutch East Indies and WW2? They are some pretty important foreign takeovers of Bali.

Blowin's picture
Blowin's picture
Blowin commented Thursday, 28 May 2020 at 7:06pm

Not sure how some of Indo’s best rippers feel being summarily dismissed cause they didn’t learn at halfway either.

Oney https://youtu.be/7Ucb9QVabQw

Mega https://youtu.be/Jw0in-DW3mg

andy-mac's picture
andy-mac's picture
andy-mac commented Tuesday, 2 Jun 2020 at 7:12pm
Ash's picture
Ash's picture
Ash commented Tuesday, 2 Jun 2020 at 5:39pm

Just realised who Made Lana is, from watching SOB"s latest clip. I've seen his surfing in other Ulu's clips and his style is so stylish, a real standout on his backhand.

andy-mac's picture
andy-mac's picture
andy-mac commented Tuesday, 2 Jun 2020 at 7:18pm

Great human and surfer...

Botak

andy-mac's picture
andy-mac's picture
andy-mac commented Tuesday, 2 Jun 2020 at 7:34pm

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=jYwHxFvVYmQ
Some great surfing on this clip. Lana's section starts at 8.28.

Botak

helmet-not-hose's picture
helmet-not-hose's picture
helmet-not-hose commented Thursday, 28 May 2020 at 7:35pm

Fuck mate, I'll forgive you the historical oversights, but Oney?

evosurfer's picture
evosurfer's picture
evosurfer commented Thursday, 28 May 2020 at 7:21pm

My Dutch father inlaw was a prisoner of war of war in Bali during
WW2 he dosent say very nice things about the Japanese.
But im really missing going to Bali this winter

IF im not surfing im racing

dastasha's picture
dastasha's picture
dastasha commented Friday, 29 May 2020 at 8:10am

theres something good about those empty waves though

jacksprat's picture
jacksprat's picture
jacksprat commented Friday, 29 May 2020 at 3:36pm

Very poor writing. Shoddy research. Fits perfectly with the 'Gonzo' style surf journalism which seems the norm these days.

onetimeonly

Panman's picture
Panman's picture
Panman commented Friday, 29 May 2020 at 7:47pm

I reckon everyone should read the fantastic book about Bali that Phil Jarratt wrote
It’s got all the history and the modern stuff is gold

jayet-010's picture
jayet-010's picture
jayet-010 commented Friday, 29 May 2020 at 9:09pm

More importantly ... how have the waves been?

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet commented Sunday, 31 May 2020 at 9:57am

Got a few photos from a swell that hit Bali the other day.

Should be on the site tomorrow.

evosurfer's picture
evosurfer's picture
evosurfer commented Saturday, 30 May 2020 at 9:34am

In general for Bali this time of year not that great.

IF im not surfing im racing

troppo dichotomy's picture
troppo dichotomy's picture
troppo dichotomy commented Saturday, 30 May 2020 at 8:58pm

Has anyone seen 'In Gods Hands'?
The movie was co-written/staring the Matt George.Nothing personal as i don't know him but after watching it i cant stomach anything else he's been a part of.
**disclaimer,only watch after lots of drugs and alcohol and make sure you have a barf bag/bucket!!!

Spuddups's picture
Spuddups's picture
Spuddups commented Sunday, 31 May 2020 at 9:52am

Yep, In God’s Hands was a complete clanger. It must be a cultural thing but the American penchant for schmaltz generally has me reaching for the sick bag. Fark I hated that film.

drdip's picture
drdip's picture
drdip commented Monday, 1 Jun 2020 at 11:36am

I am more concerned about the Russian injection into this once beautiful 'pure' cultural island it has the same parallels with the Chinese moving in and buying up all Aus.... then having their tourists taken specifically to their own resorts they have established

Or am I being 'obtuse'.. as Andy Dufrane would say

dr dip

sypkan's picture
sypkan's picture
sypkan commented Monday, 1 Jun 2020 at 9:09am

no you are not being obtuse drdip

its a fair concern, the indo's are a very proud people, who unfortunately totally wig out at the sight of a large wad of cash

which makes them a little better than our politicians, who'll sell our children's futures for a small wad in an aldi bag

I've heard there's a heap of russian businesses in bali, losing a heap of money, but it really don't matter, and no one cares, as its all just a laundry service

enabling the foriegn mafia folk through the sale of your country to them...

does sound similar... very familiar...

though the indo's are smart enough to be in a position where they can just take it all back if the cunts dont show respect, if only we were that smart..

Spuddups's picture
Spuddups's picture
Spuddups commented Monday, 1 Jun 2020 at 8:01am

One things for sure: You don’t fuck with The Balinese. Case in point, how they closed ranks after the Bali bombings. The Javanese Islamists were no longer tolerated and would find it very difficult to repeat the bombings without serious repercussions for the Javanese living in Bali.
As for the Russians, I really don’t like their chances of existing in Bali if they tried getting fast and loose with the locals.

Blowin's picture
Blowin's picture
Blowin commented Monday, 1 Jun 2020 at 8:34am

One of the best things I’ve ever seen was a belligerent Russian getting kicked out of a taxi in Bali. The Russian then tried to go full Ivan Drago - booming voice , standing over the Balinese taxi driver - and the taxi driver giving the Russian a hefty smack to the head.

The Russian looked to respond , then noticed a hundred pairs of Balinese eyes boring down on him from the neighbourhood and decided to get away whilst the getting away was still possible.

Brought a tear to my eye to hear the Indo yelling after him “ This is not Russia ! “

When I Was Young's picture
When I Was Young's picture
When I Was Young commented Tuesday, 2 Jun 2020 at 11:51am

"Halfway" is halfway between Kuta and Legian. Thought many of the Bali groms honed their skills up at Padma.
My friend has been surfing Kuta Reef regularly late afternoons, and locals only have been surfing East Coast and up at Balian and Medewi with no probs..

Have a vid clip of Lee Wilson negotiating a barreling East Coast bomb a couple of days ago but can't seem to upload it.

Bali sunsets and volcanoes still stunning and the air is clearest it's been for 30 years and a welcome albeit temporary relief from the traffic gridlock due to the lockdown nonsense.. so a couple of positives.


zenagain's picture
zenagain's picture
zenagain commented Monday, 1 Jun 2020 at 7:41pm

Beautiful shots.

1173

mickseq's picture
mickseq's picture
mickseq commented Tuesday, 2 Jun 2020 at 4:25pm

very nice pics, when I look I weep

also check out https://www.instagram.com/gerrynugawela/

he has some great captures