Surfing in Western Bali: Balian

C.Lawrence get'n glassy goods at the "other-side" Balian. Photo: Narusawa Kaoko

THE lure to ride the plentiful waves that break along the shores, reefs, and points of the “Island of the God’s” has long captured the mind and imagination of many a surfer, and why not? With nearly perfect conditions, Bali is a surfing destination that consistently draws thousands and thousands of wave riders from around the globe to test their skills in peeling tubes, wicked walls, and reeling rides. Names like Uluwatu, Bingin, and Padang Padang are famous amongst wave riders from all oceans.  However, they heave with multitudinous morass of surfers, so drop-ins are as ubiquitous as the big trucks clogging the roadways. Years ago, these same waves, like the roads, weren’t nearly so busy, but nowadays, Uluwatu is a fully developed tourist destination and the old warungs where a surfer could stay for free as long as they ate and drank there have given way to spendy and trendy villas. The Bali of legend has been lost in the light of progress and the droves of people it brings, or has it…

Sunset stroll along the beach at Balian. Photo: Bill Glude

I surf to get away from the hustle and bustle of the work a day world and, sappy as it sounds, commune with nature. There is nothing like riding a wave to put you close to nature. Not to say sports like kiting aren’t cool, they are, but the wave is secondary. With surfing, the wave is everything: the moment of take off, the drop, the wall, the smash, the ecstatic orgy of pleasure that fills the mind is what we live and search for. My search in Bali ended when, tired of the maddening masses, but not the wonderful waves of the Bukit, I set out to find something less, yet more.  I found it at the mouth of the sacred Balian River in western Bali.

Balian Style Accommodation. Photo: C.Lawrence

The wave isn’t as picture perfect as those further to the southeast, but the location, being a true mission to reach, is spectacular, unspoiled and far less overcrowded with hawkers pestering you to purchase useless junk.  Balian offers up tasty and at times, super sick waves, with options a plenty and a line-up that isn’t full of agro, snaking hustlers. Being a swell magnet, Balian gives up the goods when other spots are flat. Unfortunately, this can bring the “day trippers” from Kuta. Not cool, but the break handles a fair number of surfers by spreading them along its outside peak, inside peak, and “other-side”, which is my preferred point of rapture. Most folks go for the bigger, fatter outside break. I like the snappier, faster “other-side”, with its bottom of polished cobblestone and lava reef creating a jaunty ride that makes a nice little inside tube. Care needs to be taken though, especially at low-tide when heads can bash the bottom when being too greedy.

Considering options. Photo: Bill Glude

Like an old factory whistle, the trade winds come up at lunch to chop up the morning’s clean lines, letting you know it’s time to stroll the lengthy beach and enjoy the tranquility of being in a pristine piece of Balinese paradise, or maybe get a good massage to soothe surf weary muscles before an evening surf session. Either way, you’ll be happy you took the three-hour ride, escaped the crowds, and discovered a little bit of the Bali that is rapidly disappearing.

Access & Accommodation