Learning to surf in Kuta, Bali

I spent quite a bit of time alone for the first few days in Kuta because Norman was surfing. While he was surfing I would wander the streets, looking at the things for sale, or just relax on the beach. There was really nothing of interest to buy there, and I was glad that I had done my shopping in Thailand. When I was on the beach I would wish I could surf the entire time. I would chat to the locals, and sit in their plastic chairs for the price of a cool drink. Eventually, after being offered a surfboard to rent numerous times, I decided to give surfing a go.

Now I must add here that I did desperately try to learn to surf before coming on this trip because I knew it would be such a waste of good waves in Bali if I couldn’t. I was coming all the way here and I wanted to seize this good opportunity. My lessons in Cape Town only ended up amounting to about 3 because Norm and I got very busy towards the end, and the conditions also had to be right. I was never very patient and I would get so frustrated if I couldn’t catch waves of if there was too much paddling involved in the whole ordeal, but I nevertheless had a hunger to learn.

So anyway, I know about the basics of surfing and I can crawl into an upright position and stand, so that already made me better than many of the people learning to surf in Kuta… because they weren’t too good! Watching them actually gave me the confidence to go out and try to surf myself. So one day when Norm was in the water, I rented a board, and doing the sexiest walk possible, I strolled down to the water. I wanted him to be taken aback at this sudden display of confidence, and I somehow believed this would translate into my actual surfing ability and help me to not completely suck!

From the shore the waves had looked small and relatively consistent, but in the water I just felt like currents were pulling me in every direction except towards the waves. The apparently small waves came in sets and knocked me meters back at a time, leaving me exhausted but no closer to the waves at the end of the set. The whole experience was depressing, and I went back to the beach disheartened, and sat on the sand like a sulky child. I don’t know why it is, but whenever I find surfing difficult I get into the worst mood, and want to blame anything and everything for the bad surf. So naturally I was annoyed at Norman when he came out to put his board down and exclusively help me surf, because he had let me be bashed by the waves for so long already. It was so ridiculous really because none of it was his fault, and he had just prematurely ended his surf to come and assist me, but I still had to direct my mood at someone.

He was so patient. I was cursing everything, and every surfer that attempted to paddle for my wave, but he just stayed calm and helped me paddle, as well as catch waves. With his assistance I managed to catch a few, but I still didn’t feel amazing after the surf.

I gave it another go a few days later, and had a much better experience. The waves were tiny but they were good enough for learning. Once again, Norman came out with me without a surfboard, so he treaded water at the back the whole time. Although there were lots of crowds, it was mostly people who couldn’t surf so even though many people paddled for the wave, only 1 or 2 might catch it. I caught a few and had a really nice time. I actually felt so inspired that I send my parents a message later on to tell them I wanted to buy a surfboard! And I went to sleep that night clinging to the possibility that I could become a pro surfer. Ha!


1. Rent a foam long board. They are are very easy to catch waves on, and they also won’t cause as much damage if you bump into someone, which happens often with all the learners out there. They cost about 50 000 IDR for few hours.

2. Wear a rash vest. I refused both times in the name of getting a tan, but I also got rashes both times and it made me want to get out of the water sooner than I would have.

3. Don’t buy a “Learn to surf” package and go with a group. Ask one of the locals on the beach to give you a private lesson and negotiate a reasonable price, or buy a professional one-on-one lesson if you can afford it. It is much more difficult to learn quickly if you go with a group and you won’t get much personal attention.

4. Pick a day when the surf is small. Even if it looks too small to be surfed, once you go out it is always bigger than it looked from the beach. And the smaller the surf, the easier the paddling is as there are less currents, and the whole experience is much less tiring.

5. Do it! Don’t be afraid or embarrassed. If you don’t feel confident enough to go out there and learn, just sit on the beach and watch everyone else for a while. Apart from a few locals and other surfers, everyone is learning! Take heart from those pale people wearing surfing hats and falling off their board constantly. Some people can’t even paddle! So go out there and learn, you won’t regret it.


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