So when in Bali I arranged some time at the Pro Surf School, which is right on the beach front in Kuta. I had wanted surfing to be a big part of my trip from the outset. I used to go yearly down to Cornwall or Devon in the south of England to surf, and I just haven’t made it a priority to do for years, so I was excited to get back on a board and see if I could still catch some waves.
We had a theory lesson to begin with, as the class was for all levels it included learning how to stand on the board, pop up, learning about the swell and different types of waves. It was pretty interesting and the teacher was super chilled, the view was pretty gorj too…we were essentially in a 360 degree glass box on top of the restaurant, so we had a full view of Kuta beach and the waves we were going out to tackle. The whole week here was spent waking up at the crack of dawn, changing into board shorts and a rash vest, grabbing a board and heading out to the beach with my group. The motion came back almost instantly and I was up catching a wave on my first attempt, buzzing as I sped back to shore, jumping off and paddling back out to do it all over again from a little further out. Of course with this being me, I have to include just a few of my typical me moments, on one particular wave I had caught but hadn’t been fast enough to stand up on, I just sat and rode the wave all the way back to shore, when a little fish appeared on my board, jumped around for a few seconds then plopped back off into the water. I was laughing my head off as I sailed back to the beach much to the amusement of my instructors! Oh and another where I popped up, got my foot caught inside the leg of my shorts and performed an acrobatic fall in front of my whole group, aaaaaand another where somehow I caught the wave but ended up sitting down backwards riding the wave in, Nymar the female instructor found that once funny. Great Rach. Well done.
Usually after a morning surf I’d grab a healthy lunch, strawberries, chicken salad, wheatgrass shots you name it, it was a nice change from fried rice, noodles and curry. Also incorporated into this lovely schedule was several well-earned naps in the blissfully air-conditioned room, wanderings up and down Kuta looking at all the gorgeous swimwear and boards, and then having 1 on 1 yoga classes with instructor Mimi, completing morning sun routines, meditation, lots of stretches and discussion of chakras, it was amazing, the yoga, the view and the peace I created within myself. How I would love to live by the beach and be able to just go out and practice, to buy this lovely surfwear and actually put it to use. By the end of my week I was completing turns and feeling much more confident in the water, my only problem was I wasn’t very good at getting out deep, it seemed to take me so much longer than everyone and I did get the odd crapping myself moment as a big wave was rushing towards me over my head.
I made friends with an Indonesian guy Harry, who thankfully took it upon himself to drive me round the island, showing me places and keeping away from the stray dogs that own the backstreets. We spent a lot time over the week chatting about our home-lives, jobs and relationships over bintang beers on the beach. I learnt that he was originally a cook, born in Jakarta where he met the love of his life, who he couldn’t afford to marry, so he ran away to Bali where he now does organised trips around the island for tourists to earn and save money.
We swapped stories from the past, it was actually really nice to talk to essentially a stranger about quite private things, the kindness of the people you meet away from home is really overwhelming. The cynical part of me was always waiting for him to ask for a tip or a fee for showing me around, but it never came, for which I am so grateful. He took me to a few of his favourite spots, after hopping on the back of his bike (sorry mum) we sped off to the 2002 bomb monument, which killed a lot of people in Bali, to some of the 5 star resorts along Seminyak beach, around streets Poppies 1 and 2, where all the commercial bar and restaurants are. we seemed to stop every few metres as he saw someone he knew and introduced me to the shop owners and other local friends where we hung out for a while. He took me way out of town to his favourite restaurant and ordered my food for me, I’m not quite sure what the hell it was some kind of tuna chicken rice dish with various sauces, it was good spending time with him, he also somehow arranged a reunion on the beach with my friend Lucie from Cat Ba Island, she was asking him about where my particular hostel was, my name must have come up and before you know it we are reunited on Kuta beach!. He was a good guy our Harry.
Towards the end of my time there I was quite friendly with the surf instructors, I celebrated Nymars birthday with them, which included a cake fight, pool dunkings, sitting in a bar having shisha before heading to the clubs where tequila shots and bottles of alcohol were continuously brought to the table. I got chatted up by an Indonesian chick, who was there with her girlfriend..who was super shy and giggly. It was a fun night, but nothing a morning surf and round of springrolls cant fix the day after.
It was whilst in Bali that I booked my flight to Sydney, and started thinking about getting to work or finding a job as I needed some more money after nearly 6 months of spending, but for now I’ll concentrate on what I came to Bali to do, surf. I had progressed in my class onto a smaller board, and was loving the days out in the sea, and the aching afterwards that came with it. There was a ripcurl surf competition at a beach just over an hour away called Padang Padang, my surf instructor Uhymar invited me along, so I jumped on the back of his bike and
off we sped through the little towns and villages, the views were unreal and I loved the ride on the back of the bike. When we got there we found out it had been cancelled due to the waves not being big enough, they looked huge to me so I was happy to sit and watch the surfers go. We cut off along a little dirt path, and came out on the edge of a mountain cliff which overlooked the ocean and beach, we watched the surfers and chatted for a while, with him teasing me about my accent and getting photos of the surfers, it was a nice afternoon away from Kuta. We headed back and called in a small roadside shack for some food, again I had my meal picked for me and it was unsurprisingly really tasty. It is amazing how much more friendly people are when you are not a apart of the large lairy backpacker scene, and how many unheard of places you can be taken to by the people who know the place best.
Harry turned up in one afternoon and took me to a local orphanage, I think it was called Elisamere, he helps out away from town, we went first to a supermarket and got a load of things to take for the children, food, toiletries, games and books I spent quite a bit but it still didn’t seem enough. He showed me around the campus, there were 4 bunk-beds crammed into the small bedrooms, there were 48 children there aged 16 and under. We all sat in a big circle on the floor,introduced ourselves, said a prayer, sang songs and played around. When we were standing around chatting one young girl came up to me,just looked at me, touched my arm and said “pale skin”, before walking away. I wasn’t sure what to think of that, and couldn’t help but feel guilty for these children. I tried to keep cheery as they waved us off. It was my final day on the island, so I headed out for dinner with Harry, I treated him to his meal and drinks as a thank you for being my guide, we sat with his friend and his wife, who was Australian and moved over here several years ago. Harry took me to the airport, we said our goodbyes and away I went, back to Australia, ready to earn some cash, this time it was a one-way flight to Sydney.