There are countless reasons to visit Bali. Groovy Canggu has an incredible food scene, wild Kuta is home to white-sand beaches and lively nightlife, the cliffs at Uluwatu will take your breath away, and peaceful Ubud is known as a yoga and spirituality hub.
But one of the most popular reasons to visit Bali is the surf. This post will cover everything you need to know if you want to learn to surf in Bali.
There aren’t many places with as many amazing waves for people of all levels. And the surfing culture is part of everything you do in Bali.
So even though I’m totally the type to be scared of this sort of thing (I’m not graceful in any way), I decided that I too would learn to surf in Bali.
Two days after arriving in this tropical paradise, I left everything back at the hotel except a wad of cash and marched down to the beach, determined and already a little sunburned.
Turns out, it’s not hard to find a surf instructor in Bali.
A group of guys who looked like they could catch some sweet waves were gathered around some plastic chairs and a rack of beat-up boards. When they saw me, they lept to action, offering me increasingly better offers for surf lessons with every step I took.
I ended up doing a two-hour surf lesson with one of their most experienced instructors, probably because they could tell just by looking at me how hopeless I would be on the board.
After our lesson, my instructor gave me a beach chair and a Bintang under a palm tree I could watch and cheer for the other beginners out in the whitewater. My surfing journey had officially begun.
Over the next few months, I got to try my share of waves.
On my first trip to Bali, I surfed a handful of times at Kuta. On my second trip, I was traveling with an actual decent surfer who was able to teach me so much about waves and Bali’s addicting surf culture.
Long story short (or is it too late for that), If you’re a beginner surfer, you should totally learn to surf in Bali.
Here’s what you need to know, from one total newbie to another.
Learn to surf in Bali at the beach breaks around Kuta, Seminyak, and Canggu.
If you’re wondering where to surf in Bali as a beginner, look no further than Kuta, Seminyak, and Canggu. The surf breaks at Kuta, Seminyak, and Canggu are beach breaks. This means that the part of the wave you’ll be surfing on has nice soft sand underneath.
Some surf spots around Bali may look really tame and fun, but just a few feet below the surface is live coral reef aka danger zone if you don’t know what you’re doing.
Even experienced surfers sometimes walk out of the water with reef cuts or broken noses, so don’t try to surf the more famous surf spots around the island until you’ve practiced on the sand. A lot.
Since Kuta, Seminyak, and Canggu are the best Bali surf spots for beginners, you’ll be able to easily rent a board and find an instructor here (but more on that in a minute). Boards should cost you about 50K ($3.50) for two-hour rental and an instructor from the beach will charge around $10-$15 per hour.
Most rental places will let you leave your belongings with them while you’re in the water but as a rule of thumb, you should never bring valuables to the beach if you’re going to be leaving them unattended.
That, my dear friends, is why there are no actual pictures of me “surfing” in this post. In all my surf attempts, I never ended up bringing my phone or camera to the beach so you’ll have to use your wildest imagination.
Go out with an instructor or surf school.
If you sit on the beach at Canggu or Kuta, you’ll see dozens of people renting big beginner boards with no guidance whatsoever. Usually, they end up getting whacked in the head by waves for two hours before giving up, no better at surfing and probably pretty fed up with the whole thing.
While it’s admittedly funny to watch (and I’m allowed to laugh because I fall harder and more often than most), it can be very dangerous on crowded days.
While it may look easy, it’s hard to maneuver your board at first. Collisions with big waves and big boards can easily result in bruises, cuts, and other injuries.
So don’t be that person who just grabs a board from a rental dude on the beach and decides to freestyle teach-yo-self. Get an instructor or go with an organized surf class.
Trained instructors know exactly how to teach surfing for beginners in Bali, so you should take advantage!
In Kuta and Canggu, you’ll be offered a surf lesson every three steps you take on the beach. Like I mentioned earlier, the first lesson I ever did in Kuta was with some guys who seemed nice who had a cooler, some surfboards, and a handwritten sign that said “surf lessons.”
A two-hour lesson including board rental with a beachfront surf instructor will cost between $10-$15 USD depending on the season and your negotiating skills.
The instructor will show you some technique on the beach then go out with you in the water. They will help you get in position to catch your first little waves and will tell you when yo paddle and stand up.
Even though it might look like those are easy things to do on your own, it’s so helpful to have someone experienced helping you out. They also help you get up speed by pushing you into waves at first so that you don’t wipe out as much.
There are also larger surf schools near the beach you can check out. These will usually offer group classes and are a bit more expensive since it’s not just a guy on the beach offering to teach you, but the result is the same. You get a guide and the equipment you need to not look like a ridiculous hot mess.
Wear a shirt that covers your shoulders and consider wearing leggings.
You’ll be out in the water for a few hours most likely and your sunscreen will be gone after your first beautiful wipeout. So wearing a shirt that covers your shoulders will save your skin from frying later.
I like this long sleeve one because it covers the back of my neck and is snug enough not to go flying over my head when I faceplant in the sand.
Leggings or long tights are also good for beginners. Even now after I’ve surfed a few times, I still wreck my knees and thighs. The beginner surfboards are made of a rubber material that chafes like rope burn if you don’t stand up fast enough, and at the beginning, you won’t.
Trust me, you really won’t.
I have big scabs on my knees from getting rubbed raw from the board and you don’t even notice it when it’s happening because of the adrenalin and seawater. But trust me, later you’ll feel it. Leggings or athletic tights solve this problem.
When learning to surf in Bali, it’s critical to wear a bathing suit that won’t go flying.
You’ll wipe out and wipe out hard, so this isn’t the time to wear your cutest bikini, ladies. A one-piece is the safest bet.
If you don’t have one, wear your tightest-fitting bathing suit bottoms and a sports-bra-style top. This will keep you safe from an embarrassing wardrobe malfunction.
Gentlemen, for the same reason, don’t wear trunks that are too loose. I’ve had wipeouts that launched sand two feet up into my skin-tight leggings, so your average pool lounging bathing suit won’t stand a chance.
You’re probably not as “intermediate” as you think you are.
After a few lessons at the beach breaks, I made the mistake of surfing a spot that was way too difficult for me in Lombok.
It was labeled locally as “beginner to intermediate.” Intermediate, I thought to myself, Yeah, I’m intermediate now. I’ve stood up on like, six waves in six months. I should definitely up the stakes here.
Guys. Intermediate was stressful. It was totally dangerous. And I’m sure it was a spectacle to behold.
The waves didn’t look that big. But newbie me had no idea where to sit on the wave so they kept dumping on my head, crashing in my face, and sending me soaring right into the path of other, more experienced surfers.
Once, as I pealed seaweed out of my eyes and other undesirable places moments after being barrel-rolled into a deceivably small looking wave, I found myself directly in the path of this incredible surfing-goddess on a sharp pink board. Sputtering and disoriented, I didn’t know how to get out of her way because my paddling skills are negative zero.
Poor talented surfing goddess lady had to jump off her board into the breaking wave to not hit me. There were some tense tangled moments where I was somehow wrapped in her leash. We kicked and flailed and got more waves dumped on our heads until she got back on her board and paddled off, throwing dirty looks my way.
She was not very happy, understandably so.
I had no business being out at that surf spot.
My arms felt like they were going to fall off and the whole ordeal was left me exhausted and feeling pretty stupid.
I know we’re supposed to try new things and push ourselves, but with something like surfing where you can fall hard and fast, it’s better to wait until you know what you’re doing before you attempt the more advanced places.
Get good – really good – at surfing the beach breaks before you try to go out to intermediate spots, no matter how “intermediate” you think you might be.
And if you do find yourself at a break you aren’t ready for, don’t stay out there to prove something to yourself. Paddle yourself back to shore and find a break that’s your level.
If you’re determined to get good quickly, look into Bali surf camps.
There are dozens of surf camps to choose from in Bali. Even though they’ll cost you more than your typical hostel, a surf camp is probably the best way to walk away from your vacation with new surfing skills.
Good surf camps will include
- All your surfing gear
- Surf instructors
- Several surfing trips each day
- Transportation to and from the surf spots
- Maybe a meal or two
The instructors group you by ability level and take you to spots that suit your needs, so you don’t have to worry about going head to head with more experienced surfers.
And with multiple surfs a day, you’ll improve way faster than if you just did sporadic lessons on the beach.
If you’re interested in a surf camp, check out these options to learn beginner surfing in Bali
- Wave House Surf Camp: Canggu based, room price includes 6 surfs/week, all your gear, air conditioning, a pool, and transportation to the waves.
- La Point Surf Camps: Canggu based, world-renowned surf camp with locations all over. Choose from 1, 2, and 3 week packages that include surf lessons, meals, accommodation, yoga classes, all your gear, and airport transfer.
- Rapture Surf Camp: Uluwatu based, a smaller but also world-known surf camp for all levels. Customize your package with room type and lessons on their website.
Consider checking out Lombok
Lombok, the island next to Bali, is another great surf destination but it’s much less touristy at the beginner waves. Since more experienced surfers like to explore Lombok, there’s a big beach break with absolutely perfect conditions for newbies that’s much less crowded than Bali.
Since the Lombok beach break is in a bay, the waves are small and the ground is sandy. I personally enjoyed surfing at Selong Belanak (the Lombok beginner spot) more than Kuta or Canggu because I wasn’t constantly worried about running over other beginners.
Click here to find out how to get to Lombok from Bali.
Do yoga or get a massage after you surf.
Especially when you’re first starting out, you’ll be using totally new muscle groups than you’re used to. This can make you very sore very fast.
A great way to keep things loose and feeling good is to do morning yoga before surfing or splurge on a delicious Bali massage after surfing. Drink lots of water and stretch before going out as well to prevent muscle strains.
Have fun while you learn to surf in Bali!
Yep, that’s right, I’m ending on the most cliche thing to say ever.
One thing I noticed was that when I came out of the water after a surf session, everyone, even experienced cool surfers, asked me the same thing. They all wanted to know if I had fun.
No one cared about how many waves I stood up on or how much I improved or anything like that. No one even mentioned that I’d sandblasted myself into the next century.
There were days I felt like the queen of the surfing world (move over, pink board surf goddess lady) and there were times when I was certain I’d gone backward and somehow became worse overnight.
When I wasn’t feeling so hot, it was great to be reminded that everyone, even the really advanced people, surf because they enjoy it.
If I had a good time, it didn’t really matter if my pants fell off or if my board flew nine feet in the air or if I belly-flopped into a wave the size of a truck.
If I could laugh about it later and enjoy myself, it was worth doing.
Surfing For Beginners in Bali Frequently Asked Questions
What are the best places to surf in Bali for beginners?
Kuta, Canggu, and Seminyak are the best places to learn to surf Bali.
Where can I take beginner surf lessons in Bali?
Along the beach, there are plenty of pop up surf instructors and surf schools who can show you how to surf. You can also go with an established company like Odessy Surf School.
How much does it cost to learn to surf in Bali?
Lessons range depending on who your instructor is and how long the lesson is. In general, you can expect to pay about $10-$15 per hour for a lesson from a beach instructor, and between $35 – $50 per lesson if you go with a more established company.
If you get the basics down and no longer need an instructor, you can rent boards on the beach starting at $3.50 USD per hour.
How hard is it to learn to surf in Bali?
Surfing is a tough sport in general, but Bali is one of the best places to learn how to do it. There are plenty of waves and lots of opportunities to practice.
It takes a lot of practice, but if you’re in Bali for a week and practice every day, you should be able to stand up by yourself and catch a few small waves on your own by the end of your trip.
What are the best Bali surf camps for beginners?
Is there any Uluwatu surfing for beginners?
If there is a small swell, some beginners surf at Padang Padang in Uluwatu. But keep in mind that the Uluwatu breaks are reef so the beach breaks at Kuta and Seminyak are better.
Have you ever tried surfing? What advice do you have for newbie surfers?
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