It’s possible to catch a lucky break in Bali – even in surfing’s so-called off-season as Carla Grossetti discovered.
The skies above us are iron grey and it matters not. We’re in Bali and life is good. Summer and autumn are generally regarded as the off-season for surfing around the mountainous Indonesian island and, as a result, the resorts – and waves – are a lot less crowded than if we were here between April and October.
We arrived in Bali late at night during a rainstorm blasting water down in sheets and rattling the rooftops. By morning the rain has retreated and the noise of the waves has risen, filling our family suite at Hotel Komune Bali with an almighty roar from Hughie, the mythical surf god.
When my husband and sons trudge off for a pre-dawn surf the next morning I can’t see them, but I can hear them move through the resort, their booties squelching on the sodden earth and crunching on the volcanic sand and rock underfoot. With all that water coursing from the roofs and palm fronds overnight, the ground is swollen and the air is sweet. As they paddle out into the line-up they become neoprene shadows, like a deeper shade of night.
A five-star swell
Come mid-morning, the sea is now a flat metallic grey and I’m sitting in a pool of sunshine at the horseshoe-shaped bar at the Beach Club at Komune. I’m joined by several burly surfers, their partners and kids all slurping down kopi (coffee) and nasi goreng (fried rice) and commentating on the conditions. How lucky we are to have timed our arrival to this black-sand beach with a five-star swell (as rated on the Magic Seaweed website).
After three hours in the water, my husband and sons come out burnished and breathless, shovel down a plate of mee goreng with spicy sambal and sit and chill until the tide comes in, the waves jack up and they do it all again. “Sleep. Surf. Eat. Repeat,” raps my 13-year-old son Marley.
The last time I was in Indonesia was around 20 years ago, at the start of a two-year honeymoon travelling to surf breaks dotted around the globe. What is abundantly clear to me on this trip to Bali, two decades on, is that the surf resorts on this island east of Java are now better designed to cater to everyone in the family, regardless of whether you surf or not.
The Komune tribe
While moons ago I happily camped in a tent pitched on one of the Hinako Islands off the coast of Sumatra, these days I’ve become rather partial to the Komune option of morning yoga and meditation and Buddha bowls. The resort also includes an adults-only Health Hub and swimming pool and a salon offering hair crème baths designed to fight the frizz when I emerge from the infinity pool attached to our five-star suite. The fact this resort has been oriented around a killer break and fashioned into a place where guests mingle while paying meticulous attention to the ocean also makes it a very congenial place to stay for non-surfers, too.
From my vantage point at the Beach Hut, just metres from the silvery gleam of sand, we watch fat bees drone in and out of flowers, observe the staff jamming incense into the sand and proffering flowers to the Hindu gods and watch children running barefoot up and down the beach.
Making a splash
Our beachfront suite is one of 38 newly opened rooms at the resort, which has a total of 106 rooms. When we are not lounging around the shared infinity pool out the front of our family suite, my husband and sons have access to a wide range of clean, safe breaks within walking distance of Komune. There is also a skate park and trampoline onsite where micro groms can practise their airs and 180s, and a WiFi connection to track the best waves around the island.
During our 10-day surf trip to Bali, we also choose accommodation that marries chasing the swell with a comfortable base to chill. On our radar is Anantara Seminyak, which is metres away from the shifting Seminyak sandbanks, which pick up twice as much swell as nearby Kuta Beach (best-suited for beginners). We also bunker down at sister property Ananatara Uluwatu, which overlooks Impossibles and is close to breaks such as ‘Chicken Wings’ as well as world-class waves such as Padang Padang, Bingin, Uluwatu and Nyang Nyang.
Although it’s my boys’ first trip to Bali, they are already devoted pilgrims, dreaming of a return visit well before our footprints have faded behind us in the sand. “Mum can we come back to Bali on another surf trip?” asks my 15-year-old son Fin. “Tidak apa apa [no worries],” I mumble in reply, while swanning around in the pool at Anantara Uluwatu. “As long as the surf ‘camp’ includes an infinity pool, spa, yoga and cocktails.”
4 FAMILY FRIENDLY SURF SPOTS IN BALI
Keramas: Keramas is located on Bali’s east coast. It is a world-class right-hander reef break that is not for novices. Suitable for micro grommets (aged U12) who want to improve their surfing. When it’s cranking, the wave is considered one of the best high-performance waves in the world. Night surfing here is one of the novelty options on offer.
Nusa Dua: ‘Chicken Wings’ is mellow in a low swell and a few foot smaller than the main peaks at Nusa Dua. It’s at the end of the reef and is fantastic for long walling right-handers.
Seminyak: On its day, Seminyak can be A-frame perfection for experienced surfers. But there are also surf schools here aimed at everyone from beginners to intermediate surfers. Get up early to take advantage of morning glass.
Padang Padang: During high tide, the long Padang right is perfect for beginners who want to practise their surfing manoeuvres. It’s also a nice place to hang out and enjoy local seafood.
This piece should be read alongside more family-friendly activities in Bali. Link.
Carla Grossetti is an award-winning travel writer who has been published in major publications such as The Guardian, Vacations & Travel, BBC Travel, CN Traveller, Traveller, Escape, Good Food, Out & About with Kids, Australian Traveller, Voyeur and Jetstar magazine. Follow the author on Twitter @carlagrossetti, Facebook @Carla Grossetti – Writer and Instagram @carlagrossetti or subscribe to www.carlagrossetti.com for more stories about food and travel.