It’s hard to fathom, but Indonesia has been a surf frontier for nearly 70 years now. The island nation first became a surf site in the late 1930s when American photographer and surfer Robert Koke established the Kuta Beach Hotel in Bali. With a couple of Hawaiian-style redwood planks, Koke recreated the Waikiki beach boy vibe along the palm-lined sands of Kuta. A lull in surf exploration occurred during WWII and Indonesia’s struggle for independence, but Australian surfers rediscovered Bali in the late 1960s.
Over the nearly 50 years since, surfing has spread to formerly inconceivable nooks among these 1,700 islands, bringing surfers into contact with disparate cultures and vast stretches of the Indian Ocean. Its southerly exposure, tropical reef system, and favorable winds have yet to yield up all of its wave assets–but the main areas have been plotted–from Timor to Bali, G-land to Western Java, Southern Sumatra to the Hinakos. Even as one-time frontiers such as the Mentawai Islands are quickly tamed, new wave discoveries sustain newer generations of feral wave wanderers during a surf season lasting April through October.
In the wake of this modern-day gold rush, an incredibly talented local population of surfers has emerged along with its own competitive tour, the ISC (Indonesian Surfing Championships). Centered in Bali, the native professional corps now include surfers from as far away as Western Java and Sumbawa. Considering their combination of local knowledge and talent, there’s a good chance that the final stages of Indonesia’s surf mapping will be made by Indonesian surfers themselves.
Indonesia is located in the Indian Ocean and many of the best surfing locations in Indo are exposed to swells produced in the southern Indian Ocean by large storm systems.
The Indonesian archipelago consists of 17,508 islands, many of which have incredible waves. Bali is the most popular destination in Indonesia for surf travelers. Bali was first discovered as a surfing travel destination in the 1930′s when American photographer, Robert Koke established the Kuta Beach Hotel. But, it wasn’t until Australian surfers rediscovered the surfing potential of Bali, in the late 1960′s, which it then became a famous surfing travel destination. Since then, the search for waves has spread surfing to all neighboring islands that have good surfing waves.
Indonesia has an average annual temperature that ranges from 23 degrees Celsius (73 degrees Fahrenheit) to 33 degrees Celsius (91 degrees Fahrenheit) year round and an average relative humidity around 80%. This tropical climate is influenced by the surrounding seas and can be characterized by the dry and wet season. The dry season is from June to September and the wet season is from November to March. Water temperature averages around 25 degrees Celcious (77 degrees Fahrenheit) all year.
We have highlighted some of the best surf islands in Indonesia:
The surf in Sumatra is good, but the offshore islands of Nias and the Hinakos are known for the best waves. Sumatra has several land based surf camps, as well as, surf charter boats to choose from.
Nias & the Hinako
The perfect righthander at Lagundri Bay on the island of Nias was the first world-class wave discovered in the Sumatra region. Nias was first surfed in 1975, by Aussie surf pioneers Peter Troy, Kevin Lovett and John Giesel. They put up with swarms of malarial mosquitoes and the most primitive of living conditions to ride absolute perfection in the jungle. These days, it’s much easier to get to Nias Island and a slew of losmens fringe the deep bay, competing to accommodate the constant stream of surfers. The massive 2005 earthquake tipped the island, lifting reefs in the south with some waves improving and others disappearing. Just offshore in the Hinako Islands, the two super-consistent, crowd-spreading spots have also been affected; Bawa’s bowly rights have suffered while Asu’s lengthy lefts have got even hollower over the lifted reefs.
Located about 80 miles west of the Indonesia’s largest island, Sumatra, the Mentawai Islands are the home of some of the best, most consistent surf on the planet. Because of their exposure to swells in the Roaring 40s, the sheer volume of surf spots in the region, and the remoteness of the islands (some of which are uninhabited), the Mentawais have become the premiere surf destination for hard-core surfers looking to escape the real world and surf eight hours a day.
While land-based surf resorts at Macaroni’s and a few other popular Mentawais spots have started to spring up, the most popular way to surf the Mentawais is still by “boat trip,” in which a group of surfers charters a boat for ten to twelve days. Scores of these surf charter boats patrol the area from March to November every year, each boat containing an average of eight frothing surfers, and the result is often crowded lineups at stand-out breaks like Lance’s Right, Macaroni’s, and Thunders. But because the Mentawais offer nearly limitless waves, good boat operators will know of uncharted surf spots to sneak off to when crowds at other spots start to build.
The reason for all the hype: simply, the surf. Rights, lefts, big waves, playful points, open shoulders, and racing tubes … from three feet to twelve, the Mentawais has it all.
Sumbawa is home to the incredible and extremely dangerous Scar Reef, a left barrel that gets bigger as it breaks over a shallow reef that is only surfable at high tide.
The centerpiece of these is the Muslim isle of Sumbawa, its remote, swell-blessed south and west coasts seldom visited by anyone but surfers. A core destination, Sumbawa offers several heavy world-class barrels, mostly lefts over sharp coral reef, all lying in a different swell window than that of Bali or the Mentawais. Like Lombok, Sumbawa is overshadowed by those two places; yet unlike Lombok, Sumbawa has more than one wave worth traveling to, and it’s more than likely that you’ve heard of spots like Lakey Peak and Scar Reef, seriously perfect waves for the seriously tube-minded surfer. Overland access to all but Lakey is arduous or outright impossible, hence a boat being your best bet to truly experience Sumbawan glory, because, hey, it’s time to get out of Bali and to shake the temptation of booking yet another Mentawais boat trip.
Lombok is located just east of the Island of Bali and has good surf. The best waves in Lombok can be found at Desert Point.
Bali’s dry and craggy next-door neighbor, Lombok is just as famous as a surf destination and has been for decades, despite the fact that Lombok’s waves are not nearly as good as those on Bali or Sumbawa. Ultimately, all roads lead to the famous Desert Point, which is the only spot most surfers ever surf on Lombok, an easy and predictable hop over from Bali. But ask a planeload of Indonesia-bound surfers about where they’re headed, and the answer is almost guaranteed not to be Lombok.
Desert Point truly is the island’s only real marquee wave; interestingly, though, Lombok has several other surf spots that work in different conditions, and are much more user-friendly than Desert Point – or, for that matter, most spots on Bali. Lombok is becoming a world renown surfing destination among surf enthusiasts word wide. Huge waves and challenging surf lure die hards to Bangko – Bangko ” The dessert Point” on the south western tip of Lombok. Kuta on the south coast, is surf central and has range of accommodations and service catering specially to surfers. Here you can hire a board, get board repairs and take a surf lesson from the professionals. The waves at Gerupuk and Kuta offer a variety of challenges from beginners to sheer madness!
The island of Java is known for the surf break called G-Land (Grajagan), that is located on the south east corner of Java.
A Mecca for travelling surfers, G-Land is a magical place of primitive beauty and perfect waves nestling in a secluded location on the southernmost tip of the island of Java. On the legendary Grajagan Bay, across the strait from Bali, G-Land Jungle Surf Camp lies between the forest and the beach, directly in front of the famous reefbreak of Speedies.
Surfers are taken daily by boat to the most suitable break according to their level and swell conditions. Free standing bungalows accommodation with private bathrooms and a central pavilion with bar, dining room and lounge offer a perfect retreat for those in search of the ultimate surf adventure.
Settled on the coast of West Java, 200 km from Bandung, lies the remote coastal village of Batu Karas. Away from the hustle and bustle of touristy sister beaches of Pangandaran or even Bali, it is a rare gem of a place that simply leaves you be. Batu Karas is a living, working village which has been chosen by ‘Lonely Planet’ travel guide as one of Asia’s most beautiful beaches for 2012 generated by the dark sand along the beach, lush greenery on the rock, and fantastic waves of the sea.
Bali is the most visited surf island in Indo and his home to Uluwatu, one of the most famous waves in the world among surfers.
Bingin Beach is a very beautiful beach with stunning view of Indian Ocean and the great wave that make it as one of the demanded surfing points by surfers in Bali Island. The wave characteristic is big, powerful and challenging have been able to stimulate the adrenaline for every surfer especially for experience surfer until the professional one to conquer the wave at this beach. Although a little distance away from the parking area and access to the beach is not good enough yet, it does not miss their attention to challenge the wave and go for surfing here. The grade wave here is in five level categories that mean the waves are big and powerful that create the fascinations for surfers to go for surfing adventures at this surfing point. This place has been many visited by the surfers including the world-class surfers and international surfers to attend for surfing competition at this rocky beach.
Iconic Nusa Lembongan break marked by a rusting ships bow on long exposed reef platform. Non-existent at low tide, it starts breaking on the push to mid and sets start rearing up out of nowhere, peeling fast with a high, tight envelope and open shoulder. Gets packed with surfers of all standards so snagging one and avoiding the scratchers is part of the deal. Getting the tide just right is the trick – mid on springs, higher on neaps. Watch out for scrap metal on the reef.
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