surfingBali07In August 2007 I took myself off to Bali with the notion of learning how to surf. The following is my journal of that trip, which I just ressurected from my old blog. For some reason I wanted to keep this writing available to me for future reflection.

Day 0 (2007-08-04)

Up early after a whole week that saw a general lack of sleep, I was on the plane by 9am. A stop and change in KL meant I arrived in Denpasar at 5ish. With a small plane and no checked luggage I was out of the airport and in a taxi to Kuta by 6pm local time. I took a walk around Kuta and managed to find the place I stayed when I was here last in 2002. I got the only room left, and was interested to see that the place had grown and a pool had been added.

A little look around the board shops (including Green Bee where I hired a board for my first ever surf) and I had found the board for me. A 7’6″ light green, Primal board. Short enough to carry, long enough to accomodate the fact that I am a total noob.

Food, bed, dreams of drowning in 4 foot of surf.

It’s just me and my new (yet to be named) surfboard on a little trip in Bali. A great chance to relax, unwind and get ready for a new school year of work. Oh yeah, and I need to learn to surf.

Day 1 (2007-08-05)

Waking at 6 (I blame Sha Tin College), I looked out the window to see dark skies and rain. Surfing moved down the list of things to do and I went back to bed. Up agian at 7, and this time things looked better. It was surprisingly cool (coming to the end of “winter”) as I walked down to the beach.

A fairly inauspicious start, under grey skies, shivering in the cool water, but I didn’t get nailed by my own baord. Progress!

After an hour I went in for breakfast (banana pancakes of course). The day saw 2 naps seperated by a great surf (blue skies, reasonable if infrequent sets, and I was able to get up on the face of the wave for the first time), lunch and lots of reading. Loath to say it, but Harry Potter is perfect for holidays.

Last time I came here was two weeks befor the first “Bali Bombing”, and it is interesting to see how things have changed. Things seem a little more laid back, a little quieter and there are far less people sun-bathing topless on the beach.

Other things have remained much the same: super cheap accomodation (HKD$125 per night), cheap food and drinks (HKD$14 for mie goreng sayur and a bottle of Bali Hai), friendly locals (not as pushy these days tho) and beautiful sunsets on the beach.

I am planning on staying in Kuta 2 more nights, then heading up the coast to a quieter beach. To paraphrase a little kid from a Jack Johnson film “there are like, uh, 50-hundred surfers out here” (a lot). Everyone is friendly tho, and it is cool to see lots of locals and girls out surfing.

I have met a disarming number of locals with aussie accents. Hmmm. Bonza!

Day 2 (2007-08-06)

Got out for a paddle at 9:30 this morning, and my arms were leaden. Not quite as bad as when I went surfing with Trent in Curl Curl (Sydney) as I have a bigger board here which makes paddling considerably easier. It seemed heavy going, and things were pretty flat. I got stung by a jellyfish, but not too bad and only on my hand. I am starting to think surfing before 12:00 is not as fun, simply because it is less sunny. However, the surf is often meant to be better in the morning, but I have seen little evidence of this.

I took some time to recover, eat and read before going out for 2+ hours in the early afternoon. The surf was packed, and the waves picked up as time went by. The more experineced surfers were a little further out, where the waves seem to break less consistently but are much bigger. Closer in the waves are much easier to get, expecially if you don’t paddle too quick like me. I started to get the hang of things, and got up on my feet for sustained periods of time once or twice. I guess it was only a couple of seconds, but it felt like a minute at least : )

I am starting to think that being in the water makes people better looking. Perhaps it’s all the salt water I have taken in through my nose, or perhaps there is some truth in it. Lying on my board, looking around, I could not help feast my eyes on all the tight buns, heaving chests and tonned muscles lying and flying around. And that was just the guys: the girls looked even better. I can only think it is the “slick, gleaming” look caused by being wet. I hope it affects me too.

Under Trent’s recommendation I am heading North-West tomorrow to a small beach called Canggu (pronounced Chang-gu). It is rural, so should be pretty different from Kuta. No blog updates will be possible I am guessing. 3 nights there, then I will be back here for two. I have a guy to drive me on a motorbike (helmet including, not like in Vietnam). The booking agent kept trying to get me to take a car, and was confounded by the fact that I would much rather go by bike. It’s an hour each way, so lots of time to check out my surroundings.

Spent some time chatting with an American at a bar last night. His name, was of course Dave (I was expecting one of Dave, Todd, Matt, Mike or Tyler, most likely due to watching too much George Carlin). He has been travelling around the world surfing for a year: South America, Asia, Europe. He is off home tomorrow. Was night to pass the time, and remind myself not all American’s are as crazy as the one’s in the White House. I managed to not ask any leading polictical questions. Figured he gets enough of that.

OK, I’m off to find my dinner. And a cold bottle of Bintang.

Day 3 (2007-08-07)

Last night I was out having a drink, staring blanking at some sports on TV when I met a guy name John. A Canadian. Wish he was called Francois, but he was wearing a Quebec independence shirt, which lent him an air of credibility (in my eyes). At least he had a sense of humor. John and I spent a few hours drinking and chatting about life in Japan (where he lives), HK, books, travelling etc. Nice guy. We got to talking about surfing, and he said he had never tried. We decided that he should take lessons from me the following morning (bad idea). We went out to rent a board (easy enough to do at 11pm in Kuta), which he left at mine (I guess he was not too confident about finding his way home again).

9 o’clock saw John and I walking down Poppies Lane to the beach, as I explained the intricacies of paddling out, catching a wave, drowning, being hit by onesown board and all the rest.

At the beach John procrastinated (smoke, fidget, retighten lease, pray), before we went in. I had heard rumors that things were going to pick up, and they seemed accurate. The water was choppy, dark and foaming. And the main wave out from the beach seem much bigger. I amde sure that John was alright in the foam and set out for the wave. My duck diving is evidently not up to scratch, as I got washed around a lot before finding myself under a monster wave: I took some water up the nose and then decided I best head back and reasses. I spent the rest of the session pissing around in the foam (which was great for learning) and getting up on the board. John broke a fin after getting up and staying up all the way into the beach. The fin caught the sand, ripped away from the board and was never seen again. The official line is that he broke it on a shark.

After breakfast, John and I said our goodbyes, and agreed to meet when I get back from Canggu.

About an hour before setting off, the booking agent came to my room to tell me that there were no bikes available, could I pay double for a van. No. OK, I would pay an extra 50%. My first scent of a scam. The driver (Ketut) was pretty friendly and we made the usual small talk. He had an interesting habit of saying things out the window to very pretty young girls. From the reactions he received, I guess he was not using polite language. Maybe this was for my benefit.

Arriving in Canggu he took me to a low cost resort (still 4 times the cost of a night in Kuta). I asked for something cheaper, but a cursory look around assured me this was the only place near the beach. I decided to stay, but just for two nights.

The surf at Canggu was pretty good, but after my experiences in the morning I decided to have two days of rest and relaxation and continue surfing in Kuta.

Day 4 (2007-08-08)

Yesterday afternoon and evening passed pretty quietly. I slept a little, ate a little and walked for a while on the beach.

The most exciting occurance was that I finished HP and the Deathly Hallows. The last 100 pages are amazing, and it is definitely the best of the lot. Whilst aimed at kids, the lessons on prejudice, love, compassion, open-mindedness and perserverence at suitable for all adults. They are also woven beautifully into the story. I was Confunded with enjoyment.

I have come (once again) to the inevitable conclusion that resorts suck. There is not enough to do, and what is on offer is usually horrible sterile and dull. So I decided to do nothing except eat, read and be massaged.

And then I slept…

Day 5 (2007-08-09)

“And that is when she slipped the small, hot stone under the band of my little, black panties. It glowed hot between my cheeks…”. I guess part of me always wanted to write that, and I got the chance, as it is exactly what happened during my massage this morning. That and losing my upper epidermis under a harsh sloughing of hands and curry paste (I kid you not). Even after a shower I left yellow stains on the towel. But I did feel very clean, and more than a little relaxed.

For George’s benefit: I will show you the picture later, but I am pretty sure I saw the same dog I saw last time I was here. You know, the one with the dangleberries coming out of the kitchen just before I got food poisoning. This time, he was merely lounging around the dining area.

I left Canggu at 12 and was back in Kuta by 1. Man alive I like it here. I know I shouldn’t, but I do. I was treated like a long lost buddy at the desk, and got my old room back at Kedins. I slipped right into gear, waxed my board and loped down to the beach. Having been thinking about things for 2 days, I paddled straight out to the back, where the same big wave was waiting for me. In Canggu I watched some good surfers, and decided it was time to really learn how to duck dive. Being later in the day, the water was lighter, warmer and more friendly. But I still got smashed over, slurped under and spat back out (sans board most of the time). Through good timing, rather than skill, I made it out for some of the good waves. These were waves I could catch (seems a ludicrous term to use), but not hold, as I repeatedly tried to get up and got thrown back down. Each of my efforst to get out were slowed by my inability to duck dive under the broken and breaking waves. After a while, with leash between legs I slunk towards the beach and played around the foam. Much easier (and I can get up and stay up), but a lot less fun. I determined that I would head back to the Boardhouse and ask for advice or duck diving.

A quick lunch, then a trip to the internet place (clutching cashew chocolate bar for support). The Internet (surprise, suprise) has informed me on the correct technique for duck diving, and I am all set to get back out and give it another go.

I hurt, but at least I am not afraid to get back out. Maybe I should be. Maybe that would enhance my chances of living to have children one day.

Just so no one thinks I am a complete pussy reports say todays waves at Kuta Beach were between 4 and 9 foot. Whilst I was out there the guys standing up were about the height of the good waves out back.

Day 6 (2007-08-10)

Yesterday afternoon’s session left me with a very sore head. It felt like too much of the Indian Ocean was sloshing around behind my brow and I kept waiting for it to poor down my nose in a bid for freedom, but it never did. Also, a fin mark on my hand, hole in my knee and lots of little bites saw me feeling in great shape.

The reason for all this pain is that my duck diving has improved, which allowed me to get out to the bigger waves easier, where I promptly failed to do anything except sink, roll and splutter. Still it was fun.

After I mixed morning, I decided to stick in the shallow areas for the afternoon, with the smaller waves. Kind of like the beginner’s slope in skiing. I got some decent action here, and started to get up on the board regularly. Sometimes I even stayed up. Sometimes I did not.

I have decided that I am not going to get enough use out of my board in HK (don’t want to surf in cold water, and the only waves seem to be in winter), so I have arranged to sell it back to the Boardhouse. Will only get half of what I paid back, but it’s better than having it sitting around not getting used. I guess when I end up living somewhere warm with good waves I will end up buying a board: until then I will rent when I get the chance to surf.

Will probably go out for final paddle tomorrow afternoon, most likely on a rental board from the Boardhouse. I want to try a shorter board, just to see what it is like.

I am wondering how long it will be before I stop seeing waves whenever I shut my eyes. It feels like I have been on a junk for a week.

Day 7 (2007-08-11)

Today was spent resting, relaxing, eating and shopping. Last night John and I went out for a few drinks at some of our regular hangouts (Agungs Sport Zone, Kubuku) which we keep going back to because the staff and customers are all so friendly. A part of me has been consistently impressed that the sex industry, so overt across much of Asia, is seemingly absent from the places I have been to in Bali. However, last night we went to Paddy’s Bar, which rest assured was not your average Irish pub. Suffice it to say that all the “comfort girls” that seemed to be absent from Kuta were gathered in this cavernous bar. That and a very drunk, obnxious, off balance, spittle-firing Aussie whose sole conversational gambit was saying “I’m a madman” caused us to make a hasty retreat. I sheilded John from most of the madman’s saliva, at the expense of the left side of my face.

The night ended with us watching England snatch defeat from the jaws of victory against a speedy French national rugby team. No suprise on that. The other channel featured the England cricket squad getting murdered by India.

Day 8 (2007-08-12)

Back to normality today. No more banana pancakes and jafles for breakfast, no more surf and hot beach bodies, no more cries of “transport, moterbike, taxi, t-shirt, hey buddy, my friend, how much, what you want?”. As always at the end of a holiday, I am loath to leave, but ready to get home. It’s been a while since I used soap and had a warm shower. I need a shave (never thought I would have need to utter such words).

It has been a fantastic break, and nice to have some alone time. Also nice to meet some people, renew my acquaintance with the sea, hear some crazy travellers tales, and still be in one piece. Too soon to say this, but this is the first SE Asian trip I have been on that did not see me suffer from some kind of intenstinal problem. I believe being a vege helped on this one.

Farewell Kuta, farewell Bali.