Learning to Surf in Bali

Learning to surf in Bali
Stacked and ready to hit the waves at Kuta Beach, Bali.

I’m lying on the red padded surfboard, waves crashing down around me when I hear my instructor ask if I’m ready. Through my water soaked face I spit out a “yes” and take a quick peak back at the wave rushing towards me. My heart quickens with excitement as I’m told to start paddling. Right, left, right, left. I paddle hard to keep up the momentum. My instructor then yells “up!” I arch my back, push up my body, slide my feet forward, and plant them on the board. I teeter a bit but find my balance as the wave propels me closer to shore. But just as quick as I managed to stand up, I feel the board shifting in the opposite direction my body wants to go and I’m back where I began, spitting out salt water. Not exactly a stellar beginning, but not so bad for my first attempt, if I may say so.

I’ve wanted to learn how to surf for quite some time now, especially after watching the Kate Bosworth staring film, Blue Crush, a number of times back in 2002. The sun, the hot bodies, the bathing suits, being in the water, and the all encompassing “cool factor” had me interested in trying my hand at this neatly carved out culture. So when we were planning out the South-East Asian leg of our trip, learning to surf was at the top of the list of things I wanted to do, and I knew that Bali would be the ideal place to get my feet wet, so to speak.

On the southwest coast of Bali lie Kuta and Legian Beaches, perfect for those learning to surf for the first time. The relatively calmer waves and sand bottom shoreline make it a safe and manageable option for beginners. It is here at Kuta Beach where we found Pro Surf School, a full service surf school with the best facilities on the strip.

Surf Schools in Bali
After surfing, chill out on their patio recounting all your thrills and spills.

We arrived at the school at 8:30am and were warmly welcomed by the staff. We were given towels, rash guards, boarding shorts, and locker keys. They even had 60SPF sunscreen on hand, free to use. Did I mention this was a full service school? I joked that I could have arrived naked and everything would have been available to me. To which they laughed and said, “yes, we even have spare bathing suits!”

After getting changed and lathered up with sunscreen, we met with our instructor Agun and began our lesson. For about 40 minutes, Agun took us through the fundamentals of surfing, including the different varieties of boards and how to choose the best one for you, different kinds of waves, safety measures when surfing, positioning on a surf board, the body mechanics while surfing, and basic board control. He spent a good deal of time having us practice popping up from a flat horizontal position to a proper surf stance in as quick of a time as possible. I felt like I had already had a workout just practicing standing up on the board over and over again. But the real workout was about to begin.

Learning to surf in Bali
Rash guards and board shorts on... surf boards in hand... we're ready to go!

We each grabbed a board and walked our way over to the beach, speeding up our pace as we crossed the sun soaked sand, scalding hot beneath our feet. The first order of business was to get comfortable on a moving surfboard. While holding the back of the board, Agun prompted us to start paddling just before the wave met us. Then just as the wave reached us he’d yell “up” and we’d prop the front half of our body up and ride the wave in. Nothing too strenuous for the first little bit, but it was a great way to ease our way before the real lesson began.

Lying down on a moving board is one thing, but trying to get up and stand on it is an entirely different thing. It really does look much easier than it is. The key factor is quickness. The quicker you can pop up to a vertical position, the more time you have to find your balance and enjoy the ride. Both Tristan and I managed to stand up on our first tries, though the length of which we actually stayed up can be left for debate. But as the morning progressed we soon managed to find that “sweet” spot where our positioning kept us up all the way to shore.

The hardest part wasn’t getting up and staying up. In fact, the most difficult part was getting back out to the water, fighting the current that wanted to push us back to shore. As we neared the noon hour, low tide was starting to set in and the waves were increasing in size, making it an even longer and more difficult journey to get out onto the water. But by the end of the 2-½ hour lesson, with exhaustion setting in, we were grinning ear-to-ear and planning when our next surfing encounter would be.

Having our first experience surfing taught by a school gave us the ability to get all the tips and inside knowledge for beginners so we could learn the important fundamentals of surfing that will stick with us every time we go surfing. It was a fantastic morning and one of the highlights in our entire trip.

What you need to know: Pro Surf School has everything you’ll need on hand, so you don’t have to worry about anything (including free pick up and drop off service, towels, clothing, lockers, shampoo, drinking water, and wifi). Classes are available for all experience levels with class sizes kept small with a 1:3 ratio of instructors to students. If you don’t speak English, don’t worry! Lessons can be taught in Russian, Korean and Japanese. But the most impressive feature of this school is their “stand up” policy. Pro Surf School guarantees that you will stand up by the end of your first lesson and they will work with you as long as it takes to see you accomplish the task.

There’s a restaurant and lounge area for you to relax after a lesson or mingle with other surfers in the evenings. And there’s also accommodation available if you want to stay in the thick of things. Pro Surf School also has boards available for rent at 50,000 IDR for 1 hour or 80,000 IDR for 2 hours.

Disclaimer: Our surf lessons were sponsored by Pro Surf School, but our thoughts and opinions remain our own.

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