Balian is a small village located on the west coast of Bali, very near the main road from Java to Bali. It is famous in the surfing world for its excellent rivermouth surf break.
Balian is becoming an increasingly popular surfing and yoga destination. It’s a place where you visit for a short time, and find it hard to leave. Some never leave. It is reminiscent of how Bali was in the 1970s before mass tourism arrived.
It retains a friendly and less crowded vibe compared to other surf spots in Bali. So it’s ideal if you’re looking for a more relaxed and less competitive surfing environment.
Balian is especially well-known among the international surfing community for being a consistent surf spot that’s suitable for a variety of surfing levels and perfect for intermediate surfers.
So whether you’re a novice or an advanced surfer, Balian can provide you with an excellent surfing experience.
This comprehensive guide outlines everything you need to know about surfing in Balian.
Balian surf spot information
Balian is situated in a unique location, nestled beneath the mountains on the west coast of Bali.
The unique topography of Balian contributes to the exceptional surfing conditions. The cool mountain air creates a reliable offshore breeze almost every morning resulting in clean-breaking waves.
The sacred river of Balian has carved a deep water channel, funneling and amplifying the swell’s energy directly toward Balian beach. So even tiny swells get magnified, making Balian a year-round surfing destination and one of the world’s most consistent surf spots. Balian is never ever flat and is always big enough to surf.
Balian provides a diverse surfing experience with 3 different surf spots catering to surfers of varying skill levels.
- The Peak: The Peak at Balian is a reliable surf spot and the waves are always the biggest here. It’s an A-frame so the wave breaks both left and right. The left is a slow-breaking wave that can wall up perfectly and break all the way to the beach, making it a dream for goofy footers. The right is a fast-breaking high-quality wave, that often barrels, but it can be difficult to paddle back from when the swell is large. Wave selection is the key on bigger days to not get stuck inside.
- Ketuts: Ketuts is positioned on the east side of the river. It’s a speedy, high-performance, right-hand breaking wave that can throw barrels and is great for regular footers. It’s worth noting that Ketuts breaks heavily on the inside, and the end section bowls. It is a very intense wave and always a bit smaller than the peak. Paddle diagonally away from the river if you get stuck inside.
- Inside Lefts: Inside Lefts is found on the west side of the river. The waves here are smaller compared to The Peak. It’s a cruisy left-hander and a popular spot with novice surfers. When the trade winds kick in, you will find that inside lefts is cleaner than the other spots mentioned above, as the whitewater from the peak will break up the chop.
Balian is generally less crowded compared to other surf spots in Bali, such as those found in the Uluwatu and Canggu areas so it offers a more peaceful surfing experience. It can get busy on the smallest days with day trippers and surf schools from Canggu in search of a wave when Canggu is too small to surf.
There are plenty of warungs (local eateries) on the beachfront where you can grab something to eat and have a great view of the surf. Dekkies Warung has a great bird’s eye view of the surf from above and Pondok Pitaya is located directly in front of Inside Lefts.
The wave doesn’t break very heavy, but rolling whitewater will push you inside and can make paddling out quite difficult on the bigger days. So make sure you’re well aware of your surroundings and are comfortable with the conditions before paddling out. If you do get stuck inside, paddle perpendicular to the beach to the west where there is deeper water – the current will help you.
When is the best season to surf Balian?
Balian offers rideable waves year-round, making it a great place to surf regardless of the season, but it can be often too big in the dry season. Balian does not handle a high wave period very well and it is better on a low period of 12s or 13s. In general, reef breaks in the Uluwatu area are best when 15s period or longer.
During the dry season, which falls between April and October the wind is reliably offshore in the mornings from the cold winds coming from Mount Batukuru in the north which is 2,200 metres high. Mid-morning the trade winds will kick in and overpower the local convection winds so it will usually be choppy by around 11 am. If lucky the wind will drop late afternoon in time for a sunset session. The dry season is predominantly sunny and the water is cleaner due to less water flowing from the river.
The wet season, which spans from November to March, can be perfect at Balian.
The wet season often sees less crowded lineups and it can be an excellent time to visit Bali, especially if you’re looking to avoid the crowds and surf Balian in relative solitude.
Do note that the wet season tends to come with more unpredictable weather, but rainfall cools the land, and this will often change the wind to offshore. There have been a number of shark attacks in Balian recently and we would advise caution surfing when the water is brown from the river as this is the most dangerous time.
In summary, you can get a rideable wave at Balian all year round, but the dry season can often be too big. Insider tip: Balian is very open to south swells but the surf is diminished in size from a southwest swell as Java blocks some of the swell. Many people will avoid Balian when the swell is forecast to be big, but a SW swell is always smaller at Balian than at Uluwatu and Canggu.
The best months are generally during a change of seasons i.e. March-April and October-November as the winds are generally light and the surf is usually the right size (head to head and a half high). January can often be a poor month with strong westerly winds and lots of rain. In July & August, the trade winds tend to start early and blow hard all day.
What are the best conditions for surfing in Balian?
Surfing conditions in Balian are shaped by a mix of factors including swell direction, wind conditions, tide, and size of the waves.
- Swell Direction: Balian breaks well on any swell direction but an SW swell can be better, as the swell wraps around Java, and that generally improves the wave quality. As mentioned above SW swells can be smaller than expected. The more west in the swell, the more protected Balian is from the easter tip of Java. South swells come directly into Balan unfiltered and can often be too big for Balian to handle well.
- Wind: Balian is extremely fortunate as a surfing destination as the cold wind from the mountains blows directly offshore. It is offshore in Balian almost every morning of the year. Balian has its own micro-climate such that light westerly winds are negated by the effect of the cold mountain air. The worst winds for Balian are a strong westerly/south-westerly wind (wet season cyclone) or south-easterly trade winds.
- Tide: Balian can be surfed on all tides, but is best at mid to high tide. At low tide, the wave lacks definition and the cloud breaks on bigger days. If the surf is very small then Balian can be fun at low tide but usually the higher the tide the better the wave breaks. Balian handles spring high tides better than anywhere else in Bali. If there is a tiny swell and a huge tide, then it can be too deep for the waves to break, but if the swell is big enough, the waves will break very well at even the most extreme high tides.
- Wave Size: Balian works best when the surf is head to head and a half high high. It can be excellent up to double overhead, but any bigger than that and the waves tend to break in such a wide range, it is difficult to find the right spot. As the bathymetry is quite flat, big swells can break very far out and you always end up getting caught by set waves that push you inside. Below head high and there is not much power in the wave but the rides can still be long and fun. High period swells cause the waves to break wide of the peak and be disorganized. Balian is similar to a beach break in that it does not handle high period swells well.
Remember, surfing conditions can change rapidly. So it’s always recommended to check a reliable surf forecast before you head out.
Make sure your skill level matches the day’s conditions, and recall that all swells at Balian get magnified due to the sacred river which has created a deep water channel beyond the surf break. Understanding and respecting the conditions is important for a safe and enjoyable surfing experience.
Can beginners surf Balian?
Yes, Balian can be a suitable spot for beginners to surf when the surf is very small.
Among the 3 surf spots in Balian, Inside Lefts is the most beginner-friendly.
The waves at Inside Lefts are smaller and less powerful than The Peak or Ketuts. So it’s a good place for beginners or less experienced surfers to practice and improve.
But Balian can be a challenging surf spot and the current can be strong, especially during bigger swells.
As always, beginners should consider taking surf lessons from a reputable surf school. Surf schools and instructors can provide valuable guidance and ensure a safe and enjoyable experience while learning to surf in Balian.
Recall that Balian picks up a lot of swell, so it can often become too big for anyone other than expert surfers. Here are some great surf spots for beginners in Bali.
When Balian is too big, intermediates may want to go about 15 miles west to the next surf spot over, Medewi. Medewi is a soft-breaking left-hander and it’s one of the best surf spots for intermediates in Bali.
Where to stay in Balian?
If you’re looking for somewhere to stay in Balian, then we recommend Beach Villa Balian which is located directly in front of the A-frame peak and has great views of Ketuts and Inside lefts. You can check the surf conditions without even leaving your bed.
Beach Villa Balian offers the ultimate surfing experience with the beach and river literally at your doorstep.
Equipped with modern amenities, spacious rooms, and a private pool, the villa offers a perfect balance of luxury and comfort for relaxing after a day of surfing. It’s ideal for surfing enthusiasts, providing direct, hassle-free access to the surf break.
Availability can be limited due to the high demand, so it’s recommended to book in advance.
Balian is a fantastic surf spot for anyone looking to escape the traditional tourist hotspots and enjoy a more laid-back surfing experience.
With its consistency, diverse variety of waves, and welcoming local community, Balian promises a rich and rewarding surfing experience.
Here you can enjoy rideable waves year-round, with the assurance that it will never be flat.
In conclusion, Balian offers a unique surfing experience.
So grab your board and head over for a memorable adventure at one of the world’s most consistent surf spots.