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The Complete Guide to Surfing Bali’s Wild West Coast

Not so long ago, Canggu was a collection of tiny villages without any tourist accommodation or infrastructure. The only tourists were surfers, who would ride their motorbikes on the beach from Seminyak, surf in the morning and then return to their accommodation in Kuta/Legian/Seminyak. Now Canggu is the epicenter of Bali tourism, which of course makes the surf breaks crowded.

For those tired of the Canggu traffic and crowds, Bali’s west coast has many accessible good quality surf breaks. The breaks are all south west facing so are well disposed to pick up the swell which always comes from that direction. Similar to Canggu, Bali’s west coast breaks are sideshore when the trade winds kick in, so the best surfing conditions are usually in the morning.

Bali’s west coast breaks have 2 main advantages over Canggu – less crowded and better topography. The further west you go from Canggu, the higher the land is on the interior. Bali’s high mountains consistenly blow cold wind towards the coast every morning. The closer the surf break is to the mountains, and the higher the mountain, the longer the wind will blow offshore. In the wet season there are no trade winds, but rain will cool the interior and frequently give afternoon glass offs when there are no cyclones.

Balian and Medewi are in the best geographical location to take advantage of cool winds from the mountains, and it is no coincidence that these are the 2 most popular surf spots on the west coast.

Kedungu

Until quite recently Kedungu was a secret spot. Now it is less quiet with day trippers from Canggu but still retains it’s old Bali charm and is far less crowded than Canggu. Kedungu is a picturesque location that offers a tranquil and beautiful seascape. The area is just now beginning to be developed with villas, hotels, and restaurants, yet the village is still mostly served by a variety of local warungs (small cafe/restaurant) serving traditional Balinese food. You can rent a surfboard cheap on the beach here.

A long and windy road through rice paddies will lead you to this beach break that features several peaks, all breaking both left and right, The waves are best at mid to high tide. At low tide, the wave dumps and there are some hidden rocks. When the tide fills in it is suitable for beginners as there is long rolling whitewater on the inside. This is a great wave for intermediates still riding longer boards as the wave is soft even when approaching its maximum size. When the surf is any bigger than overhead, the several peaks that make up the break merge and the wave becomes a closeout. It is quite a wide beach, which spreads the crowds out, and it is certainly worth a visit if you want to get away from the hustle and bustle of Canggu and see how Bali looked before mass tourism.

Pig Stone

Not far up the coast lies the less well-known Pigstone Beach. It is difficult to access by car, as the road is too narrow to allow two vehicles to pass, and parking is difficult. It is a black sand beach with a rock headland to the South and a backdrop of beautiful vegetation and coconut trees. This is a beautiful secluded spot with fewer facilities and more difficult access than Kedungu.

Pig stone is a reef break that breaks left and right. It closes out at mid-tide, and there is a risk of cutting your feet. Best at Mid-high tide.

Yeh Gangga

Yeh Gangga is Balinese for “Ganges water”, indicating a place of religious importance. “Yeh” in Balinese means water, which is considered sacred and is integral to religious rituals and daily life. If you watch a Balinese ceremony, then you will always see the Mangku (priest) spraying fine droplets of water to purify and bless the attendees. “Gangga” is derived from Ganges, the sacred river in India. Balinese hinduism is unique, but still retains a profound connection to ancient Indian traditions, as India is the mother country of the religion.

Although there is a river at Yeh Gangga it is not powerful enough to have a significant effect on the surf. The waves break best at a peak a little bit North of the river. At low tide this is an expert only break, and is popular with professional surfers who are seeking the ultimate surfing thrill – getting barrelled. For most advanced surfers, the wave breaks too fast at low tide to make the take-off, and is not suitable for beginners and intermediate surfers.

As the tide fills in the wave gets more mellow and the pros with their camera teams pack up and leave it to the regular joes (recreational surfers). At low tide, the dredging barrels break both left and right, depending on the formation of the sand banks. At mid-tide and above, there are several peaks breaking in both directions. Like all surf breaks, the difficulty of the wave is mostly dependent on the size of the swell. Overhead it is great for advanced surfers at mid-high tide, while intermediate surfers will like it in the shoulder-head high range. For beginner surfers, it is best at mid-tide when the whitewater will roll in not too fiercely (except on the bigger swells).

Yeh Gannga is a beautiful spot and well worth checking out, particularly if you want to get away from the more crowded spots. Similar to Kedungu, this area is being developed quickly- and currently features a beach club just north of the main surfing area. Despite the encroaching development, the area retains its traditional Bali feel with many warungs serving local food and snacks. It’s a nice place to stay for the day and get a feeling of how Bali was before mass tourism.

Balian

Balian also has a river of religious significance, and it is known as the sacred river. The source of the river is Batukuru mountain which is the one of Bali’s main water sources. This means the river flows year round, and can be particularly powerful in rainy season from November to March. Thousands of years of river flow has etched a deep water trench that funnels and magnifies any swell, directly to Balian. Balian always has a rideable wave, even on the tiniest of swell, due to this deep water trench. The river mouth creates a unique wave, that has a defined peak which breaks left and right.

The line up for the peak is located directly in front of Beach Villa Balian. If you are lined up directly with the villa then you can go both left and right. The left is generally slower breaking and easier to make, while the right hander is faster, heavier and more challenging. The left will take you to a deep water channel affording an easy paddle (if you make it all the way). The right hander can be much harder to paddle back, particularly if the swell is quite big. For the right hander, wave selection is key – you want to ensure that the wave you take does not close out, and will be long enough to avoid getting caught by following waves. If you pick the biggest wave in the set, and make it all the way, you should have an easy paddle back, but it can be brutal otherwise.

Most people paddle out to the break in front of the road that leads to the beach. It is quite a long paddle to the peak from here, but the deep water means that once you get past the shore break there are no breaking waves. On smaller days, the quickest and easiest paddle out is to follow the flow of the river, which flows out to sea and thus offers some assistance. At low-mid tide on smaller days you can walk directly in front of the peak, and then move to the left into the river. On bigger days this is not practical as too much risk of getting caught by set waves.

Truck Stops

Truck stops is located mid way between Medewi and Balian. It is so named as it is a rest area for the trucks that bring provisions from Java to Bali. It’s a high tide break that is breaks left and right. It could not be described as world class but most days no one surfs it and is a good option to get away from the crowds on a small day.

Be careful accessing the break at low tide as there are sharp rocks. It does not hold a big swell but is a good option when Balian is small and crowded or Medewi is too small to surf.

Pulukan Beach

Just before you arrive at Medewi, you can find Pulukan Beach. Here, there are two peaks, which offer a left and a right, breaking into each other. This break works on a low to mid tide, and works best when the tide is too low for Medewi. If the swell is over head this break will close out.

Medewi

Medewi is the only left hand point break in Bali. Point breaks are revered by intermediate surfers as they tend to offer long waves that are easy to ride. Medewi ticks these boxes. It is an easy take off, the wave is not very steep and the ride can be very long.

A point break can be differentiated from reef breaks and beach breaks by 1 characteristic. The wave breaks away from the land. Because the wave breaks away from the land, the water that the wave is breaking in tends to be quite deep, and that means the wave is soft breaking and the wave slowly loses enerygy. Unlike the racetrack at Uluwatu, where the wave can grow in size and break more powerfully as it moves towards land, Medewi does not have this tendancy.

Medewi is a fun wave and works at all tides but access in and out of the water is difficult at low tide due to the rocks. Options are to wear booties, cut your feet or wait until the tide is higher. Advanced surfers do not get excited by Medewi as there is not much power in the wave and it never barrels. Many surf spot guides to Bali are incorrect in stating that Medewi is suitable for beginners. It is not suitable for beginners, due to the difficulty of getting in and out of the break. The wave breaks away from the land, which is great if you can surf, but the whitewater moves directly to the rocky shore. Beginners can not traverse across a wave – they go straight and at Medewi that will take them directly onto rocks.

On bigger days Medewi is fun for advanced surfers, but the outside wave is not high quality – it is fat and sectiony. The best quality wave breaks on the inside, and is best at around head high and can be perfect for intermediate surfers and longboarders.

It is a short walk up the point to find the easiest place to paddle out. Follow the other surfers is the easiest way to know where the best spot is. Best to paddle directly out to sea for some distance, before cutting across to the break, as there are some hidden rocks. To exit the surf break, best to ride a wave in then head to the closest part of the shore. It’s tricky on a big swell as the waves are breaking onto the rocks. Best to wait for a gap in the sets.

If there is a lot of west in the swell, the swell shadow in Java will block Medewi and considerably reduce the wave size. The more the south in the swell, the less the effect from Java. If Medewi is too small to surf then the options are to have a rest day or drive 30 minutes up the coast to Balian, which is always bigger than Medewi. If you don’t want to drive 30 minutes and handle the Balian crowds check, out truck stops which is always uncrowded.

Yeh Sumbul

Yeh Sumbul is Balinese for River Sumbul and is named after the river which flows nearby. Pantai Yeh Sumbul is a lengthy beach made up of several peaks that are often less surfed than other breaks in Bali. On small days, these are excellent for learning to surf. The peaks can offer fun lefts and rights on the right day, and it is a good place to escape the crowd. On big days, this break transforms into a barrel machine for experts only.