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How I Learned to Surf in Bali

I never knew I wanted to be a surfer girl until I picked up a surfboard.

(thanks Hugo and Indasurf for the awesome videos and photos!)

It turns out that surfing is kinda addictive. I don’t know if it’s the adrenaline rush you get from your first successful wobbly stand all the way to shore, or just my strange personal need to master a skill when I put my mind to it (slacklining, you’re next), but the next time I go back to Bali, I’m definitely setting some time aside for surfing lessons.

It seems a bit ludicrous that I’d never attempted to learn how to surf in Bali until now, despite having visited Bali several times in recent years. I love a good water sport – scuba diving, wakeboarding… even a little banana boating – that’s all been checked off the list. But I’d never picked up a surfboard before for some reason.

Bali Grand Mirage Resort Beach Hut
Doesn’t this view inspire lounging and laziness?

Perhaps it’s about the company you keep and the reason you visit a place. With friends and family, Bali trips tend to revolve around communal lounging in pools and on beaches and with extended weekends, there isn’t usually time to fit in surfing lessons when you’re spending all that time chillaxing. Sometimes the opportunity nearly arose but somehow always fell through.

So when Hugo from Indasurf dropped me a note right before I was headed up to Bali offering to teach me to surf, I knew I had to seize this moment. No more procrastinating, I was finally going to learn to do it!

Yet again I didn’t have much time to spare over the Good Friday weekend, the arrangement was a fairly last minute affair so Indasurf were pretty booked up, but they managed to squeeze me and A in one morning to give us a taste of our very first surf lesson.

Indasurf is located in Canggu which is North of Seminyak, but since we were staying all the way in Nusa Dua, Hugo suggested heading to Kuta Beach early in the morning. And by early I mean that I had to wake up at 5am, which made for a really groggy start but hell if the sunrise wasn’t amazing:

Bali Grand Mirage Resort Sunrise
the reward for waking at such an unearthly hour is this orangey mirror-like reflection of the sky on the water

The sun continued to rise as we drove about 30mins to Kuta Beach, the streets were quiet and uncongested during this early morning hour, quite unlike what you might see in the afternoon.

Bali Indasurf Surfboard
Best way to balance the foam board is on your head! Indra trotted out these boards made of foam as they are more floaty and easier for newbies to deal with

Kuta Beach was similarly peaceful, with nothing to disrupt the bird cries and wave sounds – I really enjoy a good empty beach. In addition, the usually powerful surf is much less strong in the mornings, which is ideal for beginner surfers like myself.

Our instructor was Indra, an Indonesian chap with wild curly locks and a big passion for surfing. He’d been teaching surfing for awhile so he definitely knew what he was doing. While Hugo herself loves a good surf, she spent this lesson photographing and videoing us, which is a part of the Indasurf package that lets you have great mementos of your surf lesson and the footage helps you improve your form – nothing makes you improve more quickly than watching yourself wipe out in the videos.

Bali Indasurf Lessons on Stance
Indra showing us how to position our legs properly – the basic principle is keep your centre low and don’t point your feet forward

The first part of the lesson was basic posture before you hit the water – mainly laying down on the board, mock paddling in the sand and learning how to spring from a prone position on the board to a standing position. To tell the truth, the basics aren’t hard to understand in theory, but the execution is a lot tougher to master. It really is about practicing and committing the movements to muscle memory so you can do the same when you’re out on the water.

(You’ll try, but most likely the first time you hit a wave you’re probably gonna throw all that practice out the window and tumble into the water, which is what I proceeded to do)

But you’ll get the hang of it eventually, and hopefully manage to hang on for a cool pose:

Bali Indasurf Surfing
whee surfing! you might feel a little dumb crouching low on the board, but it sure does help you from tipping into the waves

Surprisingly, I managed to stand a fair bit on my first go out, yay! It’s beginners luck as I managed to tip off the board in most embarrassing ways throughout the day, but despite that I do manage a few successful attempts at standing almost all the way to shore.

Indasurf generally prefers small group lessons, which is ideal because you get more personal attention from the instructor – this lesson me and A took turns trying to stand up as Indra patiently coaxed us up onto the boards and told us how not to keep falling into the water.

Bali Indasurf Lesson Time
Break time – Indra giving some wise advice which we try to heed

In total we spent about 3 hours out at the beach, and while it doesn’t sound like a very long time, falling into the water is tiring business and both me and A were pretty whacked by the end of the session!

Bali Indasurf Beached
Here I am, tired but stoked

We pack up the surfboards and change out of the wet rashguards which Indasurf had kindly loaned us, and Hugo and Indra drop us back at the hotel at the end of the session.

Bali Indasurf Carrying Surfboards
successful surf lesson!

I would have loved to spend more time surfing, I think you can definitely get better results with repeated practice in subsequent days. There is still so much to achieve – using a proper surfboard, conquering the paddling, larger waves… I’m hooked!

Bali Indasurf Hugo Indra
Thanks Hugo and Indra, rock on!

So if you’re headed to Bali and want to get wet and wild away from the beach bars, why not give surfing a shot? There are lots of surfing instructors and companies that you’ll run into both on the beaches and your hotel would probably have some recs too – sometimes I find these a little bit dodgy, but I had a great experience with Indasurf and if you’d like to give them a shot, check out their website here.

For a similar package to the one described in this post, for two beginners which includes the videos/photos, surf board rental and instruction, it costs US$90 for two pax (US$60 for a single pax – so hopefully you’re with a friend because it’s more fun anyway!). I would consider the 3-day White Water Hero package at US$240 for 2 pax if I had more time (which translates to just US$30 more for 2 extra days!).

Besides teaching newbie surfers, they are happy to take intermediate and pro level surfers on and seek out some of the more hidden spots for you! If you’re on a budget and just want to spend all your time surfing, you can even consider staying at their guesthouse up in Canggu.

Looking for more Bali articles? Or check out my Indonesia archives to see what other cool places there are to visit here.


Monday 31st of December 2018

How's your surfing going Jaclynn ever since this time in Bali? Have you been able to keep it up. I was reading your About Me page and you have such an awesome story!

At first I was like "The Occasional Traveller"? That doesn't sound so inspiring, compared to other blogs.

But when I read that you were writing for "the busy working professional who loves to travel despite having limited time"

Wow, that's so cool!

You quit your job in 2016 to travel, that's awesome!

Back in 2016 I left a great paying job in Canada (where I'm originally from) and took off to Australia with a 1 year Visa and a one way ticket.

That was my very first time outside of Canada and since, I've been to 6 different countries, and currently been living in Bali, for a while now.

It's been an amazing experience and I like your story!

Jaclynn Seah

Monday 31st of December 2018

I've surfed a bit here and there but I've decided that it's not quite for me unfortunately! Fun for awhile but I find it pretty tiring. Thanks for reading :)

Kristina Mendoza

Friday 28th of July 2017

Good read Jaclynn! I can really see that you had fun! I too wanted to learn surfing but I just can't help but be scared, maybe it's just normal that way. :D But after seeing your experience, I would definitely try it soon!

Jaclynn Seah

Friday 28th of July 2017

Thanks and I hope you have fun! I've decided it's not my thing haha :p


Friday 17th of March 2017

This blog is very nice to know about surfing. And your video is really awesome and thrilling. It is a good idea to improve your surfing. When I came to Bali, I am also a beginner surfing. So I have tried in the surf school. Surfing Lesson on Kuta Beach in Bali. I'm trying to enjoy her at the beginning of the lesson, I'm sure it helps the learning process. The place is very recommendation, they were very friendly and professional. To get your surfing ability to the next level and bring you to the stage challenge where you have to conquer fear and dancing with the sea. You need to try it. Let's check their site.

Jaclynn Seah

Friday 17th of March 2017

Happy surfing! I'm gradually deciding that maybe it's not for me :P


Wednesday 18th of January 2017

When i came to Bali, i was also a beginner of sufing. So I have tried in a surf school. It was a french one but they speak English very well. It was Bali Ocean Surf. The spot is on double six beach. I really recommend them if you need the goods basics and then you can surf by your own thereafter.

Maria Jones

Monday 21st of November 2016

Great info! For those willing to spend holidays with their families I'd also recommend the small island of Nusa Lembongan. More quiet and relaxed than its bigger sister Bali it's a perfect hang out for families.