If you are considering Bali as a choice for your intermediate surf holiday, it’s a wise one.
We will get into the detail of why Bali is such a great place if you are an intermediate surfer.
INTERMEDIATE SURF SPOTS IN BALI
But first, in order to give you good, reliable advice, let’s start by looking at what the words ‘intermediate surfer’ mean for us and for most surf camps/specialist surf accommodation in Bali and elsewhere across the Globe.
All good surfers will tell you that surfing is a constant journey of learning. The main reason for this is that no two waves in the ocean are identical. It’s also one of the things which makes surfing such an exhilarating sport; it’s you against the wave, every time and every time is slightly different, even on a surf break you know well. What we are trying to explain is that there’s nothing wrong in constantly learning, so don’t put pressure on yourself to be better, or to overestimate your skills as an intermediate surfer.
Most professional surf camps, here in Bali and across the world, will not measure your surf level depending on how many surf camps you have taken in the past, or hours you have spent in the water so far. Instead, we consider the surfing skills you have mastered so far as a guide to whether you are a Beginner surfer, a Novice surfer, an Intermediate surfer or an Expert surfer.
At our Bali surf hotel, a Beginner surfer is someone who has never surfed before. As it’s your first time ever surfing, we have a section of our website especially for you.
The next stage of surfing, we call a Novice surfer. Usually, this is someone who has attended surf camps before, or has spent some hours in lessons in the water, perhaps in your home country. As a Novice surfer, you are beyond the beginner stage, but you are not quite ready to surf alone and select your own waves and paddle into green faces. Your skills as a fairly new surfer will be:
Knowledge of whether you are ‘goofy’ or ‘regular footed’ (right foot or left foot forward on the surfboard)
Able to catch a white water wave alone
Able to stand up easily (pop-up) on the surfboard without falling
Able to ‘trim’ the surfboard to turn slightly left or right
Able to paddle back out after catching a wave unaided
SURF HOLIDAY FOR INTERMEDIATE SURFERS
A quick point about Novice surfers versus intermediate surfers. If you have the right surf conditions, the right surfboard and the time to surf, getting from the Novice surfer stage to the Intermediate surfer stage can be fairly quick. At our Bali surf camp, we specialise in the novice/intermediate stages as our waves in Bali are so perfect for intermediate surfers. If you want to make the jump to Intermediate surfer, this article is also good for you and our best advice would be to do the following:
Choose Bali as the destination for perfect intermediate waves
Try to stay as long as you can for maximum water time
Prepare yourself for your intermediate surf holiday by doing some upper body preparation
Don’t try and reduce the size of your surfboard until you are ready! (bigger board = easier ride at Novice stage)
Be with a good, intermediate surf coach who knows how to improve your basic surfing skills
Our partner surf school has great novice and intermediate surf lessons and the ability to give group, private or semi-private surf lessons in Bali. If you can afford a private surf lesson, go for it as it will give you one-on-one surf coaching to help you progress more quickly to the intermediate surfer stage.
We consider you to already be an Intermediate surfer if you are able to do the following things on a surfboard:
You are comfortable in head-high or bigger waves and can paddle into them unaided
You are able to do a bottom turn (Novice and Beginner surfers, please see explanation below)
You know how to duck-dive (explanation below)
You know how to bail out of a wave without hurting yourself or bailing your surfboard as a potential missile to hurt others in the line-up
For Novice and Beginner surfers: What is a bottom turn or a top turn in surfing?
It might be a bit obvious, but the idea of surfing is to stay on the unbroken part of the wave as it moves towards shore. In order to do that, we don’t just ride in a straight line as we would run the risk of out-running the wave (unless we are on a particularly fast or barrelling wave). Instead, once we have caught the unbroken wave, we want to make the most of the wave’s open face, so we glide gently down the face and once at the bottom of the face, we need to use the wave’s energy to generate power as we rise back up the face of the wave. This means leaning into your surfboard and the wave (either backside or front side, depending on whether you are goofy or regular) and making a smooth turn. For Novice or Beginner surfers, this can be a small movement on smaller waves, but for intermediates, it can be a more dramatic, powerful turn which is required. It’s important to match the angle of the turn with your surfing skill level; the better a surfer you are, the more dramatic the turns on a wave can be. A top turn is required to go back down the face of the wave in preparation for your next bottom turn. Basically, we are zig-zagging on the wave without the sharp angles!
Why is Bali so good for a surf holiday for intermediate surfers?
If you are not already familiar with Bali, we have a real wealth of surf breaks. These range from powerful, experts-only waves like Uluwatu and the ‘real’ Padang-Padang, to a whole bunch of waves which are much kinder to intermediate surfers. If you are an intermediate surfer, we know you are ideally looking for a wave which is shoulder to head high with a gentle face, and Bali has plenty of these types of waves, year-round. We also have big tide variations most days in the month, so what might usually be a heavy, shallow wave on a low-tide, can turn into a mellow, easy wave on a mid or high tide.
Our top tips for intermediate surfers in Bali:
Use the services of a guide if you can afford one; our reasons for this are multiple, 1. the guide will know the spot really well. This is important as every spot usually has different peaks which might change depending on the size of the swell running at the time 2. a guide will help you get in and out of the water safely, which cannot be underestimated at some spots 3. a guide will raise your wave count, guaranteed.
Choose the right surf break; choose a break where you can actually sit in a position where the waves are not constantly breaking on you (if you are a novice surfer, you will know exactly what we mean). The best spots have a channel to rest in (like Bingin) so you are not constantly being pounded by white water as you try to paddle back out
Observe before surfing; If your chosen surf break has a channel, it’s a priceless tip to sit in that channel for a while and just watch (a channel is usually a deeper section of the ocean floor where the waves don’t break). That way, you can be in line with the main break, but safe from the waves and see what the waves are actually doing and also the skill level of the other surfers. Waves always look different from the shore, so this is possibly the most important thing you can do to decide where to sit and who to look out for (see surfing etiquette below). If you can’t sit in a channel, observe from the shore.
Select your waves. Novice and lower intermediate level surfers are so often anxious to take waves, or are sitting in a position where the wave takes them, that they do not have time to sit and rest between sets. Choose the right tide and spot so that you can sit on the ‘peak’ of the wave, and then be patient. Most often you will be sharing with other surfers and some might be more experienced than you. Not trying to paddle for every wave will pay off, wait for the wave that suits your ability and position – less rides of higher quality are the key
Waves almost always come in sets If you are in a busier line up, it’s often a really good idea to wait for the first few waves to pass. Not just to see what they did as they broke, but to let some of the other surfers in the line up get out of your way. We very often see a whole lot of intermediate and novice surfers get ‘washed’ right out of the line-up by not quite being in the right spot. If you take a 4th or 5th wave in a set instead of the first, you will most likely have a lot less competition!
Know and respect surfing etiquette; If you want to be a surfer, then you have to respect surfing ‘laws’ of the line-up. Let’s take Bali’s left-hand Bingin wave as an example of the etiquette to be followed. 1. It’s not cool to paddle out to the line-up and then immediately paddle for a wave when there are other surfers in that line-up who have been waiting patiently for the wave to come along. It’s only ok to do that if you just happened to be in the position for the wave when no-one else was. Don’t paddle out and sit furthest to the left as you are automatically jumping the queue in doing so 2. If you are surfing a left-hand break like Bingin, the surfers to your right (as you look towards shore) have priority over you. Therefore, if a surfer to your right is paddling for the wave, back off and wait your turn, it will come. The surfer on the wave always has priority, so if you see a surfer coming towards you on a wave, it is your duty to get out of their way (see below)
Don’t paddle out across the surfers on the wave; Most surf breaks have a channel where you can safely paddle out and not be in the way of a surfer on a wave. If there is no channel, make sure you see the direction of riding and paddle out in the other direction (i.e. if the surfers are all riding left, paddle to the right of their take-off spot). Some spots have multiple waves breaking and that’s why it’s so important to do the Observation part before surfing
Learn how to bail (get off) a wave safely There is little more dangerous than a flying surfboard attached to a leash. Imagine, your surfboard is around 6 to 7ft and you have a leash of the same length or longer. If you ‘chuck’ your board away, either when you dismount a wave you have been riding, or even worse, you do it when paddling out right in front of a surfer who’s on that wave, you are risking serious injury to others in the water
Learn how to duck-dive and turtle-roll; These are two manoeuvres which will keep you and other surfers safe as you paddle out through waves. There are YouTube videos and tutorials on each move, but they are both regularly used by good surfers to prevent bailing the surfboard. The Turtle roll is the easiest to master and most often used by Novice surfers as a wave breaks on top of them.
Now that we have spoken about keeping you safe in the water, we will talk about the spots we can recommend for intermediate surfers in Bali.
Top Intermediate surf spots in Bali:
We are starting with Bingin as it is within walking distance from Swell Bali (and of course, we hope you will stay with us!). Bingin on a low tide with a mid-sized swell is a fast, barreling, left hand, experts-only wave. But on a mid or high tide, as long as there is not a really big swell running, the experts paddle back in to shore and it becomes a kind, fun wave for intermediate surfers who can sit on the peak and patiently select their waves. Bingin is mostly left-handers, but there is also a little right-hander on the edge of the channel.
Here’s an extended Bingin Surf Spot guide >>
Halfway between Bingin and Padang-Padang is Impossibles. On a bigger swell, this is definitely NOT the spot for you if you are not an accomplished surfer as it’s heavy and fast and it’s easy to be caught on the inside and pounded by wave after wave: There is no channel here. But on a small swell, usually 2 to 3ft and on a mid or high tide, Impossibles becomes a beautiful intermediate wave with a long, left hand ride. You can paddle from Bingin beach to Impossibles, making this break walking distance from Swell Bali.
This beautiful bay has a near perfect inside beginner or intermediate wave. It’s often busy with surf schools, but if you move a little towards the Impossibles surf break (towards Bingin), you can often find a wave breaking with noone on it. You may have to be a little more patient than those on the best part of the peak, but it’s a great spot to get into shoulder or head high waves on the right swell. If you are with a guide, you will get your waves on the peak; they will make sure of that.
Just a few hundred meters north of Bingin is Dreamland beach. This is a super spot for intermediates on a low to mid tide. Dreamland has four defined peaks; the bigger peak closest to Bingin is approximately 100 meters from Dreamland beach and at first glance looks like a bit of a wall coming at you! However, because the ocean floor is deeper on this section, the wave usually breaks very gently and ‘crumbles’ from the top, giving you a lovely, mellow face to ride. It can be a right or a left hander. On a much bigger swell, Dreamland can become a bit of a monster and is not recommended. In front of that peak is a little beach break where you will usually find the younger local surfers who have this spot completely wired. We don’t recommend that you try it; watch them for a while and you will see that it’s not an easy wave at all as it breaks right onto the shore.
As you stand looking at the ocean, over to the right hand side (approximately 200m right of the beach break and about 120m offshore), there is a lovely peak which breaks both right and left. The right-hander is better. This is a classic intermediate wave with a smooth, mellow take off. Inside of that peak is a great beginner spot, but be careful not to go to the beginner surf spot on too low a tide as there are some pretty large boulders lurking below the surface of the water. This is where you can really use the services of a guide to get you to the correct spot at the right time.
Balangan beach is a short drive from Swell Bali and Bingin. You can reach it most quickly by scooter and it’s a safe, fun drive of about 10 minutes. Balangan is a stretch of approximately 200 meters wide surfable, intermediate and beginner waves. Balangan’s main peak picks up a lot of surf and is a left-hand wave. On a smaller day, this is ideal for intermediates but on larger days, it’s as much fun sticking to the inside where the waves reform to nice-sized green faces. Balangan is best on mid or high tides and you can park close to the beach so there’s nothing to worry about at this spot. As usual, observe what’s going on with the waves before entering the water.
Thomas beach is a 10 minute drive in the other direction of Balangan (towards Uluwatu). The beach itself is really beautiful and just like Balangan, there is a really wide area to choose your waves and sit away from others. It does have a couple of defined peaks and works best for intermediate surfers on a smaller swell, mid or high tide.
On Jimbaran Bay there are several beach breaks which are good to visit when the surf is too big everywhere else. The bay is protected on huge swells so you can safely surf here when anywhere else might be considered dangerous (those huge swells can happen every few weeks from June to September).
Toro Toro is one of the best dry season intermediate waves on the island. Close to the airport, it is reached either by a kilometre paddle from the beach, or by boat from the shore. With left and right peaks to choose, Toro Toro is a very popular mellow wave and as a result, often busy with surf schools.
Airports left and right
As the name suggests, Airports Left or Right are two breaks either side of the airport runway. It’s pretty cool to surf these mellow waves with the ‘planes landing above you (very close). As with most intermediate surf breaks in Bali, it’s best on a mid or high tide. These breaks, being close to Kuta are often very busy. You just choose the side which suits goofy or regular surfing.
Wet season surfing in Bali
From December to the end of March is considered ‘wet’ season. Whilst it can rain pretty hard at times, it’s often dry and sunny too and there is still surf to enjoy. The winds shift direction in Bali; from late April to October/November, these are off-shore on our Westside but from December to March, they move onshore for us and turn off-shore on the Eastside. This makes a few different breaks start working in the wet season.
Sarangan is a great intermediate spot. It’s reached by boat which is always fun; you park in Sammer harbour and then take a boat out of the bay for around 100.000 rupiahs per person. As you reach the edge of the bay on the boat, you will see baby Sarangan on the left, which is an excellent wave for Beginner and Novice surfers. Your boat will turn right if you are heading off to the main peaks and there are a few to choose from. This really is one of the best spots on the whole island of Bali for intermediate surfers, but it’s at its best between November and March. The boat you took will have a flag of a certain colour and you should memorise it to make sure you get back on the right one when you are surfed out.
Nusa Dua is about 25 minutes on a scooter from Bingin and Swell Bali. The Nusa Dua area has a few different peaks to choose from Geger Beach all the way to Blackstone. Less experienced surfers should avoid Elevators, Keyhole left and right and the main Peak, but instead aim for Temple Lefts and Chickens for mellower waves. Watch out for bigger days as the always present current on this side of the island becomes extremely powerful and potentially dangerous. It’s a really good idea to go with a guide to any of the spots on the East coast.
Wet and Dry Season Surfing in Bali
Naturally, if the wind shifts from off to onshore between the seasons and the West and East coasts, then the South coast has breaks which can work in any season. Swells which arrive in Bali vary in size and when it’s very small on the West coast, the South coast often picks up more swell. Green Bowl and Nyang Nyang are two spots which regularly pick up swell. Our advice though is to definitely take a guide to these spots the first time you visit. Strong currents and sometimes challenging waves await.
We are a new surf hotel located right in the center of Bali’s surf and wellness hotspot. A short walk to the wordclass waves of Bingin, Dreamland and Impossibles. We provide boutique accommodation right in the center of Bingin for surfers and non surfers. Swell is an ideal place to stay for solo travelers, couple or groups of friends that are looking for a social place to stay , or a convenient co-working space for digital nomads who love to surf good waves.