3 Indonesian Surf Destinations for Beating Bali’s Crowds
Bucket List Worthy Off the Beaten Path
Indonesia, affectionately known as “Indo” among travelling surfers, is a mecca for perfect waves breaking in warm, tropical waters. But Australians, and surfers from around the world, have been travelling to Bali and its nearest islands for decades. The result is crowded lineups, beginners learning on world-class waves and an abundance of surf camps where palm trees used to be.
In 2017, Bali is officially cluttered with surfers from around the globe, but that doesn’t mean Indo — home to more than 17,000 islands — should be checked off your list of surf destinations. These three lesser-known surf destinations remind visitors of how Bali used to be.
Rote Island is not easy to reach, but that’s what keeps the crowds at bay. This small, paradise-like island, with turquoise waters and cartoonish palm trees, in the East Nusa Tengarra province consistently reminds surfers of Bali’s past. Internet service is sparse, which means the best way to check the surf is to bring a pair of binoculars and marvel at the famous T-Land left-hander, which can provide rides of up to 1-kilometre-long on a good day. Regular footers can also rent a motorbike and ride through the local villages, past wandering pigs and goats, to Do’o and Suckies.
Getting to “Rote” involves catching a flight to Kupang, taking a ferry to the island and riding in a bemo to your desired surf destination, so you’ll want to tack a few extra days onto your trip for getting to and from the island.
True adventurers will find exactly what they’re seeking in Indo’s Banyak Islands. These islands off the coast of North Sumatra provide a truly authentic Indonesian surf experience, complete with empty waves in the “Bay of Plenty,” local surf guides and a couple of cold Bintangs for when you’re sunburned and surfed out. There are more than a handful of epic waves in the region, including Gunters, Dindos, Lolok Point and Treasure Island, making this a playground for surfers who are more concerned with waves than bars and night clubs.
Reaching the Banyak Islands includes a flight to Medan, a 7-8 hour overland transfer and 2-3 hours on a speedboat to the Bay of Plenty.
The trip to Sumbawa’s best waves isn’t as gruelling as the journey to Rote or the Banyak Islands, and many surf travellers simply don’t have several days to waste in transit. This Indonesian island in the Lesser Sunda chain isn’t completely unknown, but you’ll find far fewer surfers in the water than at Uluwatu and Kuta Reef. Lakey Peak is Central Sumbawa’s most famous, and typically most crowded, wave, but hop on a motorbike just a few minutes north or south along the coast, and you’ll find Nungas, Periscopes, Cobblestones, No Man’s and other local favorites.
West Sumbawa is home to its own selection of epic and uncrowded waves, including Yo-Yo’s, Scar Reef, Super Suck and Northern Rights among others. Take the short and affordable flight from Bali or Lombok and travel back in time to less development and more unridden waves.