Since I occasionally dabble in board sports and surfing is famous here in Bali, I decided to sign up for a week at surf camp towards the end of my time here. I found Rapture Surf Camp online and booked a room Friday-Thursday because that was literally the only time that was available according to their schedule.
I arrived via taxi from Sanur and was immediately impressed with the design and layout of the facility. It was an immaculately landscaped compound with a variety of rooms, crystal clear pool, kitchen/dining area and plenty of room to relax. I love how colorful, creative and open the spaces were and feel like it facilitated a great, positive energy that flowed throughout the whole camp. There was even a yoga studio loft that I definitely took advantage of in the mornings.
Everyone, both staff and fellow students/habitual surfers, were really friendly. My room was a four share dorm with air con but the space was huge. A typical hostel would have shoved twice as many bunks inside but instead we only had two bund beds, two squishy bean bag chairs, a corner nook filed with pillows and several drawers. We also had a private outdoor shower, sink and toilet. I felt most at home here compared to all the other places I've stayed during this trip.
And the owners' philosophy totally aligns with mine. They've taken in several stray cats and dogs that wander around the property and occasionally provide cuddles and this is the only place I've seen in Bali that makes such an effort to recycle. This is huge because there's not a great waste management infrastructure so most of the local trash gets burned or ends up on the ground or beach and will probably eventually make its way to the ocean. The only thing that disappointed me was that there was no source of filtered water for us. I had my life straw bottle so personally I could and did drink out of the taps, but people aren't typically that prepared so they end up created a pile of plastic water bottle waste.
The following day was an early one as the beginners left for Balangan Beach at 6 AM. A German girl named Sarah with a sweet Alice in Wonderland sleeve and I had a lesson with Andy, an Indo surfer/instructor and we both caught several waves with his advice/help. We surfed two sessions with break for fresh coconuts in between. The best part was, there was a guy taking photos on the beach and he got a pretty good one of me so I paid 50,000 for it to be burned old-school style on a CD.
We also ended up surfing Pedang pedang twice and Kuta once. Pedang pedang is a pain to get to as you have to squeeze yourself and your board through a narrow chasm while simultaneously traversing uneven stairs on your way down to the beach. The first day there was comparable to Balangan's beginner waves and the line up was packed but the second day was less crowded because the waves were head high and constantly pumping. I managed to surf a few, but mostly got smashed in the middle of sets when I was trying to paddle back out to the channel. Kuta was probably the most packed as it is one of the most touristy spots in Bali, but the waves were also pretty manageable here and there were lots of first time surfers flipping and flopping around in the whitewater.
I took a few excursions around the area as well, including a visit to the Uluwatu temple which is beautifully built high atop a coastal cliff, explored Bingin and Dream Land Beach via scooter and spent a few nights at the most popular surf bar on the beach: Single Fin. I made so many great memories with an amazing group of new international friends from Australia, England, the Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Indonesia, Canada, the States and probably more places that I'm forgetting.
I had a few bruises here and there and my (foam) board bumped my head once when I got stuck in a "washing machine" and a douchey Russian dude mowed over my left foot with his board - but altogether I didn't sustain anything serious. I did, however, hear some gnarly stories about past students' surf injuries; the most recent being a dude who bailed off his board and somehow one of the fins sliced his eye and eyeball, which had to be stitched up. He was fortunate though - apparently it just missed the cornea so he won't be blind in that eye.
I learned so much about surfing in this week and I understand how and why it appeals to so many people. It's so much more than a quick thrill on a board. There is so much 'surf science' involved when you really know what you're doing: the tide, the wind, the currents, the type of board, the type of break, the type of swell, timing and your positioning. Oh, and there is also a whole slew of surf slang and etiquette.
Obviously I wasn't going to master all of this in a week so I relied on our surf guides and tried to mimic what the more experienced surfers were doing and where they were going. You really have to be connected with the sea - almost in a meditative state. You're completely focused - no stray thoughts of Facebook or what you're having for lunch or how much money you have in your bank account. You're just staring at the sea - waiting for the perfect wave. It's quite zen.
It's also builds strength, both mentally and physically. For me, the hardest part of surfing isn't standing up, it's the perpetual paddling. Paddling out, paddling in, padding towards the perfect position. My shoulders were sore as for the first couple days. Then I started to get used to it and zone out, knowing I had to just keep going no matter what. Surfing is both inspiring and humbling. A wave can lift you up and carry you on top of the world or it can smash you (and your board) to bits and completely disorient you.
This was the most expensive venture I've invested in during my time in Bali, heck, during my whole trip so far, but it was totally worth the splurge. I'd be lying if the thought didn't cross my mind to just stay and teach surf-specific yoga classes there and at the newer camp that they just opened. Sigh. It's a nice thought but for now I need to keep Mirambling on with the rest of my current journey. I will come back to Bali one day for sure, though!