Learning To Surf In Bali

Bali is world-renowned for its surfing, and for a good reason. Even in the depths of winter, the water is warm, and the sun is hot, so no wetsuit is needed! There is a “sick swell dude” every day, meaning almost no need to wait for the right conditions. Learning to surf in Bali is pretty much a rite of passage if you are here for longer than a few days (which you should be anyway).

Skip to

Best Surf Spot
Cost break down
What to know before you go
My experience

Photo by Sacha Verheij

Best Beaches for learning to surf

Canggu Beach

This is where I first got my hands on a board, so it will forever hold a special place in my heart. This spot is ideal for beginners because of the flat bottom reef, which results in soft re-formable waves, in other words, great to learn on!
Along the beach, you will also find a surf school every 10 meters that are experts when it comes to teaching beginners. Canggu is a hot spot for great cafes and things to do, so you should plan to spend the whole day there!

Balangan Beach

Balangan Beach is another very popular spot to learn to surf. You will find ample surf schools to show you the ropes or help hone your skills. If you are a learner, make sure you check the tide chart; ideally, you will want to go at high tide when the waves are around (3-5 ft).
If you arent in a hurry, then go down early and chill on the beach!

Padang Padang Beach

This is a very popular beach and one of the few that charge an entry fee of a few dollars. It is worth it though, because it is a great beach for beginners and pros alike. It has a soft reef break that breaks both left and right, plus there is a gentle rip that is a massive help when paddling out.

Cost break down

Board hire for two hours – $50,000idr roughly $3USD
A private lesson – $350,000idr roughly $24USD

When I went, the private lessons were the only option, and they included board hire.

What to know before you go

Once you have chosen your spot (Canggu beach for the win) and found yourself a surf school go introduce yourself.

You will probably be given a blue foam board, and believe me, while they dont look quite as cool, you will be grateful for it later.
They are not only easier to balance on and therefore stand up on, but they are also a lot safer for you and those around you until you get the hang of it.

Next, you will be sat down and given a few instructions, shown how to stand up, and then practice the drills. This should only take 30ish minutes. Before you know it, you will be in the water and paddling away.

Finally, the moment you have been dreaming about will arrive. Your instructor will look and you and nod; there is nothing more they can teach you on land. Your heart flutters, and you stand up, grinning and attach your leg leash. You are probably picturing some bay watch moment where you will pick up your board, hair flowing, and slow motion run into the waves as droplets gleam on your body.

Reality check, you will find the board awkward to carry and have to walk funny until you get used to the leash. The paddle out will exhaust you, and you will miss the first few waves or fall off. But dont distress, because when you do catch your first wave and stand up, everything will change. You will won’t stop until you’ve caught another and another, and before you know it, you’ll be off the foam boards and looking like a bay watch extra.

My experience

Learning to surf has been on my bucket list for years. I was also specific that I wanted to learn in either Bali or Hawaii.

I spent 8 days in Uluwatu, the home of surfing in Bali, I even bumped into Kelly Slater, literally, at this tiny cafe in the middle of nowhere. Before I left New Zealand, I was dead set on learning to surf in Uluwatu, but unfortunately, life had other plans for me. I came down with a bug that lasted almost the entire duration of my stay in Uluwatu, and for half of the days, I struggled to even get out of bed.

So my chance to learn in beautiful clear blue waters came and went. I was determined not to miss out, and so as soon as I was recovered, I headed down to the local beach in Canggu and booked in for a lesson. It was a one-on-one private tutor with a local guy who had been on a board since he was a toddler, board hire and two hours in the water, all for 350,000 IDR which worked out to be roughly 35 dollars. A great deal, in my opinion.

On land Drills

We started off with on-land drills. One of the instructors had laid out some boards for us and demonstrated the motion of how to stand up gracefully on the board. It seemed obvious, but all the on-land drilling made it second nature by the time we got in the water.

The First Wave

Now I’ve never done a lot of board sports, I am terrible at skateboarding and only tried snowboarding once. Surfing on the other hand, seemed to come easily to me. I managed to not only stand up on my first ever wave but ride it all the way and then gracefully jump off. It was such and thrill, and from that moment on I was hooked

The rest of the lesson

The rest of the hour and a half went in roughly the same manner, I would paddle like mad, get a push from my instructor and stand up on the wave. By the end of the lesson, I had managed to learn how to go sideways along the way (only to the left mind you). I was sandy, exhausted and hooked.


Atypical Adventure

Travel with Bree