History of Surfing in IndonesiaIndonesia has a deep rooted relationship with the sea and the locals may have ridden waves on wooden bellyboards back as far as the 12th century. It is made up of 13, 677 islands and is home to some of the world’s most beautiful beaches to surf, dive, kayak, snorkel or simply sit and relax.
It wasn’t until the early 60’s that travelling surfers began clearing a path through the jungles of Indo with mass tourism to follow over the following years. Bali is a perfect example and while we know the hardy travellers of the 1930’s were first to step foot on the beaches of Kuta, it wasn’t until Uluwautu footage in the classic 1971 surf movie ‘Morning of The Earth’ did the surfing world really stand up and take notice. This then sparked a search that has yielded some of the most notable wave discoveries of the century.
In the mid 70's some hardcore Australian surfers began to explore the North Sumatra islands, risking malaria and jungle fever to surf some of the most perfect waves in the world. The Mentawais were not surfed until the late 80's. The local tribal people had hardly any contact with the outside world and had no idea that they were surrounded by the best surf on the planet. Their remote location, 90kms from the mainland, and dense, thick, unpassable jungle meant that they were almost impossible to reach.
Now Indonesia and its islands are much easier to get to, with flights, buses and boats taking people island hopping to surf Indonesia's famous breaks. While Bali is probably one of the biggest surf centres in the world with dozens of surf shops and Indonesia surf camps there are still areas on the fringes that are a lot less traveled, with surf spots still yet to be named and maybe even surfed.
What's the surf like in Indonesia?Indonesia is the world's surf playground! It's one of the most fascinating countries in the world to visit and a surfing holiday in Indonesia will leave you wanting more every time. It is probably the one place in the world every surfer has to go to at least once. The wide variety of Indonesia surf spots, beaches, point breaks and world class set ups offers something for every surf holiday. The island spots tend to suit the more intermediate/advanced surfers, while the area around Bali is both fantastic for beginner learning and those that are already intermediate/advanced.
A surf holiday to Indonesia is now a must for both adventurers and those in need of a little relaxation. White sandy beaches, dense jungles, abundant wildlife, hidden stone temples all call out for exploration. The countryside is made up of lush rice terraces and barren volcanic hillsides making for an interesting trip every time. If it’s adventure or relaxation you’re after, you won’t be disappointed with a surfing holiday to Indonesia.
Where to Surf in Indonesia1. North Sumatra Islands
Named surf spots: 22
The remote island of Simeulue is one of Indonesia's real hidden gems. It is still relatively unknown. Not the easiest to get to but that has its advantages as it means it is not crowded. Dylans Right is one of Indo's most powerful right handers.
The next island south is Nias. It is well known as a world class surf destination but still remote enough to feel like a real adventure into the wilderness. Nias, along with Bali, was part of the famous Asian 'Hippy Trail' in the 1960's and when word got out about the waves it started to attract surfers. Asu, Bawa & Lagundri are the 3 main world class waves, and there are many more lesser known left and right breaks around the islands,
The North Sumatra area is best for the advanced surfer. And be prepared to face some hungry mosquitoes in the evening!
2. Mentawai Islands (Mentawais)
Named surf spots: 26
A surf trip to the Menatwais is the ultimate surf holiday. Arguably the best place to surf in the world. Year round consistent with epic waves almost every day. The islands are surrounded by tropical blue warm waters with a surf break everywhere you look. Whenever you see a picture of a perfect waves in magazines or across the web it is usually from surf in the Mentawais. The swells are biggest from June to September so for the more advanced that is the time. For intermediates and beginners the rest of the year is often better.
The Mentawais are made up of 4 large islands and numerous small islands often just a few hundred metres long with the world's best surf breaking around them. World class spots include E-Bay, Scarecrows, Telescopes, Lances Right and the infamous Macaronis. For intermediates there is Playgrounds, Tikis, Burger World and Pitstops. It's not a traditional beginners area but there are mellow peaks to learn and the boats/resorts will take you there. People either stay in an island resort whose boat takes them out surfing, or on the 20-30 charter boats that are licenced in the area.
Named surf spots: 36
Java is home to 50% of Indonesians and is the most populous island in the world, with 150 million people. The capital Jakarta lies at the North West part of the island. The surf however is all along the South coast. The Cimaja region has a mix of long beginner/intermediate beaches. Panaitan Islands on the South West corner has some of the regions best world class spots, including One Palm Point, one of the longest barrels left hand in the world, all surrounded by wild tropical rainforest.
Central Java does not have as much surf as the South East and West. The swells tend not to get past the islands off the coast. Not many reefs have formed, the area is mostly made up of black volcanic beaches that can have rips and can also close out more often than not. That said there is plenty of surf and Pangandaran is good spot for beginner surf. It is very popular with locals on weekends and around holiday times.
Named surf spots: 51
Indo's most famous island and home to some of the world's best surf. Bali is a great base for an Indonesia surfing holiday. The surf options are also endless, with an abundant of waves for beginners, intermediates, advanced and kamikaze surfers!
Kuta is the main city and has it all, from 5 star Indonesia surf resorts to funky Indo Surf Camps! Top class restaurants, all night bars & clubs, high street shopping and every brand of surf shop. It is one of the biggest surf towns in the world. Kuta & Legian are the beach breaks along the main town centre. Great for learning to surf in Bali year round, and gets good size for advanced surfing also.
40 minutes north west of Kuta is Canggu (pronounced Chan-goo), a really fun surf spot with a numerous breaks for all abilities in the area. It is a more chilled out place to stay than Kuta, plenty of restaurants, cafés & bars but without the all night party theme of Kuta.
30 minutes south of Kuta is the Bukit Peninsula, a swell magnet, it is home to the world famous Uluwata, Impossibles and Padang Padang and more! Padang Padang is also a more chilled out quieter place to stay than Kuta. Mostly for advanced surfers although there are beginner waves closer to the shore.
On the East side is Keramas, Nusa Dua and Sanur. Across the Bali peninsula in East Java is the epic G-Land. Accessed by boat from Bali, with accommodation available there also. It is one of the best waves on the planet and for advanced surfers only.
Named surf spots: 17
Surfing Lombok with its mountainous scenery and clear warm blue water can be breathtaking. The main breaks are along the south coast including the world famous left hand barreling Desert Point and the waves around Kuta Lombok including Grupuk with its mix of intermediate and advanced waves. Its a much more chilled out rural existence than Kuta Bali.
6. Sumbawa & Sumba
Next to Lombok is the island of Sumbawa and after that is Sumba. Known as the Eastern Islands they are far drier and volcanic, a lot different from the tropical rainforest climate of western Indonesia. Most fly to Bali and then get a connection or a boat to the islands. East Indonesia is much more of an adventure to get to and has that edge of the world feeling to it, which means a lot less crowded surf. The islands have their fare share of epic surf breaks such as Scar Reef, Lakey Peak, Occy's left and Miller's Rights.
They are the main surf regions in Indonesia, but their are many more waiting to be discover.
When to Surf Indonesia...The typical Indonesia surf season is the drier months of March to October, when swells are most dominant. July & August can have very big barreling surf so the months either side of this tend to be better for intermediates and beginners. Indo has such a diverse amount of breaks that it really is a year round surf destination and the so called off season of November to March can produce just as much epic surf than the on season.
The weather in Indonesia averages a year round 30°C and the water temperature in Indonesia is 28°C, so all you will need is a pair of shorts/bikini and booties. Indo sits on the equator so it typically has 12 hours of sun and gets dark around 6pm. It's a tropical climate so has a rainy season and a dry season.
In the North Sumatra Islands and Mentawais the rainy season is from September to December with heavy afternoon rains. The sea water and rain is of course warm so it doesn't affect your surf or make you feel cold. The dry season is from January to August and typically gets 1 hour showers each day. The islands have year round surf and the most consistent time to go is from March to August when it can be 5 star almost every day. Winds are mostly calm and glassy.
In Bali and Southern Indonesia's the dry season is different, it runs from May to October and the sea breezes can make it nice and cool. The hotter rainy season is from November to April. Bali is a year round surf destination but the best swell period in Western Bali is from March to October, the Eastern side of the Bali peninsula is more consistent in November to April.
For a more detailed look at when & where to surf in Indo for your surf level use our Surf Trip Finder. Then browse each destination to discover the best selection & lowest prices. Book your surf holiday online now!
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