A klutz learns to surf in Bali

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I have a confession to make.

I’m a bit of a klutz.

Grace and agility are not words that people often use in my presence.  It is unlikely that I’ll be mistaken for a mountain goat any time soon.  A ballet dancer I will never be.

As a result surfing wasn’t something that I had ever tried.  My justification was that I grew up in the South Island of New Zealand, where the water can be so cold that I would have been better off with a snowboard.  As true as that might have been, the fear of looking like an even bigger dork than usual was what really kept me from giving it a go.

Falling off surfboard in Bali

At the end of a couple of weeks in Bali, however, I had finally run out of excuses.  Booked into an introductory surf lesson with Odysseys Surf School, Lauren and I trudged through the tourist cess-pit of Kuta to don wetsuits, grab some boards and head out to the beach.

Our instructor, Dony, was a very patient man.  Obviously well used to teaching inept newbies how to ride slabs of fibreglass, he got us to lay our boards down on the sand and watch him demonstrate the correct technique.  He made it look so easy, flicking from prone to upright in a split second.

I … did not.

With all the grace of a baby giraffe I tried several times to mimic his movements, failing dismally every time.  Back foot first.  Back foot first.  Back foot … ahh screw it.  Let’s just get in the water.

Surfing in Bali 1

The waves were pretty much perfect for beginners, only a metre or two high.  Lying flat on my board and waiting for the white water, I had visions of standing up on my first attempt and riding in to the beach with my arms aloft.  Perhaps a whoop or two of triumph could be in order.

Instead I barely got to my knees before toppling inelegantly sideways.

Oh well, never mind.  There was always the next time, after all.

Or the next time.

Or the next time.

For about 45 minutes I tried again and again, getting progressively more tired and pissed off at my lack of progress.  I had managed to briefly get to my feet a few times, but never with any real control.  A couple of seconds of wind-milling my arms around and I was nose-diving yet again.  This surfing thing sucked.

And then, all of a sudden, as we approached the halfway mark of the lesson, I figured something out.

When Dony was pushing me onto the wave and shouting “get up, get up” from behind me, he didn’t mean “ok, now slowly push yourself up and then get your feet ready and then start to stand up and then move your back foot into position and then move your front foot forward and then just fall off into the sea.”

No, what he actually meant was “STAND THE HELL UP RIGHT NOW!” … although he was far too polite to say it.

So the very next run, I tried that approach.

And what do you know, this was the end result.

Dave surfing

Holy shit, I was surfing!  All the way into the beach, in fact.

I’m not sure who was the more surprised, me, Dony or the guys on the sand who had been watching my antics with amusement for the last ten minutes.  We all cheered anyway, and that was the important thing.

After a break to rest and rehydrate, we hit the waves again with a newfound vigour.  I’d love to say that I stood up every time from that point forward, but that would be a lie.  Still, I made it into the beach with a little style at least another half a dozen times during the second half of the lesson.  Even Dony was smiling as he realised that perhaps I wasn’t quite as hopeless as he had first thought.

Despite drinking half of Kuta’s polluted ocean, scraping my hands and bashing my knees, I was very sad when the signal came to finish things up.  “Just one more, just one more” I called, and Dony smilingly agreed.  Lauren and I looked at each other with a smirk.  We were going to ride all the way into the beach on our last run as if our lives depended on it.

She went first and – of course – proceeded to do exactly that.  I gritted my teeth, flung my body skyward as the wave pushed me forward and ……

….. followed her straight in.  Bet you didn’t expect that.  I know I didn’t.

Bouncing out of the water, we were exhilarated for the next several hours.  Surfing was all we could talk about.  There is now a new requirement for any place in SE Asia or Central America that we find ourselves stopping for a few months in the future.  We have to be able to surf there.

Great.  A new addiction.  That’s exactly what I needed…..

Odysseys Surf School was kind enough to offer a complimentary lesson in exchange for a review, but all scrapes, bruises, opinions and new-found-addictions are entirely my own.

17 Responses to “A klutz learns to surf in Bali

  • Awesome pics, Dave! You sure LOOK like you know what you’re doing. : )

    I took a great surf lesson on the north shore of Oahu and thought I was such a boss, and then tried my luck at Waikiki minus the instructor… SO much more difficult! I hadn’t quite mastered the timing or the guts to go after the right waves.

    Hope you have a great time on your next go!

    • Looks can be deceiving hey? 😉

      Yeah the one time I tried paddling myself onto the wave rather than being pushed, it wasn’t a resounding success. I guess that must be what the next lesson teaches me how to do a little better. Hopefully…

  • Nice! Looks like you figured it out in the end. 😀

  • Love the first photo of you – and I feel your pain. I’m athletic but very klutzy too.

  • Nigel D
    8 years ago

    Well done David! I have never tried it but I suspect you inherited your coordination genes from me. I would still be lying flat and frustrated! Great photos – you should get them framed as a set as they tell quite a story.

    • Thanks! Although not for the genetics… 😉

      I have several other photos with me in various stages of motion into the sea, so they do tell quite a story!

  • It’s the BEST addiction! Only thing better is coffee…

    • Coffee doesn’t result in quite so many scrapes and bruises, that’s for sure!

  • Well done, you! Are you an addict now? I’ve always wanted to try and feel like I better start soon. Being a Hawaii native should mean that it’s in my blood, right? RIGHT?! 😉

  • Well done! I love the last picture of you as you seem to get used and look like a professional! Are you keeping surfing?

    • I think I’ll be getting some more lessons … and just hiring a board … anywhere with waves from now on! 🙂

  • This definitely inspired me to try surfing again! I dabbled a bit in California during high school, but was never very good. Definitely going to get back out there when we are in SE Asia later this year! Those baby sized waves look about my speed 🙂

  • That post title just got me hooked. Last year I actually wanted to learn surfing in Bali, but then several people told me Bali isn’t a good place for novices (and yeah, I’m a klutz too), and that it can be quiet rough with the stones.
    Where exactly did you do this? Stones or sharp rocks no issue? Would much appreciate the info.
    And yeah, you look good on that board 🙂

    • Kuta is a great place for novice surfers, even if it’s generally horrible for everyone else. The waves there are usually very small, and the sea shallow enough that the instructors can stand with you out where the waves are breaking and give you a shove to get you moving. No stones or rocks anywhere there.

      Other places in Bali are far more challenging, and definitely not recommended for beginners!

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