Bali has world class surf all season long located throughout the island. The island provides surf for every skill level. The only thing you have to keep in mind is seasons which is either wet, or dry. There are various surf spots to check out based on the season.
The southern coast of Bali is where you will get the most surf, but the east coast may also get its fair share. Most spots are located within 20-45 min drive apart from each other, making surfing in Bali quite isolated in small areas. It doesn’t really matter where in the southern part of Bali you stay, you can still easily reach most of the spots. (For more information about different tourist areas in Bali read here)
What kind of waves could you expect to surf in Bali? Allthough you can still find waves for every level in Bali, most surf spots are for intermediate to advanced level. Shortboards are highly recommended over longboards, since waves are fast and hollow breaking over shallow reef. There are beach breaks in Bali, but not very many. Almost all the surf spots in Bali break left, so going right is uncommon.
Don’t expect to surf empty uncrowded lineups. Waves are almost always good, which attract surfers from all over the world. Its most crowded times are during the months of July and August when bigger swells are frequent. That doesn’t mean that other months you’ll find yourself alone in the lineup, as Bali gets good surf all year long.
Dry season (April to October) is usually the most popular time for surfers because world class surf spots like Uluwatu, Padang-Padang, Bingin and Impossibles are at its best. July and August is the most consistent time in terms of swells. You will find yourself surfing head hight to double overhead waves as you will be exhausted at times not minding to take a break when the waves are less than perfect. Still expect western facing spots like Kuta, Seminyak, Canggu, Medewi and Balian to work as well during the dry season.
In wet season (November to March) the spots become smaller and work less causing the line-ups to be more crowded as surfers are forced to surf in concentrated areas. The best spots to surf in wet season are, Serangan, Sanur, and Nusa Dua.
Surfboard, wetsuits and what to bring?
You can bring your surfboards to Bali, or buy it from a number of surf shops. Kuta provides a selection of local shapers and shops where brand new boards range in price around $500-700, or for a used at around $250-400. You will find all surf brands available with official outlets for Rip Curl, Quiksilver, Billabong and others. Consider the possibility to just get what you need when you arrive as it may cost you less by doing so due to all the airline charges for odd size baggage.
Its important to bring the right quiver to Bali. You can get away with riding your boards a little narrower and slightly less thicker than what you normally ride. Its always good to go longer as well to match the speed and the size of some of the waves you will be riding. Depending on your skill level, your high performance board will work best as your daily board and a gun if you look to challenge yourself on waves of consequence. The boards that I recommended will not only help you actually make the paddle out to join the line-up, but also help you to catch the waves easier. Leave your hybrid boards and short fish at home as you will not find any use for it in Bali, unless you only intend to surf on small days and even then will be around waist high.
Surfing in Bali does not require a wetsuit. Water and air temperature year around is 30 degrees C or around 85+ degrees F. It gets slightly colder in the months of July and August so locals and expats tend to use 1/2mm spring suits, or neoprene jackets. Based on my experience, most tourists never find it chilly and just use rash guards, board shorts, and bikinis. (More on weather in Bali)
Make sure to bring your reef booties if you’re going to surf reef breaks, as reef tend to be extremely sharp and have been known to cause infections if not treated properly.
Don’t forget to bring wax for your board as they tend to be expensive here and make sure to use tropical for the warm waters.
Also bring good sunscreen which is essential for Bali as the sun here is very unforgiving and you would not want to spend the early part of your vacation tending to sunburns. You can buy sunscreen in Bali, but it tends to get expensive as well. Make sure you get the one that has the maximum protection.
Understanding swells and tides in Bali
When looking at Bali surf forecasts, swells will be measured in feet, but tide charts will be shown in meters. For Bali surf forecast and tide chart check this page.
When you look at swell size, understand that 6ft and above is head high to overhead in most spots. Swells 8+ ft are considered big and can get to double overhead depending on the spot. Average size swell is about 5 ft. which is perfect for all skill levels.
Tides change every hour and affect surf spots significantly. Mid tide is around 1.5m, high tide is 1.8m, and can get up to 2.6m on a full moon. Anything less than 1m is considered low tide and most spots become shallow exposing the reef and make it a very dangerous time to surf. I would suggest those who lack the surf skill from surfing on low tide and stick to surfing during high tide only.
Bali Surf Map
Bali Surf spots overview:
Kuta & Seminyak area
These spots work mostly in dry season. Kuta has a really good beach break for beginners and everyone still learning to surf. Plus there are few reef breaks around the airport where more skillful surfing can enjoy riding left and right breaks. Longboarders can also enjoy surfing in this area, especially beach breaks on high tide.[table]
Surf spot: surfing level, beach/reef, left/right
Kuta beach: beginner/intermediate, beach break, left&right
Seminyak beach: beginner/intermediate, beach break, left&right
Airport left: expert/intermediate, reef, left
Middle reef: expert, reef, left
Kuta reef: expert/intermediate, reef, left
Airport rights: expert, reef, right[/table]
Spots here are more suitable for shortboarders (not much to do for longboarders here unless you are really skillful), especially for advance, or those who are really good intermediates. Bukit spots work mostly during dry season, in July and August. Expect to surf in head high to overhead on a daily basis during this time. Intermediate surfers are advised to surf when it’s no more than 5ft and mid to high tide. Beginners can surf in Baby Padang (right hander) and Dreamland (left hander) on small 3 to 4ft days. Jimbaran beach is highly recommended on bigger days.[table]
Surfspot: surfing level, beach/reef, left/right
Uluwatu: expert/intermediate, reef, lefts
Padang Padang: expert, reef, left
Baby Padang: beginners, reef, right
Impossibles: expert, reef, left
Bingin: expert, reef, left
Dreamland: all levels, reef/beach, left&right
Balangan: expert/intermediate, reef, left
Jimbaran: kids/beginners, beach, left&right[/table]
Canggu & West
Canggu is a nice mixture of spots for different levels and tastes. Here you will find beach breaks, fast barreling waves, and breaks that go left and right perfect for long boarders. Canggu is limited to work only during dry season. Morning is the ideal time to go because winds pick up around 11am. Spots for beginners and long boarders are Batu Bolong and Old man’s. For intermediate level surfer should go to Berawa and Canggu sandbar. Experts surfers will enjoy Echo Beach and Pererenan. Canggu is heavily overcrowded, so keep that in mind. Other recommended spots in the west would be Balian and Medewi, good options to stay for few days.[table]
Surfspot: surfing level, beach/reef, left/right
Echo beach: intermediate/expert, reef, left
Berawa beach: intermediate, beach, right
Pererenan: expert/intermediate, reef, right&lefts
Canggu sandbar: intermediate, beach, right
Batu Bolong: intermediate/longboard, reef, left
Oldmans: beginner/intermediate, reef, left&right
Balian: intermediate/longboard, beach&reef, rights&lefts
Medewi: beginner/intermediate/longboard, cobblestone, left[/table]
This is where you would head during wet season. Nusa Dua, Green Ball, Serangan, and Keramas are the spots that work in wet season. Nusa Dua offers advanced reef and beach break for all levels. Green ball and Keramas in most days are for advanced.[table]
Surfspot, surfing level, beach/reef, left/right
Green ball: expert mostly, reef, right
Nusa Dua: beach break (Grand Hyatt), all levels, beach, left&right
Nikko beach: expert, reef, right
Geger beach: expert, reef, right&left
Black stone: intermediate/expert, reef, left
Mushroom rock: intermediate/expert, reef, right
Sri Lanka: intermediate/expert, reef, right[/table]
Sanur & East coast
During the wet season most breaks aren’t going to be working. So the spots that do work tend to get crowded no matter where you go. Serangan is the worst in terms of crowds, but it has several breaks for all levels depending on swell size of course. I have to admit, that I am not expert in Sanur. For a weird reason, spots there are mostly surfed by locals. or local expats. These spots all work well in wet season, so Sanur is your best bet during those months. When Nusa Dua gets too big, Sanur needs a large swell to work properly. Most spots there are right handers and the locals are not always friendly and tend to not follow any etiquet.[table]
Surfspot, surfing level, beach/reef, left/right
Serangan: all levels, reef, lefts&rights
Keramas: expert, reef, right
Sanur reef: expert, reef, right
Tandjungs: expert, reef, right
Hyatt reef: expert, reef, right
Padang Galak: intermediate, beach, lefts&rights[/table]