Indonesia (or just straight up Indo as it's called in the surf lexicon), is a Southeast Asian nation made up of thousands of volcanic islands, is home to hundreds of ethnic groups speaking many different languages. It’s is known for its beaches, volcanoes and jungles sheltering elephants, tigers and Komodo dragons—not to mention it's thumping surf.
Some of my best all-time surf trips have been to Indo, from Bali to Lombok (both covered in this article) and deep into the jungles of Java. My trip to G-land a few years back was one of the most epic trips I ever took and you should definitely put it on your list.
Thanks to Rory at Indo Surf Camps for helping with the content for this article—if you are planning a trip that way please contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org
Five location Covered in This Article
Bali has tons of surf spots scattered everywhere around the Bukit Peninsula and up both the east and west coasts of the Island so you just can’t go wrong. There is always a good wave somewhere in Bali and there is always a perfect offshore to go with it.
Beginners will find ideal set-ups along Kuta and Legian Beaches. This is the heart of the tourist centre of Bali. It’s a really long stretch of beach with fun peaks all the way along and there are many surf schools and surfboard rentals here.
You’ll be standing up in no time with the large soft boards that are specifically designed for learners. The locals surfing instructors have mastered the ways of explaining the correct technique to make it easy.
If you want to get away from Kuta, head a little north on the west coast of Bali to Echo Beach at Canggu where there are waves for all levels with a great strip of bars and restaurants right on the beach …..just perfect for a little rest and refuelling while you take in all the action.
Just a couple of kilometres South from Kuta to Tuban where the airport runway juts out into the ocean right between two breaks known as ‘Airport Lefts’ and ‘Airport Rights’ and then further on to the Bukit Peninsula to Dreamland, Bingin Beach, Uluwatu, Padang Padang and heaps of other spots.
Bali is also famous for waves to suit the pros and more advanced surfers at places like Padang Padang and Uluwatu which is famous for its steep cliff decent and the entry to the surf through a large cave at the foot of the cliff. It is quite an attraction even for the non-surfer.
Swells are most consistent and best during the dry season from April through to November with perfect surf conditions which attracts surfers from all over the world so be prepared for some crowds. If the crowds are too much it is always possible to find fewer surfers in the not so famous line ups.
These hidden gems are easily found using the local surf guides who always have their finger on the pulse and can easily connect the swell size and direction with wind and tide to know the right spot for you. Surf Guides in Bali are very affordable and a good idea if it is your first visit.
From the famous and highly competitive waves at Uluwatu or Padang-Padang to the miles of beach breaks there is something for everyone in Bali.
Just a short flight or boat-trip from Bali is the magnificently rugged island of Lombok where you will find another Kuta Beach but this Kuta is a lot quieter than Kuta Bali.
The laid back villages all along the south coast of Lombok have excellent variety of quality surf breaks right nearby.
Lombok has always been just as famous as Bali as a surf destination even though the waves are not quite as good as some of the other Indo Islands.
Lombok’s famous Desert Point is considered one of the best waves on the planet and attracts many surfers whenever a swell hits it and is the main surf attraction on Lombok.
(Pictured below - Somewhere on the south coast of Lombok)
Lombok has several other surf spots that work given the right conditions and heaps of the Lombok waves are user friendly without so much of that sharp reef.
You may need to hire a boat from locals to access some of the Lombok wave´s and many local surfers will be happy to guide you.
Gerupuk Bay is home to five different spots which work on various tides, wind and swell combinations with great protection from the headlands of the bay and are easiest to get out to by boat.
Are Guling is a right hand reef break located a few Kilometres to the west of Kuta and is accessed by boat or overland by road or tracks. Mid to low tides can see the inside section doubling up and barrelling.
Are Guling can hold 8-10ft when perfect but is best at 4-6ft.
Also some great options here for surf during the low season as the lay of the land creates a bit of a rain and wind shadow—like a sunny pocket during monsoon season.
Most visiting surfers connect flights to Lombok from Bali but now there is a new International Airport at Mataram so direct flights are possible from a few international airports.
You can also hop aboard one of the fast boats from Bali to Lombok which is only a two hour trip across and makes it possible to take in the party at Gili Trewangan.
The Gili Islands are famous for 24/7 parties and if you go there you’ll see why. The idyllic paradise island with a relaxing vibe and some equally relaxing surf but it does need a big swell.
3. South Sumatra
Lampung Province on the southern tip of Sumatra is one of the best surf destinations in Indo. Krui is about a 6 hour drive from Bandar Lampung which is the provincial capital and the nearest airport for travelling to the south coast of Sumatra.
It is a bit of a mission to get out to Krui with the short flight out of Jakarta followed by the 6 or 7 hour drive through the lush Sumatra countryside can take a whole day and this often contributes to the smaller visitor numbers.
The coast line of South Sumatra is a surfers dream! So many surf spots that its always easy to get a surf. From beach breaks, peaks, slabs and a few points there is a huge variety of waves to choose from.
Different wind and swell directions have different places firing when you don’t expect so make sure to check with local guides where ever you stay to find the best options. Whatever happens there is always a wave breaking somewhere along this stretch of coast.
Generally the place is not crowded and you can always score waves with just a few friends.
Picture: Slotted at Ujung Bocur
Ujung Bocur is an excellent, world class left point. You just won't want to get out of the 30 degree (85 Fahrenheit) water.
UB’s, as it is often called, is consistent and pretty much always has a wave, though it’s hollower and a bit more challenging at low tide. It is an amazing left with a really long walls and barrel sections all set in the coconut tree lined beaches of this tropical paradise.
Way Jambu, or 'The Sumatran Pipeline’ in some of the old surf movies, is a little further south and offers experienced surfers the barrel of their lives. With heavy, critical take-off s into a top to bottom barrel it’s a must check if you have the barrel riding skills.
The waves in Krui town need a bigger swell to get going, but once they do, be on it. The left is a bit like Bingin in Bali with a friendlier reef and the right offers longer walls with the odd barrel.
When Ujung Bocur is huge or the swell direction is just right, these waves are some of the best in the area. The Krui left is a mechanical barrel and can be a lot of fun. Further North from Krui there are more points that are awesome.
Mandiri Beach is a huge stretch of beautiful beach that is almost always fun and can get epic. It’s always easy to find a barrelling peak to yourself here and it’s hardly ever flat. “Honey Smacks” is a popular spot with the body board crowd.
It’s a short but intense left barrel located just up from Jenny's right. Jimmy’s is another world class wave in this area. Here you can enjoy either a long, hollow challenging left or a sucking, slightly less hollow right. Both break off a shallow reef within a bay.
The Lampung Province is well worth exploring if you are a surfer and like getting off the beaten track and it can be on at any time of the year.
Local surf camps in the area all have the motor bike rental business going and will set you up with a bike that has surf board racks for small money. What a fun way to get around!
4. Rote Island - West Timor
The south west end of Rote Island has an array of world class surf breaks with long lefts and some thick lipped crushing rights.
The west facing Nemberala Beach offers beautiful fiery sunsets over the reef and view of other close by islands which also have god waves. You will never find a more idyllic tropical beach setting—it is truly beautiful.
The southerly swells generated in the deep south of the Indian Ocean winter are very clean and tidy after travelling so far towards the equator and the Indonesian coast. Fortunately these swells coincide with the Easterly offshore trade winds that create the corduroy ocean.
All the main spots are within easy access from Nemberala fishing village with the most famous wave T-Land right out in front. This is the main wave to surf in Nemberala and the premier wave in this region of Indonesia.
Nearly all of the surf resorts and Losmen here have a fast boat service to ferry you to the waves which are all a long paddle off the beach. It’s not that bad a paddle but it can be a bit tricky navigating through the seaweed farms that cover the reef and keep many of the locals employed. Seaweed farming is one of the main industries on Rote.
The T-Land break has some similarities to the famous wave on Java, G-Land. Nemberala is definitely a softer and more “user friendly” wave than its namesake. The point like reef is approximately 400 meters long and broken into four separate take off zones.
From “The Point”, “The Steeple”, “Magic Mountain” and “Inner-tubes the different take-off spots spreads out the surfers. On good days they connect and long rides are really good on the legs. This wave can also be very good in the early and late season when the winds are light and variable.
The reef is non-threatening and the wave is not tide dependent, although it’s often better at low tide than high.
T Land - can get big! And it’s really fun when it does because no matter how big it gets it stays friendly. Not a lot of fear in the water here.
The Bommie is a section of reef on the north side of the large Nemberala boat channel. Although the Bommie is a Right/Left peak, the left is seldom surfed as it is not as organized as the right which ends in a deep water channel. The Bommie is a “the lower the tide, the better the wave place”
Suckies, or sometimes called Sucky Mamas is an amazing right just a bit North along the beach and easiest to use the boats to get there. Suckies is a right hander which has a short but good barrel. On a higher tide it can be a little fat. Suckies is a shorter wave but still a lot of fun.
Boa is about 15 minute by boat or a 10 minute drive in the car. This classic right-hander barrels right from the take-off which can be steep and hollow and then a long very fast wall. Boa is best when the trade winds are very light so best surfed at early morning or during the wet season months from November to April.
Rote Island is the most Southern of the Indonesian Islands and is much different in the landscape and the people compared with the rest of Indo.
It looks and feels a lot like Western Australian Desert (makes sense with Australia so close) and the people are different too and so West Timor isn't exactly a lush jungle paradise like many of the other islands but it does boast some of the most beautiful tropical beaches.
West Timor is quite a bit different from Bali or Sumbawa or Lombok. The far-eastern end of Indonesia is also not as frequented by surf travellers and you’ll find a very relaxed vibe around the village.
There are some classy surf resorts and some locally run surf camps at Nemberala.
West Timor is a fabulous surf destination that you’ll love—it doesn’t get much more laid back anywhere and the waves can be great.
First you must get to Bali and from there find the local Airlines with flights to Kupang. Sometimes an overnight in Kupang is needed as flight and ferry schedules don’t allow same day connections. From Kupang it is a two-hour ferry ride to Baa, the main small town on Rote, and from there it is an hour by car to Nemberala.
5. West Java
West Java’s south coast is fully exposed to the Indian Ocean and the famous surfing areas of Pelabuhan Ratu Bay (Cimaja), Panaitan Island and a few others attract the adventurous surf travellers.
Some of the best waves of West Java are on offshore islands but there are a few exceptions with a real potential for completely empty line-ups.
One Palm Point, Photo: Andrew Shield
If you can get out and explore this region there are breaks that you can discover. The dry southern winter season from April through to October is the best with consistent swell. The wet season is from November through to March and while the surf is less of a guarantee, there are still waves.
Through the wet season (Dec-Mar) the winds change to W-NW grooming the rights on Panaitan and on the points in Cimaja.
Despite the huge population of 45 million, the West Java region is a wild and unspoilt, rugged land with large National Parks and World Heritage sites. One of the scariest but rewarding waves in the world can be found here on the eastern side of Kasuaris Bay on Panaitan Island, in the Ujong Kulon National Park.
“One Palm Point” is known for its long barrels and it is recommended to listen to the local surf-guides on the trip. Many of the surfers at One Palm Point will be fully wet suited in neoprene and crash helmets for protection from the reef and here you are not going to find crowds. It feels a bit like going to the edge of the world!
On the other western side of Kasuaris Bay is another well know break called “Apocalypse” which is a steep take-off into incredible stand-up barrels. November through to March are the months with winds from W-NW.
Through the wet season (Dec-Mar), it shifts to W-NW with W first and then NW, grooming the rights on Panaitan and some of the other points along the south coast of Java.
Ombak Tujuh translates as Seven Waves in English and is known as the best big wave spot in West Java. Ombak Tujuh is a huge left-hand peak that barrels at the take-off and walls up a bit down the line. Because it is straight out of deep water it picks up the secondary swells so it comes at you from different directions.
Like other deep water waves a gun is recommended for the paddle into such a large scale wave and to make the drop possible. Getting to Ombak Tujuh can be a bit tricky. Over land is possible but it depends on the track conditions.
The most practical way is to hire a boat from the local fisherman’s harbour village near to “Turtles”. This makes for a day of adventure and there are other breaks of smaller scale further into the same bay as “Ombak Tujuh”. Ask about “Ant-farm”
Facts about Travelling to Indonesia
Indonesia visa Requirements?
All visitors to Indonesia require a visa. If your stay is less than 30 days a “visa on arrival” (US$35.00) is the easiest solution but make sure your Passport is included in the list of countries that this rule applies to.
It is possible to extend this by another 30 days in Indonesia. For longer stays it is best to apply to your nearest Indonesian Consulate in plenty of time before your travel for a Social/Tourist visa for 60 days and this visa can also be extended while you are in Indonesia to allow a stay of up to six months.
Should I have Travel/Medical Insurance?
Travel Insurance is recommended. Many surfers travel to Indonesia without insurance but it is a risk. Most injuries are smaller reef cuts and bruises but we have seen broken legs, arms and other serious injuries. Remember if an evacuation from a remote surf camp is required in the event of serious injury it could be costly.
Rent a car or motor-bike?
Grab a motor bike from your local rental for around USD 5 per day.
They are everywhere and easy to find and the best way to explore the different breaks.
If there are waves in the area you will find motor bikes that have board racks.
There is always other surfers to share the cost of Car Rental for trips anywhere throughout the islands and that can be fun.
Indo Packing List
Here is a list of items to consider for your indo surf trip:
- 2 and up to 4 surfboards (4 Boards can sometimes attact an additional fee on arrival at customs so pack them tight to avoid additional charges)
- Surf wax (tropical)
- Reef booties (Surf style)
- Leg ropes,fins & keys
- Sun screen – get the good stuff 30+SPF
- Mosquito repellent
- A few t-shirts
- 2 or 3 pairs of board shorts
- Photocopies of current passport
- Travel Documents and Insurance Details
- First aid kit
- Ding repair kit
- A good book, Laptop with movies and music on hard disc.
- Electricity adaptor (Indonesia is same as Europe- 2 round pins)
- Fishing gear, lures, rod, spear gun, etc….. if you are keen to fish.
- Driving licence - Good idea to have an International Licence or you can be fined. (Especially in Bali)
Is there Malaria in Indonesia?
Many areas of Indo are well known for Malaria but in saying that most of the windward coastline on the Indian Ocean is free of malaria. Most surfers never take any anti-malaria pills as there can be nasty side effects.
Of course it is not 100% guarantee there is no malaria or other mosquito born disease in Indonesia and there is that small chance you could get something.
Typically from June to September there is hardly any mosquito’s around. But March, April, May, October & November can have more mosquitos due to the extra rain then. In the middle of the dry season it really isn’t an issue.
How is the security?
Most Surf Camps and Resorts have great security. They are usually on the job 24 hours a day and 7 days a week so your valuables will be safe. Remember though to keep your gear secure and locked at all times.