Surf travel has felt extremely rare, even endangered, as of late. So when Seeaster slider Hallie Rohr managed to get herself beyond borders and over to Bali, we asked her to take us on a verbal trip. Bringing us a beginners guide, unique insights, and all of the surf and soul-serving fuel we've been missing. Go ahead dive in, there's more to come.
The Zuma is a favorite! Shop this sihlouette in rain here.
By Hallie Rohr
Have you ever been in a year-long rut? Found yourself in a hamster wheel of work, routine, and obligations… unable to shake the idea that time is quickly passing you by? I certainly did after a stagnant year of travel restrictions and a "life-on-hold" mentality we've all likely felt amidst a bleak pandemic. With California Summer approaching, I found myself daydreaming of a formidable yet thrilling mission: flying halfway across the world with no return ticket. Maybe not an original concept, I know… but with all the Covid hurdles and a 9-foot board bag in tow, I knew it would be neither ordinary nor simple. I gave in to the impulse & set ahead on my cliche, "soul-searching trip to Indonesia every 20-something must take"–– trading the lousy line to a mushy and predictable Sano for somewhere entirely new, exotic, and challenging. As someone once explained to me regarding adventure, "Do it before mortgage, kids & taxes".
Be advised–– I'm really not this wise & worldly back-packing nomad, harping on about where the universe will take you, manifesting your intentions, concurrently promoting granola bars and herbal teas. Just an occasionally reckless moron who likes going places when opportunity knocks and finances allow. The purpose of this segment is simply to share my own hard-learned lessons; I guess you could call it "A First Timer's Tips for Bali". All, of course, based on my own failings and shortcomings.
Fresh perspective BTS from Hallies adventure
First Timer's Tips for Bali
- Bring board options, and don't be afraid to fail at it. I was reluctant to surf anything but my trusty log eventually forced to step out of my comfort zone and fumble my way around with borrowed mid-lengths & shorties. The waves can range from mellow to super heavy, but you don't need to get cheese-grated on a shallow reef to have a good time. *Nothing beats the equipment you know, but there are plenty of board rentals in Bali. Just make sure you allocate the cash if you leave your quiver at home!*
- Covid Laws–– It was strictly enforced to wear a face mask and be vaccinated. We'd even heard about several mask-less tourists being deported for breaking this law while on scooters or even in the car! Random police checkpoints were set up to enforce this and recreational travel always felt like a gamble, especially with a stack of boards on the roof sticking out like a sore thumb. Bottom line–– you don't want the Indonesian government to make an example of you, so you gotta act accordingly. (For recent updates or more information, head over to https://bali.com/bali/corona-virus-bali-indonesia/ to learn more!)
- Learn some Indonesian. I wish I'd picked up more phrases than the simple "selamat pagi" (good morning), "ma kasih" (thank you) and "mi goreng" (a salty stir-fried noodle dish).
- Stay a bit modest. In the more rural Muslim spots, you'd rather not attract a lot of attention. It's always encouraged to be respectful of traditional religious or cultural norms. Consider this when packing for your trip, and throw in a few warm weather friendly cover-ups.
- Get an Indonesian SIM card. I didn't & it held me back on many occasions. The ability to call/text any friends or contacts while you're out there without relying on random coffee shop Wifi is rather crucial at times. You'll also need an Indonesian SIM to get the Gojek experience, which is best described as an anything-you-need-Uber.
- Learn to (safely) ride a scooter. Whether you're looking for freedom or an adrenaline rush, it's kind of a must if you're staying long-term. I had a beginner's run toward the end of the trip, attempting awkwardly on an empty road. It's legitimately surprising how many foreigners can proceed with confidence, not to mention the rules of the road are pretty loosely defined.
- Bali Belly–– You'll probably get sick at some point. Lots of charcoal, ginger, garlic, bone broth, and (to my surprise) papaya seeds all help to clear out your system. They all seemed to offer a holistic alternative to hospitals and pharmacies, which I was actively avoiding due to the circumstances.
- Travel Visas–– I cannot emphasize this enough: make sure you do not OVERSTAY your visa. Each day you overstay your allotted time, it racks up to nearly $100 a day. The government officials will NOT accept wire transfer or credit card payment to cover the penalty, ONLY Indonesian RPD. I'm not sure if it was ignorance, stupidity, or just naive misunderstanding. Still, I found myself stuck for over 48 hours in the Jakarta International Airport until I could produce the hefty cash currency needed to dig myself out of this nightmarish situation (that is a whole other story I couldn't possibly cover at the moment). You can learn more and apply for an e-visa here.
Anyways, let's get back to the beginning of it all.
After a few weeks of scrambling, I secured a pricey Business Visa and a decent flight (one without the horrific layovers one often hears about). I finally found myself at my first Indonesian stop. Jakarta was dense, smoggy, and bizarre. I was met at the hot & humid arrival zone with an array of hotel shuttles, all offering the same dismal package: a mandatory 5-night quarantine, sketchy Covid tests and included the saddest little hotel meals imaginable (cold fish at 6 am in gelatinous sweet sauce is hardly the breakfast in bed you'd hope for). In addition, Indonesia struggled with infection rates and over-capacity hospitals, all while suffering economically from a lengthy tourism lockdown with no real end in sight. During this mind-numbing isolation period, I reminded myself that it would all be worth it to experience Bali without the usual crowds.
At last I arrived at Denpasar where I finally caught sight of my beautiful hosts, Karina & Jimmy, passing me my first of many (perhaps too many) icy cold Bintangs. Excitement took over as we dodged and weaved through tight, scooter-packed streets. Warungs (shops), villas & Hindu temples lined the sides of the road as we sped along towards home base–– Canguu. Finally, Hyper-stimulated after my solitary confinement, we straddled onto a scooter with their pup, Peanut, in tow… ready for a well-earned afternoon on the beach. It all brought about excitement that I can't quite compare. Finally, getting to sink my tired toes into black volcanic sand, having a go out at the local break, I felt intoxicated by what experience had extended to me. You know… that "first-night-somewhere-new-and-tropical" kinda feeling we perpetually chase.
Gracious hosts Karina + Jimmy
Now it's hard to really encapsulate a trip over 2 months. Still, countless standout moments will forever be etched into memory, like driving hours before sunrise to the quiet and less-developed fishing village of Medawi. Its perfect, gentle left point break is comparable to La Saladita in Mexico, but with speedier sections and some critical boulder-dodging required. The session was only cut short when local police shouted through their speakers something angrily along the lines of–– "Beaches closed, no surfing, get the hell out!". Lockdown was still very much in effect, and sessions would often be called off or simply impossible, to begin with. Felt right to stay overnight at the central hotel there, sipping through a fabulous cycle of coffees, coconuts & margaritas. For an evening treat after a tiring first day in paradise, we ordered a fresh-caught lobster dinner from a local just down the road....
More insights, advice, and sessions to come!
Words + Surfing By: Hallie Rohr
Surf Footage: Jimmy Jazz James
Video Edit: Madison Isbell
Music: Reef High Monster Rally
Photos: Lia Turiano