Hallie Rohr's second installment of insights, adventures, and footage from her latest travels! On our previous installment, which you can read here, Hallie shared her "First Timer's Tips For Bali" and the initial jump across the Pacific. Now slide into Indo below!
WELCOME BACK TO
Now it's hard to really encapsulate a trip over 2 months but...
Things got even more beautiful in the Bukit, a place I'd only seen through a phone screen in surf vids and algorithm-targeted travel ads. Bingin was our treat waiting at the base of a thousand steep steps. A sprinkling of luxurious yet understated villas nestled into lush green cliffs … the kind of location where you end up easily distracted from the horizon and oncoming sets, just staring back in amazement at the coast's beauty. The Bukit provided the more crowd-heavy and world-renowned waves like Uluwatu, Padang Padang, and Impossibles.
A feast of local faire and a good book are essential.
On bigger days, I'd just watch, not ready for my reef beating just yet. The waves here are genuinely humbling for someone who's grown up on soft Sano crumble. We still found some worthy corners, yearning desperately for the proper cover-up I was expecting to finally conquer out here. The best days were when everyone would trade-off between the entire quiver on hand. Happy Hour on the immaculate beach became a daily sunset ritual; watching legit and/or aspiring models get their well-rehearsed Tik Tok content always provided a bit of entertainment. One time, even getting blessed with an ultra-fresh sashimi feast caught just off the coast–– courtesy of the local fishing crew. We even tried greeting the infamous temple monkeys which rule the cliffs and canopies of the Bukit. One hundred percent terrifying, aggressive, and thieving creatures… namaste away from them if I were you (you know I had to).
Going slowly with local wildlife and new lineups.
Back in the region of Canguu, surrounded by emerald green paddy fields, the quintessential-spoiled-surf-chick day consisted of a morning glide, followed by healthy delicious eats in town, an endorphin-pumping workout class at Brazilian Body Fitness, maybe even a sauna/ice bath session at AMO Spa, and ending the night over beers and apps at Black Sands Brewery. Canguu would easily fall under the category of a rowdy party town, excluding the then-dormant tourist mecca over in Kuta, a few cities South. Traveling surf crews congregate to rage-at-night-and-surf-all-day, balanced out evenly with an abundance of vegan, gluten-free yogi types. The area caters to (unofficially) the highest per capita "influencer" population of Bali; this number may be rivaled by the Bukit, due to its more aesthetic & "instagrammable" backdrops. The born-and-raised Indonesians here (predominantly Balinese Hindu) were wonderfully sweet and kind. Unfortunately, many were affected by the minimal tourism business, which most of this country heavily relied on. A stretch of charcoal-colored sand offered consistent waves every day–– a punchier right-hander over at the Rivermouth (where the Deus Contest is held) or a softer, friendly wave over at Batu Balong (very Old Man's-related). An impending extension of beach lockdowns had us looking for the next destination: the island of Sembawa, at least a full day's drive West.
Stills of scene's serene mid surf travel.
The strike mission to Sembawa was undoubtedly the highlight for me. This involved chugging along on a midnight ferry to Lombok, crammed but comfortable in our car with a massive board stack strapped to the roof. The realization was sinking in: here I was island-crossing in Indonesia in the wee hours of the morning. Destinations I'd only dreamed of were now just within reach. It had me tripping. It was a strange new land, much drier and rural–– almost like going from the Pacific Northwest to Baja. The language barrier became more hindering and the devout Muslim population more prominent. Our first week was spent at a pristine beach known as Yoyos. Quite literally off the beaten path, this area had seen few travelers during its typical peak season. It gave sense to being on one's own private island. The boys tried their luck over at the notorious hollow left pit out at Supersucks. I'd just sit out on the shoulder when the sets rolled through, immersed in crystalline, bath-temperature water… in total disbelief and awe. To end the dreamy days, we'd play rounds of pool, with losers getting "Iced" in defeat. Another pit stop along the way was Dirty Hippies, a small wave with perfect shape and not a soul in sight. The region is encircled by tiny scattered islands and distant volcanos. A sublime location to surf, wash off a day of musty driving and promptly buy out the lone restaurant's beer supply. Without a doubt, certain magic existed here… divine energy nearly tangible. It made the concept of ever coming home a bum deal.
Color and culture abound.
Lakey Peak, the ultimate destination, finally sat before us. Not even a 6 am still-in-the-dark flat tire could stop us. We settled into likely the largest of several empty accommodations. It was also the only place to allow the crew sidekick, Peanut! In stricter Muslim culture, dogs are seen as "impure" and the locals avoided her like the plague. I also recall a certain coffee shop displaying a sign prominently–– "No Bikini, No Dog". Cats seemed to be more than welcome; sprawled out lazily on porches. Some even used their hierarchy to terrorize Peanut on occasion. The Peak was like Lowers: a hypnotizing A-frame that sat about a quarter-mile out. The difference here is scooters instead of e-bikes and a dozen heads in the lineup versus half of OC. Adjacent to that was Lakey Pipe, just another tubing left the area had to offer; other surrounding spots like Periscopes and Cobblestones were also world-class breaks. By the afternoon, winds would generally howl through, sometimes shifting offshore to groom the faces and offering a playground of perfectly peeling, reef-hugging rides. Blissed, spoiled, sunburnt, it was time to head back the way we came. This time, rich with memories and the satisfaction that we were amongst the lucky few to experience Sembawa's offerings under such rare and surreal conditions.
Goodbyes can be complicated...
My budget was dwindling, the wet season approaching, and more importantly–– visa expiring. With deep reluctance, I clicked "purchase" on a 36+ hour flight itinerary back to the States. Indonesia had given me far more than "a taste of the dream life"... I'd had the whole damn buffet. This trip was more than another check off the bucket list. It was a remarkable example of the ocean's power and its potential: the raw magnificence of Southeast Asia. It forced me to look at my own flaws, realizing habits and behaviors can follow you no matter how many new stamps go on your passport. And without the risk of sounding unbearably cheesy, travel can be the most ingraining education of all. It's also curious to note that "escape" might eventually lead to a renewed appreciation of the state (mental or physical) you were running from in the first place. The family, friends, and community I love… the standout days at beloved breaks… the comfort of the familiar after an interlude of being so alien in a foreign land. It's easy to focus on all the negatives–– rising crowds, lack-luster swells, and long months of chilly temps… plenty of genuine angst to a Southern Californian surfer. But my hometown will inexplicably be just that–– Home: an inevitably core part of my peace, past, present, and perhaps future.
Until the next impulse, signing off–– Hal
Extra thanks to my hosts and the ones who made this experience not only possible, but extraordinary–– Karina & Jimmy; to Seea for providing the ultimate suit wardrobe; and to the random airport security man who was able to drive me to 8 different banks in Jakarta to pay my immigration fines!