Back in Sydney, now I can reflect on my Bali experience.
But as can happen things don’t always go to plan.
My plan was to stay at Ulu with my 2 brothers Grant and Mark, surf when it was least crowded, gradually building my fitness and really get the feel of the place and my boards. For the most part during the time we were there we had constant swell around the 3 to 5 feet range.
There was a lot of bigger surf and a few days of smaller surf but generally it was in the range that suited the Ulu stretch of reef.
For me, I focused on the Racetrack or Inside Corner and tried to work out a take-off spot to give me the best chance of having a shot at one of the set waves when they came in.
Being Indo, the swells travel from the lower Indian Ocean and make their way up the North West Coast of Western Australia all the way to Bali. As a result of this distance travelled sets of 1 to 2 waves, sometimes if you’re lucky up to 6 or 8 waves will move through the break, but then there is nothing until the next set arrives. So you really want one of those set waves.
Because of this and the crowds I found my choice of board for most sessions was my biggest the 7’6 19 7/8 2¾ round pin DSC.
The Racetrack wave is a fast down the line type wave starting where the Peak finishes and traveling down the Ulu cliff face towards Padang. This can be a wave almost 300 yards long. The top of the Inside Corner can be a steep take-off straight into a fast barrel if you are a good pig dogger or goofy foot no problems here.
The wave then hits the corner section in front of the Edge Bar, here it can back off and go fuller, a good chance to do a turn off the top. From here it connects to the inside run and can hit the best barrel section at this point, there is another potential barrel section towards the end of the wave but you should have your wits about you down here because it gets shallow and will close down eventually on the sharpest worst part of the reef.
My plan was working and with the help of the local massage ladies I was making some headway to reasonable condition with a bit of form, and was starting to feel my feet on the board and get to know the wave.
As fate would have it after 2 weeks I picked up a virus going around and spent the next 5 days fighting it off in bed. With all the international flights arriving every day Bali is the disease capital of the world.
On my return to the surf I felt OK but lacked stamina and was experiencing coughing fits trying to hack up congestion at the top of my lungs.
This was not good as the surf was up for my first 2 surfs back, but I took advantage of the lulls between sets and stayed out of trouble. By this stage I had less than a week left and knew I wasn’t going to get to the level I was aiming for and would have to be satisfied with the surfing I’d done.
Evaluation of boards –
I never got to the stage of going back to my smaller boards the 7’0 20 2 11/16 RP DSC, 6’9 20 2 11/16 RP DSC or 6’4 20¼ 2 11/16 Swallow Tail T&T model.
That was to be stage 2 at Ulu, drop down in size and surf a little tighter.
The waves were solid and I found myself on the 7’6 DSC most of the time, the length guaranteeing I got my share of set waves. This board felt really nice and dependable even when I was down on form and the waves were at their most difficult to surf.
One morning we experienced glassy 4 to 5 feet inside corner conditions, my 7’6 felt beautiful on these waves flowing seamlessly thru bottom and top turns.
Whenever the waves were big enough for Outside Corner the 7’6 again was in its element holding through the length of the bottom turn, which can be quite a distance, and then connecting and turning out of the top well.
I had problems with the smaller boards when the conditions were at their most challenging, we had a lot of strong trade wind days which is basically the devil wind at Inside Corner blowing into the barrel. The smaller boards would break their track out of the bottom and then release unexpectedly going up the face causing you to mistime your off the top.
The 7’6 was less likely to suffer from this and ploughed through the chop better.
My Bali surfing experiences were all at Ulu, I enjoyed the warung life style hanging at the break, waiting for the tide or conditions or crowd to suit me. There are a lot of options and at any given moment a stretch of reef can open up showing good waves with not too many people on it.
But for the most part Ulu is the centre of Bali surfing and is crowded and a tough place to get a wave to yourself.
If you can get around, which can be difficult and dangerous on the congested roads, there are a lot more surfing options to round out a surfing trip.