The Republic of Indonesia is the world's fourth largest country with a population of over 200 million people. Indonesia's 13,600 islands make up the world's largest archipelago, stretching for over 4,000 miles from west to east. Indonesia is the world's largest Islamic country with almost 90% of the population being Muslim. The primary language of Indonesia is Bahasa Indonesia, however many areas have their own distinct dialects, and over 400 languages are spoken throughout the islands. Though much of the population of Indonesia lives at or below the poverty level, Indonesia is a country rich with natural resources. Oil, Timber, Agriculture, Mining, and Manufacturing are major industries in Indonesia. Indonesia is a Republic and is ruled by an elected president and a parliament. For most of the past fifty years, Indonesia was ruled by President Suharto. In the late 90's, there was a popular uprising that began a succession of new presidents and a move towards modernization in Indonesia.
From a surfer's standpoint, Indonesia is a paradise. Thousands of miles of island coastline receive consistent, powerful, swells from the huge storms of the Southern Indian Ocean. With no major landmass to block or alter these swells, they arrive to the reefs and shores of Indonesia as well groomed, orderly, long lines. The best waves on earth. By the mid 70's stories of idyllic beachbreaks and long, barreling, reefbreaks on the island of Bali were beginning to appear in surf magazines, and the classic 70's surf film "The Morning of the Earth" brought the Indonesia surf experience back to wide eyed surfers in communities all over the world. Indonesia became a hallowed surf destination. The beaches of Kuta and the nearby reefs were surfed regularly and adventurers started to explore the rest of the coastline of Bali.
Indonesia has more islands with better surf than anywhere else on earth. There's literally waves from one end of the country to the other in an area that would stretch from Seattle, Washington to Miami, Florida. And, there is always swell. The Southern Indian Ocean is a year round swell producing machine.
Though there are the obvious inherent risks of pulling into a giant tube over a shallow sharp coral reef at Padang Padang, or launching oneself over the ledge on a fifteen-foot day at Outside Corner, the single most hazardous thing a visiting surfer can do on Bali is to ride a motorcycle. Every day visiting surfers have motorcycle accidents that can often be serious or even fatal.
Thirty years ago, almost all of the trash on Bali was made of natural materials, bannana leaves, etc.. Rapid development, Industry, tourism, a booming population expansion, and all of the waste management issues that come along, have caused some serious pollution challenges on Bali.
(Dec-Feb) is also known as the rainy season in Bali. Some years this is particularly true and it can rain for months. Occasionally there are also very strong windstorms. During the summer, the winds blow primarily from the west and this is a time when east coast breaks have offshore winds. There can also be giant swells this time of year, some of them inspired by typhoons off of the northern Australian coastline.
(March-May) is a time of change. Often March is still a month of heavy rains and strong winds out of the West. Swells are usually smaller, though occasional big swells occur. Surfing in Bali is usually limited to the east side breaks. Towards the end of March the Nyepi and Ogoh Ogoh holidays occur which traditionally mark the end of the rainy season and the changing of the wind pattern to the trade winds (SE).
(June-August) on Bali means cooler water. It is a little known fact that the water temperature can require a shorty wetsuit in Bali during this time. As the air temps are directly effected by the surrounding ocean temps, it can be cool at night as well. Winter is a time of Big Swells and strong offshore winds for the west coast breaks of Bali. Places like Padang Padang are often best during these months.
(Sept-Nov) is still a great time to surf on Bali's west coast breaks. There can still be occasional big swells, and there are usually frequent middle sized swells. During this time the winds begin to switch and it is common for the winds to blow more from the South or to be lighter. This is a time where surfers can actually surf both sides of the island with light sideshore winds.
To get to Bali nowadays is pretty simple. There are many options. There are no direct flights from the mainland USA or Hawaii, so all flights to Bali arrive via a stopover in either Jakarta, Singapore, Malaysia, or Thailand. Flights to Bali through these destinations are available leaving the USA from most major International airports. Frequently surfers will fly with Japan Airlines, Cathay Pacific, China Air, or Singapore Airlines, as they offer the most direct flights.
Lonely Planet Indonesia (Lonely Planet)
Indo Surf and Lingo (Peter Neely)
Surfing Indonesia A Search For The World's Most Perfect Waves (Periplus Action Guides)