As the WCT descends on Keramas we chat with a local surfer about the changing face of Bali.
Putu has grown up in Legian and spent pretty much his whole life living in the area, surfing the beachies and watching the amazing transformation of the area and the island around him. He is approaching 40 and is starting to show some of the trimmings of middle age around his mid-rift. He is Balinese, is in a five-year-long relationship with his girl and looks like he’s getting ready to start a family soon.
As he and his grommet mates got a bit older they worked at the Quiksilver Surf School, which they got together after local pro surfer and entrepreneur, Tipi Jabrik, gave them a bunch of big boards to run the lessons with. On my Bali trips over the years I developed a friendship with all the boys who were all really cool guys – great surfers and great people. Putu stood out as a bit of a leader among them, and was also one of the best surfers. When I asked him about the changes he’d seen since growing up around Legian as a kid he swiftly replies, “Too many dude, too much … “When I grew up there was no one surfing. The water and beaches were clean. My father worked in a hotel and after school I would sell postcards and mosquito oil. I’d make 10 000 Rupiah and the next day at school I’d be like the king”.
“My first board was a seven footer and I shared it with another guy. He would get five waves; come in, and then it’s my turn to get five. We used candle wax and the leash was a sock with some string! Proper wax was like gold. I learnt English talking at the beach and in the water and when I went to school my teachers couldn’t believe how good I could speak English.”
When I ask him to identify the main changes around the area he gets a little nostalgic and also paints and idyllic picture of the surfing past.
“Now when I surf all the boys aren’t out there”… “There were no on-shores before.”
I suggest these comments about the winds seem to be embellished by the passage of time, but he insists, “No dude, really.”
Putu now works at Channel Islands, a fairly sophisticated surf shop in Seminyak. Channel Islands have another store opening at Uluwatu soon. When I ask him if he believes any of the changes have been positive he says, “There are lots of opportunities for work now, so you can make some money” … “But then things are so expensive around here now,” he laments.
When I ask him what he thinks the biggest problem is, he doesn’t have to think about it.
“Money, with money comes headache. People always want more.”