The swell was pumping, although hitting the banks of the various breaks at Batu Bolong maybe just a little too straight, a fact that didn’t seem to bother the ragtag crew of retro shortboarders, finless sliders, loggers and mad Russian chicks with L plates hanging off their thongs. Maybe the circus out front was why there was an air of total calm, a collective cool hanging over the area Canggu locals know as “The Grassy Knoll”, where a cup of good coffee costs less than a buck and you can take in a 180 degree panorama of surf and sex.

But wait. There in the middle of it all, resting his dirt bike-broken leg on a flimsy table, half hidden behind a vaped smoke cloud, was the head honcho of Deus Ex Machina Bali, the esteemed photographer and filmer Dustin Humphrey, aka D Hump. Of course. This was day one of the Deus Nine Foot and Single Festival, and right here, right now, was the fourth annual Deus Fish Fry, for which surfers and shapers and surfer-shapers from every cool capital of the surfing world had flown in to participate in this frenzied feast of conspicuous inactivity.

Vapemaster-D-Hump-insert Ringmaster D Hump in a vape cloud. Photo: Jarratt

Waiting for my coffee in the shade of the warung, I overheard one of the Deus organisers explaining to a passer-by what was going on: “It’s called a Fish Fry. Guys just pick a board up off the grass and go out and surf it, then they come in and just hang out all day, drinking coffee or beer.” The tourist looked a little puzzled and moved on fairly quickly, perhaps fearing that this was a lame cover-up for what was really going on.

But me, I kind of like the Fish Fry concept, which has been around for a decade or more now, providing a casual forum for design conversations and experimentation, as well as a bit of good old-fashioned bad behaviour. Sadly, the guy who pioneered the concept in Australia, big Grant Newby, has pulled the pin on his Currumbin Alley Fry, claiming it had run its course. “It was a non-competitive and non-commercial gathering of board riders and builders of these sweet craft. It was about the shapers who craft these boards and those of us who enjoy the ride. Each year we saw many new ideas expanding on the original designs and that's what is great about where surfing is at today.”

Newby introduced the Alley event in 2007 after seeing one the previous year in Oceanside, California. It had a slow start but within a few years the Alley Fry was firing and had inspired similar events around Australia and in Europe. In 2012 Deus brought it to Bali.

The shapers at the Bali Fry on May 28 ranged from the ubercool (Thomas Bexon) to the industry veterans (Chris McHutchison) to the dudes with serious pedigree (Jye Byrnes and Neal Purchase Jr) to the grand-daddy of the whole deal (Bob McTavish), with hot local surfers and frequent visitors putting the testing boards (ranging from four foot fish to ten foot logs) through their paces.

Okay, nothing happened so’s you’d notice. At least not yet. But things will happen later in the shaping bay. That’s what a Fry is all about. Long may they limp on.

FISH FRY 2014 from Deus ex Machina on Vimeo.