Australian, Ben Simmonds, is based in Bali and is still at liberty to roam the Indo archipelago.
The rains continued to fall for much of Bali’s wet season. Westerly winds howled across the island, forcing surfers to the east coast. Scootering from Canggu to Nusa Dua remained an option for those with a taste for adventure. There was less traffic due to the border closures, but the roads were still busy. Weaving around stray dogs and slow-moving vehicles always kept you on your toes. The white sandy beach at Nusa Dua was usually empty, but if you didn’t feel like a long paddle, there were still locals running boats out past the reef. After that, you were on your own. Just you and the notorious clean-up sets. Finding the occasional long, reeling right-hander helped to keep the enthusiasm alive. The lengthy paddle back to shore was always a test, and exhaustion was usually setting in on the return journey. But the waves made it worthwhile, even if you got caught in a tropical deluge on the way home.
The seasons began to change in March. Afternoon storms were less frequent. The wind swirled and went slack as wet changed to dry. Glassy mornings continued through to lunchtime and sometimes into the afternoon. Long scooter rides were no longer required. There were waves at the local breaks all day.
As April approached, it was time to start planning some surf travel. The early season trip to Lakey Peak, Sumbawa has always been a good option, especially since Covid is still keeping many surf tourists away. The flight out went fairly smoothly, but there were still long hours of virus tests, airport queues, and mask-wearing paranoia.
Grey clouds were hanging low when we landed in Sumbawa. It started raining as we drove out of Bima, and was still bucketing as we approached Dompu. Rivers had burst their banks and roads were starting to flood. Those unlucky enough to have homes in low-lying areas were soon gathering whatever they could carry. We managed to make it to Lakeys, and it was starting to flood there as well.
It rained almost nonstop for two days. A large cyclone to the south was causing the wet. It blew in some strong southerly winds too, ripping apart the waves. Eventually, the tropical low headed off towards Australia, and the sun came out. Long days of light winds and user-friendly swell followed. Lakey Peak was sucking in the best of it, with the occasional session at Pipe when the tides lined up. The local kids made the most of the conditions, finding small barrels and sneaky air sections right in over the reef.
There was a fairly large contingent of foreign surfers about the place, but it was still much less crowded than during a normal season. The vibe in the water remained mellow, and everyone seemed happy to wait their turn. Peak and Pipe were usually busy, but numbers were thinner elsewhere. Cobblestones and Nungas were sometimes empty, especially if conditions were less than ideal.
The vibe on the beachfront was mellow as well. Several of the villas and hotels were closed for renovation. Some of the restaurants and warungs were also shuttered. After the relatively busy times back in Bali, life slowed down to a form of pleasant surf town monotony. Our days revolved around surfing, eating and resting. Along with regular surf checks, and the odd sunset beer to keep things interesting.
The early season swells were a bit slow, but occasionally there was a nice bump in the size. One day I snuck out early and managed to find a few user-friendly barrels before anyone paddled out to join me. Stroking into that perfect peak with no one else around has got to be one of the finer things a surfer could experience. Back behind the reef and the photographer tower, the sun was sending soft shades of pink and purple rippling across the dawn sky.
The winds stayed light and I managed another sneaky session after lunch. There were only a few of us out and the sets were nonstop. I surfed until my shoulders ached, then did a very tired paddle back across the lagoon. At dinner that night, I ate an extra helping of fish tacos even though they tasted a little funny. Later that evening I had to rush to the toilet, and I ended up spending most of the night in there. Unfortunately, I happened to be sharing accommodation with a girlfriend I had recently started travelling with. It was just the sort of experience that could only help us grow as a couple.