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The Ultimate Guide to an Indonesian Surf Trip

December 30, 2019

The Ultimate Guide to an Indonesian Surf Trip

Photo credit: @lrns taken at Lembongan, Indonesia.

If you’re planning your first surf trip, or are a seasoned Indo surfer, Kent has put together some essential information to help you navigate the tropical waters and make the most out of your trip. As the owner of Natural Necessity Surf Shop, which has been running for 43 years, Kent knows more than a few things about what to pack and how to plan, having done several trips a year for the past 25 years!

Indonesia has some of the best waves in the world, this is because the swells from the Southern Indian Ocean’s roaring forties consistently make landfall right along the Indonesian Archipelago. There are waves of every kind, including reef breaks, point breaks & beach breaks. Sure, there are times when its flat, but not very often!

The consistent trade winds allow you to be tucked in with offshore winds all day. The early morning offshore’s & glassy conditions give the opportunity to surf great waves for hours, virtually every day. The swells have come from thousands of miles away and are long period SW ground swells, meaning they are long clean lines. Combine this with the fact that many of the breaks are on reefs at least 100 meters from the beach, with a channel between the reef & the beach, so it means there’s no side wash or back was, making for long, clean rides. 

As an Australian who has at least three surf trips per year to Indonesia for over 25 years, I just can’t wait to get back to Indo to surf. A week surfing in Indonesia usually equals 12 weeks surf at home in Australia.

Photo: Kent riding the 7'0 Funboard

What boards do I recommend taking?

I usually have a quiver of 3 boards, so I always have the right equipment. My 7’0 funboard is for smaller, easy entry waves & allows for plenty of manoeuvrability. Another great board I take is my 8’0 Superfish, which is a great all-rounder, so when there’s more people in the water I have an advantage, yet it’s still easy to throw around. Last trip I just had this board & it went great from shoulder high to double overhead plus size waves!

I also pack custom 8’6 Kent Ladkin board for when there are bigger waves, and the waves are harder to get on to. It’s also a great allrounder & is still quite manoeuvrable.  When its huge, which happens often on Indonesian surf trips, this is my go to board, as there’s nothing worse than struggling to get onto waves, then late take-off over the falls situations. You can find a similar board here.

Photo: Picturesque surfing conditions.

What board covers should you use for an Indonesian surf trip?

Because my boards are bigger than most guys, for me it’s better to put each board in its own cover, so individually they are not too heavy to manage. I like the Ocean & Earth & Creatures of Leisure covers as they fit the shape of my boards best. Depending on what boards I’m taking, I won’t take any heavy-duty travel covers, because when travelling with 3 boards wrapped individually, the heavy covers would weigh too much. I just wrap the board in bubble wrap & put them in my day covers for the plane journey, then on arrival roll the bubble wrap up & stash it away for the home journey. This way, when I go surfing, because I usually only take one board for the day on the bike or roof of the car, it has its own individual Ocean & Earth day cover to protect it against the tropical sun & damage from knocks.

For guys taking 2 or 3 boards under 7’6”, the heavy duty Ocean & Earth or Creatures of Leisure board covers are perfect. The manufacturers usually include a single cover inside the triple or double travel board bags, so when you take one board surfing for the day, you take it in this single board bag to protect your board.


Photo: The 7'0 Funboard handling the overhead waves

Essential equipment for day to day surfing!

Make sure you pack some spare fins, a fin key (or two), leashes, wax & even a tube of repair resin that is activated by the sun to harden, such as this one. Incidentally, you are not allowed to travel on a plane with traditional resin & hardner, but sun cured resin is ok to travel with. A little tube of this goes a long way & will get you back in the water until you can have any damage professionally repaired if needed. My experience is to be self-sufficient so that if you break a fin or leash etc., you can get straight back in the water. All this equipment is available at the Natural Necessity Surf Shop in Gerringong, or can be found online, check the links!

 I also recommend carrying a set of 3.5 metre tie downs so the boards can be stashed on the roof of the vehicle & you know it will not come off due to some dodgy bit of rope your driver has to do the job. I always supervise the boards going on the roof & have the straps going through the doors so I can keep an eye on them from inside the car. Many a good surf trip has ended with the boards flying off the roof & being run over by the lorry behind!

Don't forget to pack plenty of sunscreen and a rashie, especially if you're planning on multiple surf sessions a day. A surf hat is always a good investment, and it's good to know a few words for surf etiquette in the water. 

Photo: The 8'6 custom board

What's the best time to go to Indonesia for surfing?

There are good waves all year in Indonesia, but Australian winter is generally considered the best time. Many experienced surfers love these bigger waves, but some people find July & August can get too big with those Southern Hemisphere big winter swells. If you are travelling at this time I recommend finding a break where the swell has to wrap in, making it very manageable. Beware of Australian school holiday times if you can avoid them, the extra crowd at the main breaks, plus additional accommodation and traffic stress can be ridiculous.  

I go in October or November every year & always get great waves. It’s after the main tourist season & before the wet season, so it is relatively uncrowded, but still has heaps of swell. The wind is often up by 10am, but by then I’ve already surfed for 3 hours, which is plenty. This gives me time to hang out with my beautiful lady, get a massage & relax, then be up at the crack of dawn the next day to surf my brains out.  

Photo: 8'0 Superfish with front traction 

Where is the best surf in Indonesia?

Sumatra, Java, Bali, Lombok, Sumbawah, Sumba & the Islands off Timor are your main surfing destinations. All of the other more remote islands exposed to the Indian Ocean SW swells will also have waves. There are several good surf guide books which go into the specifics of all the different locations. Watch out for strong onshore trade winds in some areas at certain times of year. I like to book a window of time in Bali then watch the swell charts & go where the best waves are. Online wind & wave charts like Earth Nullschool are like a crystal ball to allow you to be in the right place at the right time.

Photo credit: @fikrirasyid: It's best to avoid school holiday traffic like this!

Additional tips and advice: 

Ensure you have an International Driver’s License, so you can ride a motorbike or rent a car. I like to use a bike around town and rent a car for travelling to remote areas. If you are staying in one place away from the main areas it can be best to hire a driver to take you to your destination and rent a bike at your destination location. Driving a car is easy contrary to folklore, as long as you stick to below 60 km’s per hour, be alert & try to dodge and weave like the locals, and above all, be patient! 

I recommend getting a local sim card, so you can use Google Maps, and use accomodation wifi to download the whole journey map. You can drive to the other islands such as Lombok, Sumbawah & Java if you are adventurous, just don’t forget a car charger for your phone! I’ve always found Google translate to be invaluable on these trips too.

Good luck, hope you get heaps of waves,

- Kent Ladkin

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