Learning to Surf in Bali

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I would like to apologize to every guy I’ve ever mocked for wearing a speedo.

That may be a strange way to start a post about surfing lessons in Bali, but stay with me here! Like it or not, you just can’t surf in a bikini.  Boobs will be flying all over the place, and let’s not talk about the multiple kinds of wedgies you can get.

Because of this, I was wearing the standard surf uniform — board shorts and a short-sleeved lycra top — for my surfing lesson with Rip Curl School of Surf.  And I quickly learned that swimming in boards shorts is incredibly uncomfortable.

Board shorts are constricting, they tickle you, they cling in odd places, they feel weird in the water.  I wanted to rip them off.

So, speedo enthusiasts, I finally get it. And I apologize.

I’ve never surfed in my life, but like most people, I’ve always wanted to learn! Bali is world-famous for its surfing, and Kuta is a great place for beginners as well as advanced surfers.

Rip Curl has a reputation for being one of the better surf schools in Kuta. While I visited no other schools and thus have no basis for comparison, I was thrilled from start to finish with my experience with Rip Curl.

After learning basic surfing techniques on shore, we went into the water.  (The lesson took place in Legian, close to Seminyak, where the beach is MUCH cleaner than trash-filled Kuta Beach.)

Before long, I had paddled out and had successfully caught my first wave.

There is NO feeling in the world like catching your first wave.

It didn’t matter that I was on my stomach, doing the “chicken wing” pose (think cobra pose in yoga) as the wave carried me away.  There was so much power behind the ocean, and it was thrilling to be riding on it!

One of the advantages of visiting Bali in the low season is that there are far fewer people. My surfing lesson had three students — and two instructors!  I had guidance for every wave I caught.  Even with large groups, Rip Curl maintains a teacher to student ratio of 4 to 1.

As I caught wave after wave, the instructors refined my technique, showing me how to surf more cleanly.

Now, the most important part of all —

Was I able to stand up?

Many people struggle with standing by the end of their first lesson.  Since I lack any athletic talent whatsoever, I assumed I would fall into this category.

Well, halfway through the lesson, I stood.

And I remained standing.


It’s a testament to Rip Curl’s excellence that they were able to get someone as awkward and athletically ungifted as me to stand halfway through the lesson. My instructors were great, pointed out my faults, and continued to encourage me with smiles on their faces.

They also didn’t mind my adding “That’s what he said” to most of their commands. (“Time to get on top.”  “Keep your legs spread.”  “Ride as long as you can.”)

Well, I think it’s safe to say that this girl has fallen in love with surfing — and will be trying it again as soon as she can, whether it’s in California or Costa Rica or Australia or wherever she ends up next!

If you want to learn to surf in Bali, go with Rip Curl. I was very impressed with their friendly professionalism.  It’s not a budget activity — the first 2.5-hour lesson is 650,000 rupiah, or about $74 USD, and they get progressively cheaper — but it’s a great price to pay for an unforgettable day!

I received a complimentary surfing lesson from Rip Curl School of Surf.  All opinions, as always, are my own.

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26 thoughts on “Learning to Surf in Bali”

  1. I took my first surf lesson in New Zealand, and it was fantastic!! I’ve decided that beginners surfing isn’t so much about athletic ability as it is about balance. I went surfing with two of my very athletic friends, and I was actually the one able to stand up on my board the most! Seems like those 8 years of gymnastics have finally paid off!

    Glad to hear you had a great first surfing experience! It’s easy to see how people get addicted to it, isn’t it?

  2. so AWESOME Kate – I learnt how to surf while we were in Australia a few years ago, and now I am addicted. Nathan has surfed since he was a kid, so it was wonderful to finally be able to join him out the back 🙂

  3. Another fellow surfer to join us out in the ocean. The beaches are already crowded as it is!!! arrrrhhhh. Just kidding! Well done for standing up in you first session. Once you get the feeling that is indescribable, you will be hooked for life. I haven’t surfed for 3 months and it is killing me at the moment!

    1. I stayed in the Bali unit last May, it was dviine! I highly recommend this place to everyone. The setting was really tranquil and romantic. I was on my honeymoon and we had a blast. We felt like locals living so close to the beach. We also took a surf lesson with the owner which was so fun!

  4. I also learned how to surf in New Zealand, and wow was it HARD. I’m not the most athletic person either, and a rather curvy girl to boot. The instructors were all skinny guys whose technique was, well, physically impossible for me. Still, I was determined not to leave the country without standing on my board so after a few days trying (yes, it took me THAT long), I finally stood and rode a wave in. The feeling of success and glee was positively exhilarating! I can’t wait to try it again as soon as possible =)

  5. Wow that sounds like so much fun! Surfing is something I’ve always wanted to do but haven’t yet gotten around to trying. I randomly stumbled upon your site while browsing travel blogs and will definitely be bookmarking it. I look forward to reading more of your articles-great content!

  6. nice photos!! I can’t wait..three days in Bali, one of them will be set aside for surf school.


  7. I took my first surfing lesson in San Juan, La Union in the Philippines way back in 2009. It was a funny experience because I wasn’t physically and emotionally prepared. This particular guide kept on encouraging me and i was like ‘yeah, uhm’. It turned out that he’s an award-winning surfur dude T_T the other bloggers who were with me couldn’t stop laughing =)). We went there for an event with free surfing tutorials. Might as well go back 🙂

    Btw, have you been to the Philippines?

  8. Congrats and welcome to the world of surfing and walking on water. If you think riding your first white water was a rush, wait until you get your first open face down the line. That’s the hook that makes people quit their jobs and completely rearrange their priorities.

    Ps, You won’t find most real surfer wearing speedos in the lineup

  9. Chrisinsingapore

    Just came back to the hotel after learning to surf with one of the beach guys right next to the rip curl guys who was a great teacher. Highly recommend taking one of the private guys. Ian was his name, about 200m north of Rip Curl, charged me and my 2 friends 250k each so far cheaper. He used to be a rip curl teacher and he taught us lessons 1 and 2 in one session. Cheaper, better structured session and quality was the same so unless you like paying for brand name, find a guy who you click with and enjoy. That’s my tip, taking my wife for her lesson with him tomorrow

    1. Chrisinsingapore, do you happen to have any contact info for Ian? We’re headed there in a few weeks and would be interested in getting lessons from him.

  10. chrisinsingapore

    If you find the hotel called Sing Ken Ken, he is right out the front of there, that’s his spot on the beach. If you Google earth it, see the hotel, to the west is the beach with a small wash out, he is just on the south side of that. You could probably ask one of the local guys on the beach if you have any problems tracking him down

  11. I surfed at UP2U Surf School and found that their course is very similiar to Rip Curls but the price is allot better also the owner often gets in the water and teaches and having a lesson with him is outstanding, give them a go.

  12. Surfing fun! I took my first surfing lesson in Bali as well, and it was wonderful and also difficult! I was a novice. First I felt fear and panic, how can I do. But I can bet, I’ll be able to do it. I learned the basic techniques of surfing at the beach, we went into the water. Then, I rowed and has managed to catch my first wave. Very happy! I also have never surfed in my life, but like most people, I always wanted to learn! Bali is world renowned for its surfing, and Kuta is a great place for beginners. I learned on Kuta Beach in Bali Surf School. They are very friendly. And I love the beach, bali, surfing. Another recommendation is the Bali surf school. There is also a great place to learn.

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