A travel journal from the Best Surf Camp in Bali, from my Bali Surf Trip in May 2022.
Safe to say, I didn’t expect that my first surf camp experience would be the best. Honestly, I wasn’t even sure what to expect to begin with! But I’d been promising myself for years that I’d learn how to surf, so when I found myself with a few weeks to spare in May this year, between Perth wedding bookings that had been delayed thanks to the pandemic, I booked 16 days in Bali. Specifically, at Seaside Tribe in the quiet surf village, Kedungu. It was an experience I’ll never forget, from the warm welcome to the friendly surf instruction, the community vibe to the delicious local food. Truly, Seaside Tribe is so much more than just a surf camp. Here’s my travel journal from my time there.
Best Surf Camp in Bali
20 May 2022
Today I’m grateful for:
- catching some good waves on a hardboard for the first time ever
- The encouragement and kindness of people at the Seaside Tribe
- Lazy naps
- Laughing with Risky about peanuts (I’m deathly allergic) and working and banana milkshakes
- Community dinner with people I only met a few days ago
- Kind, open humans who are travelling the world
- My friends’ excitement at the video of me surfing
- A chance to create things and have this space for myself
Seaside Tribe: A Warm Welcome
26 May 2022
We’re sitting around a long wooden table in the open tropical air. Sheltered a little from the elements by a high-pitched roof and the lush tropical garden that surrounds us. We’re laughing and chatting, swapping stories back and forth, when two women walk through the gate, backpacks on their backs.
The guests who’d arrived here before me, a French-Swiss couple and a German couple, both smile in friendly recognition. The French-Canadian mother-daughter duo has been here before. “Bonjour!!” “Hello!”
Adi, one of the hosts and owners of Seaside Tribe, smiles an even broader smile than usual and says, “Welcome home! Back to the family!!”
I try to remember the times I’d received such a warm welcome on returning to an accommodation in my 11 years of travelling – I can count them on one hand. I’m struck by how lucky I am to have stumbled upon this place, to be sitting here with these people, and then I introduce myself to the newcomers. Just like the two couples who greeted me with friendly hellos when I arrived the day before, I’m already sure we’ll be friends.
Bali Surf Camp with Video Analysis
2 June 2022
The 6 of us are sprawled out over the cool tiles, bodies still salty and sandy from the morning’s surf.
That day, I didn’t have fun. I nosedived and fell and got tossed & turned by wave after wave after wave. My nose was full of water and my ears burned.
I’d gone into the water feeling a little bit scared and a whole lot tired, and I wondered if perhaps, this had been a ridiculous idea. Maybe surfing wasn’t for me.
But still, I sat with the others as we watched the videos back. Adi walked us through our mistakes and cheered us on when we’d done well. He explained everything with a smile, and it made even the face plants and the nose dives start to seem funny.
When we’d finished asking all of our questions, me still feeling horribly out of place, he said, “the most important thing is just to have fun. If you’re in your head – if you’re stressed, if you’re thinking too much – you’ll never get better at surfing.”
Life Lessons from the Surf
The next morning, a friend came back from her surfing lesson and I smiled, ‘how was it?’ – the usual surf lodge greeting. “Terrible. Really, really bad. It feels like it was pointless going out today.”
Irene, the other owner of the surf lodge, chimed in. “Never say that! Every time you paddle out, every time you try to catch a wave, it’s a good thing. You’re learning or you’re building up muscle. Even if you don’t catch a wave, there’s a positive!”
Two days later I woke up early, jumped in the back of the vintage blue pickup, and wondered what on earth had possessed me to try this again.
As I picked up the sky blue 9’0” hunk of fibreglass that I’d been practicing on though, beginning the walk down to the beach, I remembered Irene & Adi’s words and wondered when I’d let the negativity win?
I’d been dreaming of surfing for so long, and I didn’t care about being a pro or even being good, really. So what did it matter if I wasn’t great? Fuck it, I thought, I’m just going to have fun. And in that moment, everything changed, because even when the waves beat me, I was having fun.
Surfing at Kedungu Beach, Bali
28 May 2022
Smoke floats in front of the small beachfront businesses as two of the local surf guides furiously turn chickens over an open fire.
We laugh and ask, ‘is it a race?’
And suddenly, we’re being offered beers left, right and centre. ‘Afterwards! First, kelapa!’
‘Coconut? Nooo! It’s time for beer!’
We promise we’ll be back – first we’re going to watch the surf, digging our toes into the black sand as we scrape soft coconut jelly from its hard shell.
It feels like an unbelievable stroke of luck to have found ourselves here – in a small surf village removed from Bali’s usual tourist hotspots. It feels even luckier to be staying at the Seaside Tribe Bali, where every single guest (that I’ve met) has either returned or asked to extend their stay.
A surf escape, a home away from home. And perhaps, if you get lucky, a place where you’ll head to the beach for a lazy afternoon coconut, and find yourself drinking far too many bintangs and singing karaoke with the local surfers.
My 10 days there held a magic that I doubt will be easily recreated, and it’s easily become one of my favourite travel experiences to date.
Truly, if you’re the kind of person to book a surf holiday in Bali, I can’t recommend it enough.
Surfing and Sustainability in Bali
2 June 2022
The saltwater laps on either side of my board when I see a round shape glide underneath me.
Just metres away, the turtle pops his head up as if to say hello. I completely miss the wave my instructor told me to take because I’m too mesmerised by the sweet creature who decided to ride it instead.
It doesn’t matter now if I have the worst possible day in the surf (although I didn’t!), this beautiful guy just made my day 🐢
Later on, a small school of striped fish gather under my board. Earlier, I grinned as a fish seemed to skid over the surface of the water. “Ohhh big fish!” my instructor smiled back.
It’s magical to be out in the water. But it’s heartbreaking as well. Despite seeing so much life, I’ve definitely seen more plastic. Old cups and bottles float on the surface, small pieces of packaging stick in my hand as I paddle.
This is why it was so important to me to make as many sustainable decisions as possible not just on this trip, but on all the rest.
Things like choosing one, well-made sustainable swimsuit for surfing in Bali’s tropical waters. Or finding reef-safe, non-toxic sunscreen to slather on my bare legs. Or hey, even my weird penchant for travelling around with a jar of salt, so that I can avoid single-use sachets.
My time in Bali was an absolute joy, and it’s an experience I hope you & I & all the generations to come will be able to have again & again, which is why I’m excited to use these next months on the road not just to photograph epic weddings, but also to put together a guide to travelling sustainably.
I’d love to share what will be most useful to you though, so please let me know your questions and ideas – whether in the comments below or via my email 🙂
Stay at the Seaside Tribe, Bali
In case you can’t tell already, when I mention the Best Surf Camp in Bali, I’m absolutely referring to the Seaside Tribe. There’s something so special about this spot, and it seems to attract the kind of person who you just want to spend more time with. We encouraged each other and had dinners together, but also spent many lazy afternoons avoiding the heat in our rooms. This is really all down to the incredible community space that Adi & Irene created.
The 5 private rooms, each with their own ensuite, are surrounded by lush tropical gardens and face out to the beautiful pool. On the other side of the pool, an open living and dining area encourages that community feeling. It’s the perfect mix of having private space to recuperate, and new friends to share conversations and surf stories & tips with.
Staying there was a dream come true, and I can’t recommend it enough.
Little Ripper Cafe: A Kedungu Favourite
Usually, at the end of my travel journals, I share a list of places to eat. I mostly ate at the Seaside Tribe while I was there, or at a local warung where the Seaside Tribe team will for sure take you, too. Apart from that, this area is still quite remote and I’m not brave enough to drive a scooter just yet. But! Just up the road you’ll find Little Ripper Cafe and it’s a true gem. So good it’s been added to my list of favourite cafes of all time. The prawn roll is something else, the coffee is amazing, and the staff are incredibly kind. I loved it so much I bought one of their T-shirts which I’ve been wearing proudly on my travels ever since. Definitely make sure you spend some time there!
This post isn’t an official collaboration, but if you run a surf camp, accommodation, or travel experience that you’d like me to write about or photograph, get in touch! I’d love to hear more about it and see if we can find a way to work together.
Did you enjoy this post about the Best Surf Camp in Bali? Or perhaps there are other surf camps in Bali that you would recommend? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!