Surfing in Indonesia: Your Guide to the Best Waves
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The world’s largest archipelagic state and the third most biodiverse country in the world, Indonesia is Asia’s surfing capital.
Surfing in Indonesia is all about variety. Commonly referred to as ‘Indo’ within the surfing community, the archipelago offers long barreling waves, emerald green hollow breaks, fast and fun reef and beach breaks for all levels. Add to that the unique culture and scrumptious Indonesian food and you have a recipe for a tropical wave paradise.
From the legendary waves on Bali’s Bukit Peninsula to the postcard-perfect surf beaches in Lombok, the Mentawai Islands, Sumatra, and Java, here are the best surf spots in Indonesia you should add to your surfing bucket-list:
When to go surfing in Indonesia?
Best time to surf in Indonesia is during the dry season, which usually lasts between April and October. This is when consistent Indian Ocean groundswells hit the islands and the south and southwest coasts receive strong offshore winds.
The wet season is also referred to as the off-season. Between November and March, swells are less consistent. However, this is when many east coast breaks begin to fire. Plus, the off-season is less crowded.
Recommended for: All levels of surfers, from first-timers to pros
The epicenter of Indonesia’s tourism industry, Bali is packed with international surfers and beach lovers throughout the year. This comes as no surprise, considering that the Southern Ocean offers constant swell and warm water (80-84 °F / 27 -29 °C) all year round.
There are as many as 100 surf spots in Bali, ideal for beginners as well as for pro surfers. These are some of the best:
- Uluwatu – a world-class left-hand reef break that rarely goes flat, Uluwatu is one of Bali’s most iconic waves.
- Canggu – northwest of Kuta, this is a fun surf spot for all levels of surfers. There are also numerous surf camps in Canggu that can help you learn to surf or take your skills up a notch.
- Tuban – when Kuta Beach is packed, head to Tuban, where the airport runway separates the two famous breaks known as Airports Left and Airports Right.
- Bingin – super hollow and shallow, Bingin works best at high tide and is recommended for advanced surfers.
- Balangan – the long grinding waves of this left-hand reef break are more suitable for intermediate surfers.
- Dreamland – a famous A-frame beach break that offers some fun rides that are just great if you wish to learn how to get barreled.
- Padang Padang – without any doubt one of the best left-hand reef breaks on the planet, Padang Padang is reserved for advanced surfers only. Padang Padang Beach became even more famous after being featured in the 2010 movie Eat, Pray, Love starring Julia Roberts.
- Impossibles – a famous left-hand reef break for advanced surfers that rarely gets crowded thanks to its multiple take-off points.
- Medewi – on Bali’s western coast, Medewi works during both the dry and wet season. This left-hand point break is suitable for all levels of surfers and is typically less crowded.
- Playgrounds – a semi-shallow A-frame reef break just off Nusa Lembongan that is great for beginners and intermediate surfers. It works best during the wet season.
- Kuta Beach – For beginners, this beach has it all, from vibrant nightlife, delicious food, and five-star accommodation to surf camps, schools, and shops. It is one of the biggest surf areas in the world! Kuta Beach is a great place to learn to surf in Bali, with Kuta, Legian, and Seminyak being the main beach breaks here.
Best time to surf in Bali: Between May and September, during the dry season. Although the swell is not as consistent during the wet season, there are some nice waves to be surfed during these months too (November-March), especially the breaks off Nusa Lembongan.
Recommended for: All levels
Bali’s little brother, Lombok is the place to go if you wish to escape the crowds. In fact, it is said that Lombok is exactly how Bali was like back in the 1970s and 80s. Even though it has long lived in the shadow of its sibling, it is no less fascinating. The surf is just as impressive and there quite a few surf camps in Lombok that will take you to the best waves on the island.
The surf in Lombok is concentrated on the south coast, which means that surfing conditions differ from those found in Bali.
- Desert Point – one of the world’s most famous left-hand point breaks, this is the wave surfers flock to Lombok for. Also known as Bangko Bangko, it only fires a few times a year. When it does, you can expect to compete with hundreds of surfers for a turn on its peak.
- Mawi – one of the most famous waves on Lombok, Mawi turns into a really hollow right-hander on a dropping tide.
- Ekas Bay – offers waves for both beginners and advanced surfers. Here, Ekas Inside is the best longboarding wave on the island, gentle and beginner-friendly too.
- Air Guling – right-hand reef break for all levels. Big, strong and barreling, it works best during the wet season.
- Mawi – offers two excellent waves: a famous left-hander and a shorter barreling right-hander.
- Grupuk – a fun right-hand reef break for beginners and intermediate surfers that works well during the dry season, but also in the wet season.
- Belongas – an A-frame reef break for intermediate to advanced surfers, Belongas works during the dry and the wet seasons.
- Tanjung A’an – a long, powerful right-hand reef break for experienced surfers.
Best time to surf in Lombok: Most south-facing breaks on the island work during the wet season, between November and March. Sure, the weather may not be ideal, but there’ll hardly be anyone else to share the wave with. Some waves, like Desert Point, work best during the dry season (April to October), but trade winds can spoil some of the southern waves during these months.
Recommended for: All levels
A large island to the east of Bali and Lombok, in the West Nusa Tenggara province, Sumbawa is a huge island that is renowned for its picturesque white sand beaches, landscapes, culture, and world-class surf. Relatively untouched by mass tourism, most of the tourists that you’ll encounter on Sumbawa are surfers.
The most reliable, high-quality surf is found on the west and south coasts of Sumbawa:
- Lakey Peak – one of the most famous surfing spots in Indonesia, Lakey Peak is a hollow offshore right-hander in South Sumbawa. This A-frame reef break is suitable for all levels.
- Yo-Yo’s – the small cove here shelters two beginner-friendly waves, The Wedge and The Hook.
- Super Suck – a thick left-hand reef break suitable for all surfers, located on the southwestern tip of Sumbawa.
- Scar Reef – one of the best waves on Sumbawa, Scar Reef is a left-hand reef break for experienced surfers. This barreling wave takes off like a freight train and has several backdoor sections.
Best time to surf in Sumbawa: Between April and September, during the dry season. The crowds are more manageable during early/late season (March-April and September-October).
Recommended for: Intermediate to advanced surfers (there are a few mellow waves on the islands for beginners looking to learn to surf too)
The Mentawai Islands are a group of four main islands and several smaller islands located roughly 60 miles (100 km) off the coast of West Sumatra. They offer the most consistent surf in the whole of Indonesia, and the breaks are considered among the best in the world.
The blue tropical waters surrounding the islands offer year-round epic waves up to 15 ft (4.5 m), perfect rights and lefts, reef and point breaks, spitting tubes and incredibly fun rides.
- E-Bay – a fast, left-hand barreling wave that works best with a westerly swell, E-Bay is reserved for advanced surfers.
- Pitstops – a few hundred meters from E-bay, Pitstops is one of Indonesia’s best-performing waves. The take-off can be challenging, but the wave itself is loads of fun. Pitstops is a right-hand reef break that is suitable for intermediate surfers.
- Bank Vaults – one of the Mentawai Island’s trickiest waves, this thick right-hand barreling wave is treacherous and unpredictable. Therefore, it is recommended for advanced surfers.
- Nipussi – a short, right-hand mellow wave suitable for all levels of surfers, Nipussi is the place to go when the rest of the island is flat.
- No Kandui – is known as one of the fastest left-hand waves in the world. This barreling wave works best on a big swell. Don’t even consider attempting it when it is small because the razor-sharp reef on the bottom is unforgiving!
- Rifles – definitely one of the best waves in the Mentawais - if not the entire world. This long right-hander can be quite violent and offers a series of challenging barreling sections for advanced surfers to tackle.
- Lance’s Right – also known as Hollow Trees, this right-hander is the very definition of perfection. Be careful of the shallow reef on the bottom, affectionately called the ‘surgeon’s table’. This one’s for advanced surfers only.
- Macaronis – one of the Mentawais’ best waves, this left-hander is considered one of the world’s most enjoyable rides. It offers everything from tubing sections to aerials and rippable walls.
Best time to surf in the Mentawai Islands: While the Mentawais do indeed offer year-round swell, prime time is between March and October/November, during the dry season. The best waves hit the coasts between June and September, which is also the best time for more advanced surfers. Beginners and intermediate surfers can find great conditions throughout the year.
Recommended for: Intermediate to advanced surfers
The last surfing frontiers of Indonesia, the Nias, Hinako and Simeulue islands are the go-to places for surfing in North Sumatra. It is cheap, the waters are warm and crystal-clear and, most importantly, there are plenty of rights and lefts, beach and reef breaks to play with.
Surfing Dylan’s Right, Sumatra – Photo credit: surftrip.guru
- Lagundri Bay – a perfect right-hander on Nias Island, Lagundri Bay was greatly affected by the massive 2005 earthquake. But the wave got better, longer and more hollow than before, and this world-class surf spot is drawing larger crowds each year.
- Asu – a classic left-hand reef break located right at the equator, in the remote Hinako Islands. The tropical heat in the middle of the day can be intense, so it’s better to surf in the morning or afternoon.
- Bawa – in the Hinako Islands, Bawa is dubbed ‘Indonesia’s Sunset Beach’. With huge right-hand barrels fueled by northwest offshore winds, the hollow waves of Bawa and Asu work on opposite wind directions, and can, therefore, both be surfed in the same day.
- Dylan’s Right – one of Indo’s most powerful right-handers, Dylan’s Right lies on the remote island of Simeulue, north of Nias Island.
Best time to surf in North Sumatra: Between March and November, during the dry season. This is when waves typically reach 6-12 ft (2-4 m). Good surfing conditions can be found throughout the year.
Recommended for: All levels
Did you know that Java is the most populous island in the world? Due to this, surf in Java is centered on the southern coast, with the Banten Province offering a wide variety of breaks for all levels of surfers.
In West Java, within the boundaries of the Ujung Kulon National Park, lies the Panaitan Island, home to some of the best waves in Indonesia:
- One Palm Point – one of the longest left-hand barrels in the world, One Palm Point is set on the stunning backdrop of a wild tropical forest on the Panaitan Island.
- Apocalypse – a right-hand reef break for advanced surfers, Apocalypse is an epic barreling wave that guarantees some sweet barreling sections.
- Napalms – a hollow left-hand wave, extremely shallow, that breaks over a treacherous reef. For advanced surfers only.
- Ombah Tujuh – meaning ‘Seven Waves’, this spot produces some of the biggest rideable waves in Indonesia.
Unfortunately, Central Java isn’t exactly blessed with the same quality surf as the southeast and west, but there are beginner-friendly beach breaks like the popular Pangandaran for surfers to have fun with.
The world-famous G-land in East Java is where the concept of surf camp emerged in the 1970s. It was then that Mike Boyum, Gerry Lopez, and Peter McCabe came up with the concept of surf, eat and sleep.
- G-land – within the boundaries of the Alas Purwo National Park on the Blambangan Peninsula, where the dense tropical jungle meets the ocean on the Plengkung Beach, G-land is one of the best left-hand waves in the world. Also known as Grajagan Bay, this long and barreling wave breaks in four main sections over a reef. G-land is as beautiful as it is unforgiving, and is therefore suitable for more experienced surfers. It can easily be reached from Bali via a half-day overland trip or a two-hour fast-boat trip.
Best time to surf in Java: Between April and October, during the dry season, when the same groundswells produced by the Indian Ocean hit Bali.
Recommended for: All levels
Sumba does not get the recognition it deserves. On the bright side, this means that it is still a hidden gem and there’s a good chance you’ll get some awesome waves all to yourself. The island is twice the size of Bali, but its infrastructure and tourist hype is less than half.
The best waves in Sumba are concentrated on the southwestern and southeastern tips of the island.
- Occy’s Left – a famous left-hander for advanced surfers only. Unfortunately, if you’re not staying at the Nihiwatu Resort, you can’t surf this gem. This luxury resort just so happened to claim ownership to the best wave in Sumba.
- Miller’s Right – on the east coast of Sumba, Miller’s Right is a world-class right-hand point break with long rippable walls for intermediate to advanced surfers.
Best time to surf in Sumba: between March and October, during the dry season, when the winds are strong and the waves are big and fast. Best time to surf the famous Occy’s Left is between July and August. The rainy season also offers reliable swell and good surfing conditions.