Indonesia is a surfing mecca unlike any other in the world. Nestled on a whopping 17,000 islands between the Sulu Sea and the Indian Ocean, this country draws waves from the depths of the Southern Hemisphere and combines tropical islands with coral reefs and volcanic underwater terrain.
result? A magical world of thundering point breaks, crystal clear beach breaks, and pretty much everything in between. Here you’ll find Bali and Lombok, one of the most important surfing paradise since the days of endless summer. But you’ll also find uncharted surf territory, from the palm-fringed Mento Islands in the west to the undiscovered coral reefs of Sumba further east.
Below, I’ve used my deep knowledge of the Indonesian islands to identify the best surf spots in the region. I have been traveling to and from these islands with his board since 2013 and my last trip to Lombok and Bali will be early 2023 for him.
Gelupuk is a large bay wedged into the south side of Lombok. Instead of one or two, there are three separate surf spots, each catering to slightly different types of surfers and varying skill levels. No wonder he is considered one of the most diverse places in India.
The group’s best wave is probably Inside Gerupuk. It’s his A-frame with a smooth, forgiving descent to the long right and a short, sharp left turn. The right side is good for beginners as it pulls you straight into the paddle channel to get you back in line.
Further outside, where Gelupuk Bay meets the opened Indian Ocean is the Outside. This is a strange wave that always looks bigger than it really is, crashing a series of rips over the shallowing reef. And Don Don is a feisty, super soft left-hander who doesn’t work much but loves longboarders.
If he had one drawback with Gelbuk, it would be crowded. All three spots above are busy when the tide and waves are right. The best way to combat this is to stay local and surf early.
The bean-shaped island of Sumba is set to be the next big spot on India’s surfing scene. There are multiple reasons for this…
One: It’s perfectly located on the South West Wave Channel and has plenty of clear waves during the peak summer season.
Two: It has a Bali-like terrain that oscillates between high cliffs and volcanic ledges.
Three: It’s a beautiful and undeveloped place. Be prepared for long stretches of sugar-soft sand in the thickets of the coconut jungle.
Rest stops are slowly being discovered along the southwest coast, but there is one that really stands out in the crowd: he. It is known as Ossi’s Left or God’s Left. It is said that the Almighty Himself must have designed it so perfectly that it rotates counterclockwise. (Unfortunately, the only way to surf locally is by booking a hotel on the nearby beach, which costs him $2,000 a night.)
Nias, like G-Land and its predecessors, rose to prominence thanks to intrepid Australian explorers in the 1970s. They have done what it takes to ensure today’s surf traveler enjoys the finest and most consistent barrel point breaks in Asia.
It sits on the west coast, which stretches beautifully across the width of the Indian Ocean, slightly to the southwest due to the continuous swell during the dry season (May to August).
Here, especially near the mouth of Ragundri Bay in the south of Nias, the waves are of good quality. This is the perfect scrub, with sections that run like clockwork. Walk a little north to find Robinson Crusoe Beach, a secluded rest stop.
4. Padang Padang
Padang Padang is perhaps the only remaining place in Bali to rival Uluwatu and is located just a short distance offshore from the larger sites. Another famous surfing spot on the island’s southernmost Bukit peninsula, it’s just perfect in the dry season when the waves are well-matched with the right tides.
The main point is an undulating left turn on the south side of the bay. It’s 90% barrel-shaped and eventually opens up into a pitching area where you can carve a big S-turn before hitting the lip.
In the low season, when the waves are low, you can also rest here.
Padang right. It’s another fish barrel (no kidding). It’s smooth and cruising, offering a slippery ride for longboarders and intermediates alike.
5. The Mentawais
Last but not least, the Mentawai Archipelago tops the list of the best surf spots in Indonesia with its three main islands. Together the three form perhaps the world’s largest amusement park.
Let’s start from the north. This is where Siberut Island comes to life at Playgrounds, a group of 25 individual spots that include E-Bay’s epic rink and Bank Vaults’ Almond Barrel entitlement. Head a little further south and you’ll reach Cipla Island, best known for its bulging telescopes. At the edge of the Menz Islands is Pagai, the most remote island of the archipelago.
The surf camps there offer an authentic atmosphere where you can escape from all the mundane. Beach He ends up living like Tom and Hanks in Castaway, hopping from bungalow to secluded reef breaks that are never flat.
6. Kuta Bali
Ask 10 surfers where they would recommend studying in Asia and Kuta will be mentioned several times. The city stretches along the southwestern coast of the mysterious Island of the Gods and is the first point of departure for Bali.
The town has received mixed reviews lately as it has developed into a colorful party hub for Australia’s backpackers. And because of the regular reports of water pollution.
Despite this, Kutabari is still considered one of the best surf spots in Indonesia. It’s simply because there are countless surf schools here. Some are directly on the beach, while others are tucked away in narrow streets just beyond. The normal price for a 2-hour lesson is $15.
7. Desert Point
Cross your fingers and commit. This is how most surfers, including the most seasoned pros, pass through the spinning barrels of Desert Point. Forming at the westernmost reef in southern Lombok, directly across from Bali, this wave is quite capricious. But when it works, it really works…
Waves rushing to the southwest suck almost all the water off the jagged reefs, forming a draft tube that stretches 200 meters around the edge of the thick peninsula. Quickly descend steep walls of water and get right into the action. At this stage, viewers can watch as the surfers disappear across the water and are shot dead from the other side 20 seconds later. Not for learners, Desert Point is a little more difficult to get to. Navigating the bumpy roads of western Lombok requires a four-wheel drive vehicle and some good driving skills.
8. Batu Karas
The Batu Karas star is on the rise. Over the past decade, it has emerged as Java’s best answer to beginner-friendly waves in South Bali (more on that below).
It is almost entirely due to the main point break that functions at the western end of the beach. It is well sheltered from the huge southwest waves that rage in the Indian Ocean in summer. Turn right onto Main Beach. There is mostly sand in the water, suitable for longboards and experienced surfers. Meanwhile, more advanced surfers can take advantage of the Rippy A-frame break that works on Batu Karas Reef. Or further east are the endless peaks of Pangandaran.
The atmosphere here is similar to Bali 20 years ago. Just off the shore is a relaxing surf house with a jungle-enclosed pool surrounded by coconut palms. The waves are less crowded than on the Island of the Gods and you can even see cows on the beach.
No list of Indonesia’s best surf spots would be complete without mentioning G-Land. East Java’s gem was hidden until at least the early 70’s. Migrant surfers came here through the pristine jungle seeking refuge from Bali’s ever-growing crowds.
What they found did not disappoint.
Numerous first-class left-handed islands wind around the edge of the wide Grajagan Bay (hence the name G-Land).
Sections are now known. There is Money Trees, a ridiculously consistent run that ends with a fun bowling section. And there’s even a launch pad that daredevil pit hunters can launch from the back door.
In total, there are about eight named breaks in the G-Land lineup. Once or twice a year, on the best days, they get together for a thigh-warming ride.
The original surf camp is also located here. Called G Land Bobby’s Surf Camp, this campground has been around for 40 years and offers bungalow accommodation right on the surf.
Uluwatu (or Uluz as the locals call it) is one of the most beautiful left-handed point breaks in the world. The pros who surf here have been on the covers of surfing magazines since the beginning of surfing magazines.
You’ll know why when you see the huge wall of water that cascades down from the cliff tops of Cape Uluwatu…the waves are amazing! This section is curve-ready waters, encouraging short boarders to go from top to bottom and back again.
The closer the group is to the cliff, the shallower the volcanic reef. It comes with a bit of speed and danger. That’s what the final section aptly named ‘Race Course’ is all about. Uluwatu is primarily a place for intermediate surfers. So if you just want to get in the water, it’s best to stay at the cliffside bar and watch the show.