The Ultimate Guide to Surfing in Indonesia

by Joe Francis

Surfing in Indonesia – reads like a dream? This land hosts the epic Isle of the Gods and the upcoming Ments. There’s so much to get through and surfers from all over a enchanted.

An introduction to surfing in Indonesia

Surfing in Indonesia

Surfing in Indonesia is one of those top-of-the-list sorta’ things. The country just has SO much to get through for the wave hunter that it borders on the nigh on ridiculous. Locations like Bali and Lombok are now well trodden. As are the likes of G-land over in Java. They’ve adorned the covers of surf mags since at least the 70s, with pictures of double overheads and perfect barrels of glistening Indian Ocean water. Today, these remain the mainstays of the country, and – Bali especially – now caters to all levels of surfer, from total beginner to WSL pro.

But to stick to the tried-and-tested spots when it comes to surfing in Indonesia sort of misses the point. The country has more than 17,000 islands. Yep, 17k! They are all potential surf havens, especially the ones that enjoy any touch of exposure to the Indian Ocean (a veritable factory for groundswells come the dry season months). Just glance at the map folks. Anywhere from the edge of Sumatra near Malaysia to the distant coast of West Timor is in play, with a hodgepodge in between.

Wave wise, there’s loads to get through. However, the west-south orientation of shoreline that picks up Indian Ocean swell means that Indonesia is primarily a land of left handers. Most are powered by the abundance of jagged volcanic reef, so lots are no joke at all. But there are nice beach breaks in the mix to boot. The hardest part will probably be getting around. Remoteness brings challenges, folks!

We might use affiliate links in this post. Basically, you click em’ and we get a little something from your booking or purchase. They help us keep offering more and more in-depth surf guides to awesome places all around the globe. So, thanks for that!

This guide is a part of our larger ultimate guide to surfing in Asia

Surfing in Indonesia at a glance

The good:

  • Bali – an island of epic left handers
  • The Mentawai chain – perfect breaks with hardly a lineup in sight
  • Long, long swell seasons (AKA it doesn’t stop here!)

The bad:

  • Some surf areas are hard to reach
  • Busy spots (mainly Bali and Lombok)

What will I find in this guide to surfing in Bali

The top surf destinations in Indonesia

Surfing in Indonesia takes you across a whole archipelago country of such epic proportions that any truly comprehensive guide to all the spots within would take up tomes that would make even Tolstoy blush. The truth is prowling the islands for the next gnarly point break or left is kinda’ half the fun, as only small portions of the country have been cased out properly – Bali, Lombok. There’s still loads of unchartered surf territory, along with more barrels than you can shake a Indonesian gado gado at. Let’s go…

Mentawai Islands

The Mentawai Islands, or The Ments, as they’ve become known in the now-global surf community, are a string of about 70 islets that sit just under 100 miles off the coast of Sumatra. The location is an abslaoute gift, becuase all that SW-S swell that blesses Bali and other spots for surfing in Indonesia comes in here like clockwork throughout the dry season. It meets a series of jagged reefs and point break to throw up all sorts of surf – points, A-frames, lefts, rights. The remoteness of the archipelago, coupled with the sheer abundance of surf sports means that this one is now riding high as one of the most sought-after wave hotspots in Asia.

It’s hard to know where to begin trying to pick out the best of the Ments. There’s the epic left hand rifles of hardcore Maccas, one of the best lefts on Earth. There are the guaranteed barrels at The Hole. Oh, and you find more forgiving reefies at Nipussi and Lances.

Check out our complete guide to surfing in the Mentawai Islands right now

Bali

Bali is numero uno on most surfer’s lists of places to go in Indo. That’s understandable. The island has carved out a place in the annals of surf history like few islands on earth. It’s like Asia’s answer to Oahu, only with Hindu temples and satay chicken on the side. If we had to pin it down, we’d say Bali excels in the world of the pristine left-hander reef. There are about four of those on the western side of the Bukit Peninsula that are world class. Like, seriously, world class. Ever heard of Uluwatu? Padang Padang?

But that’s not all Bali has to offer. This isle is a bona fide surf mecca because of quantity and quality. The waves of Kuta, for example, have given many a backpacker their first intro into the sport, while the coastline north of Balian and Soka is still being discovered.

Check out our complete guide to surfing in Bali right now

Lombok

Lombok sits just over the strait from Bali. It used to be touted as the same thing but 20 years past. We’ve seen some hefty development here in the last decade, though, and it can seem like every time we get back there there’s a whole load of new-fangled hotels and resorts. It’s still WAY more empty than Bali, though, and has some spectacular surf breaks for those willing to work for them.

Yep, we’d say this is the home of the surf boating trip. The whole south coast here picks up direct swell off the Southern Ocean making it a whole different workhorse to Bali’s more sculpted breaks. That fuels everything from Desert Point in the west to the remote breaks of Ekas Bay. For good intermediates and expert surfers, this really is heaven. Beginners have one or two spots to pick from too.

We’ve got a full guide to surfing in Lombok

Sumbawa

Sumbawa is the next island over from Bali and Lombok. So, it follows that it should have good surf, right? Right! The places you’re looking for are the parts of the strangely-shaped island that get exposure to the open Indian Ocean, like Bukit before it. *Quick glance at the map* They’re on offer on the far west coast facing the straight with Lombok and in the far southeast, south of Hu’u and Madawa.

Without spoiling too much, we’ll just say that there’s some serious quality in Sumbawa. East coast options include the likes of Lakey Peak, a frothing A-frame that spits you right onto a sectiony left, and nearby Lakey Pipe, a slab of a slab of a left point. Stay west and you can hit breaks like Yo-yos and tropicals, which have great consistency throughout the wet season, too.

Check out our full guide to Sumbawa surfing (coming soon)

Java

The home of sprawling Jakarta and the hippy enclave of Yogyakarta, Java is known for its smoking volcanos, amazing train rides, and its coffee. We’d just add surf to that list, since this is the home of G-Land, that series of left-handers that form off a huge coral shelf; a spot that Kelly Slater likes to rip up without letting anyone know he’s on his way.

That’s just the tip of Java, though. There are other world-class breaks on offer for those willing to do a little legwork in the less-developed south of the island. They come in the form of the uber-long barrel at One Palm Point (if you can handle seeing the reef whiz by underfoot) and the sucky right of Apocalypse (name = deserved!).

Check out our complete guide to the surf in Java right now (coming soon)

Sumba

If you follow the map of the best places for surfing in Indonesia down from the Ments to the far eastern end of the country, you should notice a bean-shaped island hanging right there in the Indian Ocean swell channels. Curiosity got the better of you? Well…that’s Sumba. It’s only just coming onto the mainstream surf scene, with one pretty lovely surf camp having just set up shop. The breaks are something else, too. They’re empty, for one. And they offer something for all levels – from Pantai Marosi’s beachies to the faster left-rights of Racetracks.

Check out our complete guide to the surf in Java right now (coming soon)

Rote Island

Matching Java’s G-Land with Rote’s T-Land, this isle has cracking dry-season surf conditions. The main spot is a left hander that rolls perfectly into the Besialu Reef to offer long rides and three different take off zones. It can hold loads of height is unquestionably up there with the longest waves in all of Indo.

Check out our complete guide to surfing Rote Island (coming soon)

Our pick of the best surf stays in Indonesia

There are oodles of hotels and surf camps on offer to traveling surfers in Indonesia. It’s essentially a whole subsection of the travel market in its own right. We’ve stayed in some cracking places for wave hunting. We’ve shared a few below…

Surf camps in Indonesia

Dreamsea Bali ($$-$$$)

Dreamsea Bali has one of the finest locations of any surf camp on the Isle of the Gods. It’s right there on the edge of the western Bukit Peninsula, with Padang Padang (a famous left and a beginner right) just in front. It’s also a gorgeous hotel, with boho interiors and rooms with balconies that are scorched yellow and orange at the sunset.

NIHI Sumba ($$$)

My god…if you can afford this…book it. Book it now! Yep, the NIHI Sumba is something else. It basically guarantee that you’ll have one of Indo’s best left-hand reefs (Occys) all to yourself, since the wave breaks on private beachfront right in front of the resort. You have to register as one of the 10 surfers allowed out there when you book, which means you can rip without the crowds. Oh, and the hotel is downright INCREDIBLEEEE!

Masokut Ebay Surf Camp ($-$$)

Super chilled and affordable, the Masokut Ebay Surf Camp makes scoring the epic waves of the Ments easier than ever. It’s backpacker stuff – no infinity pools and whatnot. But it’s great vibes all round and you get access to some corkers of waves.

When to surf in Indonesia

There are really only two season in Indonesia, the dry and the wet. Ask any seasoned surfer and they’ll tell you that the dry season is the holy grail here. It’s got the more frequent groundswells and the best conditions. However, surfing in Indonesia really is an all-year thing. Just you don’t get those heavy Ulu bombs and the like in the wetter season. Let’s take a closer look…

A small barrel in Indonesia

Dry season (April-October)

The Indian Ocean starts pumping out its nigh-on perfect groundswells in the spring and hardly lets up for a second until the late fall. These are what bless all the south-west facing reefs of Indonesia, from the Ments all the way to Sumba. The dry season coincides with less rainfall and north and east winds, which adds glassiness to the water and keeps the barreling spots holding nicely. This is the prime time to surf here and the best for intermediates and experts alike.

Wet season (November-March)

There’s still loads of surfing in Indonesia in the wet season. In fact, we’d give little thought to a Bali surf trip in December, where breaks like the Sanur reefs and Nusa Dua hold well, and Kuta’s long sand pumps for beginners basically nonstop. The main thing to bear in mind is that SW and S swells are less powerful and nowhere near as clean. It’s generally better for beginners and improvers, as there’s a bit of power drawn out of the bigger breaks.

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We might use affiliate links in this post. Basically, you click em’ and we get a little something from your booking or purchase. They help us keep offering more and more in-depth surf guides to awesome places all around the globe. So, thanks for that!

This is just a part of our complete guide to surfing in Asia