To All My Fellow Surfers


Bali’s waves are pretty nuts.  The swell has been firing lately.  The very first day I arrived I got a two-second barrel and the next day caught one of the longer rides of my life.

I’ve gotten worked pretty badly a few times at double overhead Ulu’s, lost a fin, and dinged fiber carbon railed board already, so it’s all pretty exciting.  When it’s super huge, I go around the corner to Impossibles, Bingin, Dreamland, or Balangan, where it’s possible to find a barrel or a peeling lefthander almost everyday.  But the trash in the water at Dreamland and Balangan is pretty extreme.  After a couple days of rain and 25kt onshore winds (really unusual for this time of year), there were guys surfing in barrels with garbage literally spitting over their heads.  It made me a little angry at being a human, honestly.
My project has been pretty interesting so far.  My first goal has just been to make connections with the locals and people who know about the area.  I’ve become fairly close with Jeff Bushman, a famous surfboard shaper who spends most of his time in Hawaii, but occasionally comes here to shape boards.  Through him, and the hostel surfing life, I’ve met a good amount of Aussies, mostly, but guys who have been here for 30 years, and know a ton about the history of the place and things like that.  While many of the Balinese know English, I haven’t really met any Bali folks who have been able to tell me very much about the history and even less about environmental initiatives, but I’ve been working with a local NGO called Project Clean Uluwatu (PCU).  Working with PCU I hope to meet more locals that sometimes help volunteer with his project, but trying to spearhead an environmental management team of local Indonesians seems fairly difficult, without having a longer amount of time to establish friendships, which are necessary to get anything accomplished around Bali.

There’s just too much tourism, and so much money to be made in it, that there’s not very many people who like taking a step back to say, hey let’s think about what we’re doing here. Also, probably only about 15 years ago, most of the food products in the country were wrapped in banana leaves, so it’s custom to throw the new food wrappers into the forest, and burin it when the pile gets too big.  It’s crazy to see what’s happened, and it honestly may be too late (like everyone says), but I think if they installed like an energy plant that made electricity from garbage as they do in Scandinavia, there could be an incentive to collect garbage, which would have an enormous impact.
I did have one interesting conversation with an Australian who has been coming here for almost 40 years. He gave me a different view-point about my meeting with Conservation International.  CI is trying to establish a Marine Managed Area through the government, essentially a National Marine Park on the Bukit, but the consultant is an Indonesian women who has not yet a gotten a chance to visit the area.  Supposedly, people on the Bukit essentially hate the government, because the government sent the rejects and sickly people out of Kuta to the Bukit about 50 years ago.  Kuta, 50 years ago, was the surf center and very nice, clean area in Bali.  Today, it is more like Las Vegas on the beach, with nightclubs, bars, and general anarchy happening everywhere.  The ocean is also quite filthy in Kuta, compared to a relatively clean Uluwatu.


Today, CI is very casual about being like, yeah the government wants to come in and manage this area.  It is hard for me to imagine that the “rejects” of Uluwatu, some of whom are making a very good living with their Warungs (Indonesian for restaurant/store) established for surf tourism, will be that excited about learning the government intends to start managing their territory. It’s sort of a difficult place to be in the middle of.  It’s great to be supporting environmental management, but getting to know a small community who was thrown out of the good land, makes me realize the difficulties of supporting environmentalism, especially with the many other factors at play. It reminds me of this great environmental article by the NYTimes (

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