A Finnish snowboarder gives his top tips for surfing in Bali

Pekko Manninen is a Finnish snowboarder who got into surfing, full-on, when he was studied abroad at Udayana University in Bali. Here are his tips for surfing at Bali.

Pekko Finnish Snowboarder and surfer in Bali


Here are a few things you should keep in mind when surfing in Bali!

Hire a teacher

Hiring a teacher is always a good, especially as a beginner. Teachers are the real experts and have good knowledge of suitable surfing spots, too.

Be patient

I’ve heard someone saying that only 10% of surfing is you actually standing on the board. I didn’t want to believe it four years ago when I started but it’s pretty clear to me now that this is more than true. Tides, swell directions and winds that create the perfect wave, or an impossible one, are things you only learn by studying the sea from the shore, going into line-up and watch the more experienced surfers do it first and finally, of course, trying it yourself. As a Finnish guy who’s been on snow most of his life and barely even seen a sea, not to mention proper waves, I can assure you it takes a long to time to learn how to read the ocean and be in the right place at the right time in order to catch a good wave.

Pekko surfing in Bali - study abroad in bali


So don’t be overconfident, study instead. Keep in mind these things when deciding where to go surfing the next day:

  • Tide
  • Swell forecast – size, period, direction
  • Wind direction
  • And yeah you should wake up early and hit the water at sunrise!

To help you get started…

Bali has four tides during 24 hours which means that the time between the high and the low tide is always six hours. For example, tomorrow the low tide is at 6 am which means the high tide will be at noon and next low tide at 6 pm and so on. In Bali, the difference between a low and a high tide can be as much as 2.5 meters – this really matters. All surfing spots are different so the ideal time to go surfing is not always at the same point of a tide. Usually a rising tide creates good waves but whether the tide is rising from low to mid tide or mid to high tide makes a difference depending on the spot.

Swell forecasts usually provide information on how high the swell is going to be. The actual height of the breaking wave is often smaller than the swell height estimated by a forecast, though. The swell forecasts also give an idea from which direction the swell is coming. Every spot has a range of swell directions that are most suitable for surfing. You can find information on the best swell directions for different spots, for example, from www.magicseaweed.com. There is usually some information at the beach at different surfing spots, too.

The distance and time between swells arriving is really important when estimating how big or small the waves will be. Longer period (15-20 seconds) usually means that the waves are bigger. Shorter period (10-15 seconds) usually means that the waves might not have that much strength and that they are a bit smaller.

Good surfing conditions can also be completely ruined if it gets too windy. Basically, when the wind is blowing from the sea to the shore (onshore) it is almost always bad. In contrast, wind blowing from the shore to the sea (offshore) doesn’t have too big of an impact on the surfing conditions. Morning surfs (6-8am) tend to be the best because mornings are usually “glassy” (=no wind, glassy sea level).

waves in bali

Be social

When you go surfing at a new place, I would always recommend going there with someone who has been there before. Or at least I would get some information from the spot before just rushing into the water. Every spot works differently and some spots might have stronger currents than others and this has to always be considered when going surfing. One of my most important own rules is that I don’t ever go surfing alone, not without a friend or two going with you. We were surfing this one spot once, with very strong currents and a big swell, and I broke my board in two pieces in the first wave I surfed that day and I still wonder if I would have made it to the shore without the help of my friends.

beach in bali

Be picky about your board

Don’t start surfing with too small of a board. I know it’s tempting to try those short boards but in the end, it just makes your surfing in general progress much slower. The main thing at the beginning is to catch as many waves as possible and getting used to it. Surfing on a smaller board makes catching waves a lot harder. So be patient and give it some time with bigger boards at first. Also, remember that a bigger board is not always just about the height – both wideness and thickness of the board are very important. If you want to buy your own board, there are plenty of second-hand boards at surf shops in Kuta to choose from. If you can’t find a suitable board for your level and needs, you can buy a custom made from www.asennesurf.com or contact surf@asennesurf.com for more information.

I would recommend surfing beach breaks at first, if you are a beginner. Batu-bolong, also known as Tugu, is a good spot both for beginners and also for more advanced surfers who’d need a change from beach breaks. Batu-bolong beach is in Canggu, next to Echo beach.

Find out more about surfing and studying in Bali

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