It is still dark outside, when we leave our apartment to meet Wayan, our good old friend and surf guide in Bali. We know it is worth to get up at 5 am in the morning - if Wayan says it is on, then its on. Melanie has known Wayan since 10 years, back from the day when he was a surfcoach at the Balicamp. Today he runs his own business - Santika Surf Guiding and Bali Tours. His devotion and expertise makes him an outstanding surf guide but even more we love him for his positive attitude and good heart. Wayan smiles when we load the boards on top of his car: "Ready?", he asks us. Of course! We hit the road and as usual time flies while we talk about everything and nothing.
When did you start surfing?
I was eleven years old when I went surfing with a friend for the first time. We were five guys, which were all into surfing and attended some Volcom competitions. But none of us took it seriously, we just had a lot of fun and let it flow. Still, two of my surf buddies from back in the day became surf pros and are still taking part in international competitions. For my part I never expected surfing to grow as much as it did and I was surprised it became that big in Bali. Around 2000 there was a boom of surf schools and surf camps in Bali and also bigger competitions were taking place, like the Rip Curl Cup in Padang Padang.
What do you think about the growth of surfing in Bali?
On one hand I think the development is really good, also for the local kids, it is fascinating to see what kind of crazy tricks they do nowadays. But it makes me sad to see how little some people are taking care of the beach. With the popularity of surfing, the tourism in Bali grew rapidly and more businesses evolved. People started to sell a lot of cheap stuff and just left behind a mess at the beach. On top of that, more and more big resorts popped up along the coast. There is nothing wrong with some nice bungalows at the beach. But I can't understand how some companies can be so reckless to even reform an entire cliff for the construction of a hotel (Dreamland) or just block the access to the beach for the public. At certain places I don't feel like in Bali anymore. In my point of view this really is a pity.
What do you like about surfing?
I like to be in the nature, especially in the ocean. Surfing relaxes me more than anything else. I mean surfing can change your mood immediately, one nice wave and you will be happy again, even if your day started off pretty bad. And I also like the surfing culture. Most of the people are really laidback and socialise with each other. It is cool to meet all kinds of people and discuss the waves or just talk nonsense with them. Even though surfing is quite an ego-sport, we still share our knowledge with each other. I also love the drive to the spot in the morning, this excitement of not really knowing how the conditions are. Because it is not up to you it is up to the nature. In surfing everything is changing all the time, the waves are never the same, so you will never get bored!
Is there a difference in the surfing culture of Indonesia compared to other nationalities?
There is not much localism here, just in some places in the east. But as a local (Indonesian) you can practically go everywhere in Indonesia and will be treated friendly. We all like surfing and I think we are really easy going and welcoming. I can not speak for all, but some foreign surfers can be a bit aggressive. Sometimes I experienced that they don’t respect taking turns, they come into the water and head straight to the peak without even saying hello. But we locals are mostly respected by the tourists, so we still get plenty of waves. Again, everything is different everyday and I love surfing for that and for all the different kind of people you meet in the water.
Tell us what you like about your job as a surf guide in Bali?
Oh, this is my dream job, for sure. Not only because I can surf a lot and be in the water, I also get to move around quite often and visit many different places. I meet people from all over the world, learn about new cultures and become aware of different ideas and thinking. Being a surf guide really makes me open minded. I also like that my day never looks the same: Sometimes I start at 5 am and drive two hours to a spot and the other day I can wake up at 8 am and literally fall from the bed on to the surfboard. And I am always super stoked, when I see my guests catching waves and have a good time with me. This is the most important thing and motivates me to give every day 100%.
From surf coach at the camp to independent surf guide - how come?
It was Alex from the Balicamp who recruited me as surf coach. I was working as a receptionist at a hotel back then and was always giving the guests tips for surfing. This is how me and Alex met. When he asked me to join the Balicamp team I first hesitated, because I wasn't sure if I should leave my secure job. But looking back it was absolutely the right choice. The training and different courses I did at the camp are still helping me in my job today. I really learned a lot in those seven years of being a coach at the camp.
This was also why the decision of becoming independent was one of the biggest challenges in my life. I was thinking about it for a while, but somehow there was never the right time to do it. I was so used to work in a team and I also didn't want to let them down by quitting my job, especially as I was so grateful for all I've learned there. But with Santika Surf Guiding and Bali Tours I am much more independent and flexible, which is great, especially with having a family now. I am very happy about the time I can spend with Kiran, my four year old son and my wife Putu.
How would you describe Bali as a surf destination?
Bali is a very beautiful Island. I saw other islands in Indonesia, but Bali is the most developed one. For me as a surf guide this is really good for working, because you can easily and quickly move around. There are many surf spots for all kind of levels. So depending on the skills of my guests I will always find a spot which will work for them. But also besides surfing, Bali has a lot to offer. You can explore the Balinese culture or do a day trip journey to a waterfall or hike on top of one of the volcanos. And it is up to you how you like to travel: You can stay in a homestay or you can play golf in a big resort, you can travel by motorbike or by helicopter - everything is possible in Bali!
Is surfing still challenging for you?
Sure! Surfing is a beautiful sport and a lifelong education. There is always something to learn and everyday in the water is different. I myself would like to read the waves even better so that I could predict a set coming and be at the right position before anyone else does. But I also have to admit that surfing is a constant fight against your ego. For example, I used to surf big waves, but now I am older and I had to realise that I'm not able to perform like when I was young. Age makes you more humble I think. I also have more responsibility now. And by having more experiences, I am also much more aware of the consequences my actions might have. You need to respect the nature: your mind might be strong but your body is not the same anymore. Everything is changing you shouldn’t push it but accept it.
What was your most scary surf experience?
I was twelve years old and surfing at Kuta Beach. It was a big day with a huge swell (for a twelve year old). I was the only one left in the water and I actually tried to paddle back to the beach, but the current was to strong and took me further outside in the ocean. It was getting dark and the lifeguard already left his position. I was drifting more and more outside and I was getting tired. I started to cry and wanted to give up. Just then I realised that the current is taking me in a semicircle to the far right side of the beach. I remembered that a friend told me about that, but in the panic I totally forgot about it. So I turned my board and started paddling with the current instead of against it. Then I heard the impact of a big wave, which was just breaking behind me.
I knew this was my chance to get a ride back to the beach. I was really scared but I just held onto my board as good as I could and let the white water push me. And it was not till my fins finally stuck in the sand that I realised that I was back at the beach. I was so exhausted and just laid down at the beach. Before going surfing my mom asked me to do an offering. First I thought it didn’t help much but then I also don’t want to imagine what would have happened without it.
Thank your Wayan for the interview, the great surf, the happy times and for making us get up so early in the morning. See you in the line-up!