Padang Padang Fires up as Lockdowns Lift in Bali

11 Jul 2020 0 Share

COASTALWATCH | SWELL DIARIES

Words and captions By Matt George / Photos by Liquid Barrel

July 2, 2020 marked a long awaited Independence Day here on Bali.

Previous to this date it seemed the tortures of the pandemic lockdown were made doubly horrific by a string of perfect swells that bombarded the island during one of the best seasons in a decade. Surfers were drydocked of course, forced to only watch swell after swell march ashore unridden, groomed by our seasonal offshore tradewinds. Beautiful, yes, but also agonising.

It drove a lot of surfers underground. Forming small cadres of in-the-know locals and trapped expats that would cruise the island, looking for any opportunity to nab a furtive go-out before the authorities would make their presence known. These busts were generally benign. The surfers complied and no one was fined or had their boards confiscated. It was a cat and mouse gaame for the lucky few that were able to surf line-ups that had not been so empty since the early 70s. And surprisingly, their were no protests or any signs of rage other than general frustration. With many surfers appreciating the fact that the ocean was being given a break. An empty line-up, after all, is every surfer's dream. But that’s only the half of it. Not being able to paddle out was the rub.

Which is why when the July 2 swell rolled around and the authorities here decreed the beaches open to “physical activities with the observance of social distancing”, it felt like our own Independence Day had arrived. Especially since Padang Padang, the Queen of the Bukit, was set to fire on eight cylinders. With perfect tides under a cloudless equatorial sky, with the offshore trades smoothing her line-up golf ball smooth, she opened he arms to an all star crew.

With most surfers wave starved, what followed was our own display of fireworks from some of the most die-hard Padang Padang masters on the island. A new day in the global pandemic had arrived for us. No longer looking in the rear-view mirror for the memories of great waves, we could finally look out the windshield toward a future of new ones.

WATCH: Biggest Padang Padang of the Year So Far, Six Minutes of Dreamy Tubes

12-year-old Springbok Kai Hall has been making the most of the lockdown here on Bali. Sneaking out a few secret sessions here and there. But on July 2, set free, and confident in helmet and boots, he took on the hollows of Padang Padang with all the courage of a heavyweight.

12-year-old Springbok Kai Hall has been making the most of the lockdown here on Bali. Sneaking out a few secret sessions here and there. But on July 2, set free, and confident in helmet and boots, he took on the hollows of Padang Padang with all the courage of a heavyweight.

A master at work, it is hard to believe that Bali’s most famous surfer since the 80s is still casting his own shadow at Padang Padang. Like his friend Kelly Slater, still surfing like a teenager and picking off the best waves of the session. And like his mentor Gerry Lopez at Pipeline, Rizal’s surfing will secure him the same historic ownership at Padang Padang.

A master at work, it is hard to believe that Bali’s most famous surfer since the 80s is still casting his own shadow at Padang Padang. Like his friend Kelly Slater, still surfing like a teenager and picking off the best waves of the session. And like his mentor Gerry Lopez at Pipeline, Rizal’s surfing will secure him the same historic ownership at Padang Padang.

Padang Padang, July 2 2020.

Padang Padang, July 2 2020.

Bruno Santos has long been given honourable local status at Padang Padang. He somehow shows up out of nowhere on the best days of the year. Taking off impossibly deep on the biggest set waves of the day, his understanding of the reef allows him to stay inside for the whole wave. The trick is having the confidence to draw a clean high line on the outside and then to drop down the step of the inside section and pump like mad for the light. A technique that demands both subtlety and aggression. Not many have the guts.

Bruno Santos has long been given honourable local status at Padang Padang. He somehow shows up out of nowhere on the best days of the year. Taking off impossibly deep on the biggest set waves of the day, his understanding of the reef allows him to stay inside for the whole wave. The trick is having the confidence to draw a clean high line on the outside and then to drop down the step of the inside section and pump like mad for the light. A technique that demands both subtlety and aggression. Not many have the guts.

On the big outside bombs it’s a roll-in take-off that soon becomes very serious. A perfectly timed bottom turn is the make or break manoeuvre. Mustafa Jeksen, Padang Padang’s ultimate showman, has got it down. It’s moments like this that separate a master from the pretty good.

On the big outside bombs it’s a roll-in take-off that soon becomes very serious. A perfectly timed bottom turn is the make or break manoeuvre. Mustafa Jeksen, Padang Padang’s ultimate showman, has got it down. It’s moments like this that separate a master from the pretty good.

Which results in Mustafa being perfectly positioned in the outside barrel while maintaining the speed and the downward push it is going to take to succeed through the inside reef’s hollows.

Which results in Mustafa being perfectly positioned in the outside barrel while maintaining the speed and the downward push it is going to take to succeed through the inside reef’s hollows.

Fine tuned by the beach breaks of Padma, Putu Gunata’s approach involves relaxed lines and impeccable positioning. It’s not as easy at it seems on a wave that may look easy to ride, but which undulates over the reef as it fights a ferocious current sweeping out of the small bay. Every wave is a different challenge at Padang Padang and it takes a local like Putu to make perfect sense of them.

Fine tuned by the beach breaks of Padma, Putu Gunata’s approach involves relaxed lines and impeccable positioning. It’s not as easy at it seems on a wave that may look easy to ride, but which undulates over the reef as it fights a ferocious current sweeping out of the small bay. Every wave is a different challenge at Padang Padang and it takes a local like Putu to make perfect sense of them.

Teen phenom Bronson Meydi is Indonesia’s next great hope for the world tour. That is if there ever is one again. Still, Bronson stays sharp, surfing so hard and so long that he struggles to take in enough calories to maintain his weight. Once he wires a professional diet and training regimen, and with his incredible air game, the world will take notice.

Teen phenom Bronson Meydi is Indonesia’s next great hope for the world tour. That is if there ever is one again. Still, Bronson stays sharp, surfing so hard and so long that he struggles to take in enough calories to maintain his weight. Once he wires a professional diet and training regimen, and with his incredible air game, the world will take notice.

The duck dive view. With Sima Rai dropping into the camera studio at the inside bowl. One of the things that makes a Padang Padang session so memorable is the mystical surroundings of the place. A fairy tale setting of ancient Hindu Temples carved into the magnificent limestone cliffs.

The duck dive view. With Sima Rai dropping into the camera studio at the inside bowl. One of the things that makes a Padang Padang session so memorable is the mystical surroundings of the place. A fairy tale setting of ancient Hindu Temples carved into the magnificent limestone cliffs.

This story and gallery also appears on Surfline

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