Medewi, Bali’s longest wave, and what became of it.
To get the whole picture, why going back to Medewi feels special, let me take you a trip down memory lane.
Some people say you should never go back to a place you’ve been before and loved it, as it will never be the same again.
And for my first five years of traveling, I lived by this credo. But for some reason, it took me back to Australia, where it all started. I realized, even if it never will be the same, it’s up to you to write a whole new story in an old and well know backdrop. And so I started to go back to places I already knew, and keep doing it ever since. Of course, I’m still keen to explore new and to me unchartered territory, and this is where often the most exciting adventures await.
But going back to places I learned to love on previous trips, can feel like coming home, and can give you some kind of hold in a lifestyle of embracing the unknown.
When I arrived in Bali for the first time in 2005, everything was pretty much the same as it is today. Well, everything was a bit less as it is now. Fewer motorbikes, less traffic, fewer surf schools and foam boards, fewer drop-ins, and less money for your Nasi Bungkus. But as the locals see it, it was: Same, same, but different!
I was traveling with my first shortboard, and when I heard of a soft, incredibly long and easy to surf wave, away from the Kuta-crowds and craziness, I had to find that Medewi place as soon as possible!
No question, Medewi is not Uluwatu or Padang Padang! The crown jewels of Bali’s surfing are places underneath the cliffs of the Bukit Peninsula. But everyone who comes here, and is not up for big and heavy barrels, will hear about Medewi immediately!
It is a long and busy drive up the West Coast of Bali, on the notorious “dead road”! If you drive it without much traffic, you’ll get there within two hours from Kuta, but it can easily be double the time. You shouldn’t mind that. Just be happy you made it safe and sound. It’s the same road all the overloaded trucks from Java use. And just because the drivers are tired, the tires old, and the load is often too heavy; no one sees a reason to slow down, or not to overtake in a blind bend! I’m not saying don’t go there, or don’t drive! Just make sure you feel fit for the drive, and rather have a coffee stop more, to be concentrated and focused.
The drive would be scenic and beautiful… if you could enjoy it, rather than being scared. And now and then, when you can sneak a peek of the ocean, you realize how much potential for uncrowded surf is still hiding behind the rice terraces in this part of Bali.
Once you leave Balian behind and cross a few more bridges, you’ll see a big billboard to your left, telling you, you made it!
Everyone who comes to Medewi is here for the same reason, surfing. There is not much else to do than surfing, what doesn’t mean that nature here isn’t stunning! I saw some of the most beautiful sunrises here, but then again… I saw them while surfing. Depending on the visibility, you’ll see the island of Java and to the other side, you’ll see the volcanoes of Bali.
The water here is not as beautiful as further South, or on the East coast, but sometimes rather brownish or dark green. And you’re not surfing over a colorful reef, what might takes a lot of the Indonesian magic away. But if you’re here to surf, and if you want your surfing to progress, it’s an excellent place.
When I arrived here twelve years ago, it had few people in the water and not many places to stay. Most of the travellers on a budget ended up staying at Gede Homestay. I was in Bali for only a few days when I got here the first time, and the nearby Mosque with its mujahidin took me by surprise! This part of the island is Muslim, as most of Indonesia and the local people’s morning prayer was my daily wake up call to go surfing.
Medewi has no reef, but your reef-boots might come handy. It’s a cobblestone left pointbreak, which peels soft and mellow down the line for up to 500 meters if everything comes perfectly together! It has an easy keyhole-like paddle out almost at the top of the point, and it’s not too troublesome to get back to shore if you surf (or paddle) all the way to the end of the wave. Come in next to the river, where the fisher boats are. Even if it sounds super easy, you’re likely to cut your feet on a shell-covered rock or step on a sea urchin – especially if you try to get in or out somewhere between those two easy to recognize landmarks.
The wave is easy to read, and big parts of it break slow, what makes it the perfect wave for less advanced surfers. But there are some faster and steeper sections, and this was a big deal about my recent rediscovery of Medewi!
No doubt, this is not the kind of wave you know from Magazines and made you dream about going to Indonesia. It’s not the set up to fly around half the globe for. But it’s a fun wave and has different sections that fit various levels of surfing.
If you just want to get as many meters under your board as possible, this could be the place.
Medewi has a growing number of local surfers, who organize themselves in the “Medewi Boardriders Club.” They know the wave and are on it whenever it’s good. Aside from that, they take pictures of you surfing and sell them to you for a fair price. They run restaurants, homestays, and hotels. In short, they rely on surf-tourism and the friendly reputation of this place, and they know it.
However, their idea of how to sell you a Medewi T-shirt, as a donation toward the Medewi Boardriders Club, might differ to your idea. Or when you’re sitting out in the water, waiting for a wave, and someone drops in on you, in the most nonchalant way! Even worse, you’re on a wave, and a self-proclaimed surf teacher pushed his student into the wave you’re on! What else? Some other tourist drops in on you, crashes into you, etc… and instead of apologizing, his “host” is paddling up to you, asking you in an aggressive tone if there is a problem? Letting you know, that the other guy is his guest, and whatever he does is ok! And if you see it different, you’ll have to “talk” to him! His host, and not the person who was involved!
I tried to talk about such things with some of the older locals and members of the Medewi Boardriders. What they said was, that these people are not locals, as Medewi locals would never do something like that. They are always the people who come up from Canggu.
If this is true? How could I know? I can tell the difference between Indonesians and Caucasians, but not who’s from Medewi, and who’s not.
But this whole “pay per wave” surf-tourism, is something that is, unfortunately, growing all over the world with rapidity! It’s not that I don’t understand where it is coming from, but because of this, it doesn’t mean that I approve it! But that’s another story…
Medewi (the dry side of the shoreline)
Medewi has more people in the water than twelve years ago. Same as everywhere else. So it’s no surprise to see more accommodations than back then.
It’s still possible to stay basic and cheap. But by now, there are a couple of other, more upscale options as well.
Same goes for the food. You can eat cheap rice and noodles three times a day, and spend very little money. But you’ve got a small selection of different restaurants with local and international food. They are good, and still very fair priced.
Party is something you left behind, when you saw the last Canggu sign in the rear mirror. Of course, you can have your Bintang, or ten, if you have to celebrate the biggest and longest wave of your life. (Something that is very likely here, as the wave is mellow enough to surf it much bigger than in other places.) But life in Medewi goes around your surf sessions. And as you want to be up and out in the water, before the wind starts, it means going to bed and getting up early.
Medewi is no secret. It never was!
and so, it’s usually crowded. But as the wave is so long, and has various different sections, you can find your place and get waves.
It’s only a far drive away from the Airport, the parties, and the shopping. And there are enough waves within easy reach. It can be done as a day trip, but it’s too much hustle I’d say. Because of this, many people stay away. But go up there and spend at least one night, for your mind to slow down from the crazy drive, and settle into a more relaxed Bali-pace. This area can give you an idea what the island looked like before Bintang-singlet replaced the sarongs. And there are countless other waves than just the famous left. Just ask around and go exploring.
Medewi is what it is, and what it always was…
Drive up there, and see if it is for you?!
Save drive and Hati-Hati!