Green Bowls

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Green Bowl beach is just around the corner from world-famous surf break Uluwatus, but it doesn’t draw quite the same heavy crowds.

The spot is somewhat secluded, only accessed down a steep cliff path of seemingly endless stairs, a trek that is enough of a hassle on the way down but especially tiring after a long surf.

            I met Sofie, a Javanese woman about my age, for an early morning surf there after a 5:30 wakeup call that was driven by the tide and reminiscent of my swimming days. Sofie is a talented surfer who has grown to love the Dolfin Bellas. Her favorite is the mesh bikini, which she wears every time we surf together.

            We spent hours in the water catching waves. I marveled, as I do every time, at the sharp, jagged edges of the surrounding cliffs, the shimmer of the pale sand, and the glow of the crisp blue water, which, despite being rather dirty, still produces beautiful azure shades under the morning sun. I feel I have failed as a writer in that I cannot provide an adequate description of such a sight: I wrack my brains for words, phrases, or metaphors to convey the beauty but ultimately fall short every time.

            The hike back up the staircase took quite a while. Sofie is very fit, more so than I am, but she does not have breaststroker legs, so she needed to pause and rest a few times during the climb. When we reached the clifftop parking lot, we had a rinse in the outdoor shower and then bought fresh young coconuts from one of the warungs – the Indonesian word for food stand – next to the parking lot. We took seat at a picnic bench overlooking the cliff. When I looked out to the water, I could see the surfers still down at the break, but they were only specks in the distance.

            Sofie told me only 10 local women surf here in Bali, which surprised me.

            “They don’t want dark skin like me,” she said, and rolled her eyes at the vanity of such an idea. I chuckled as I thought of women in the U.S. who bake in the sun for hours just to darken their skin a few shades.  

            As Sofie and I drained the water and started spooning meat out of the bottom of our coconuts, she chatted on about her life. She is 24, and moved here from Java fairly recently.  She works as a nanny at several of the resorts.

            “I used to have a sister who came here with me, but she died in childbirth a year ago,” she said.

“That’s awful. I’m so sorry.” What can you say to that?

            “It was really sad. And now I have to take care of her baby who is one.”

            She showed me pictures of a smiling toddler in a pool.

            “She’s adorable. So cute. Is the father in the picture at all?”

            “He helps sometimes, but he’s in Australia a lot.”

As we are leaving, Sofie told me she would not be able to surf again in the afternoon because she had to buy baby food and to take care of her niece.

Jen Wilson