Living In Water


Bali’s afternoon rain comes rapidly and sometimes with little warning – washing crowds off the beaches, flooding the main roads, and leaving deep puddles on the dirt path where I live. 

Maybe it’s my years spent living in water, but I love the rain, especially tropical storms like those we experience here. While caught in a downpour on my motorbike the other day, drenched to the bone and shivering, I could not help but think that you have not really lived until you have scooted through heavy traffic on a four-lane road, tire deep in standing water as you weave around cars and try to avoid the spray from passing motorists speeding through.    

The rain passes quickly and cools the hot afternoon air. When evening falls after a storm and the sun peeks through parting clouds, flocks of locals, finished with school or work for the day, rush into the water for a last-light surf session. I paddle out with them and watch in awe as they carve up and down the faces of the waves, popping airs and catching barrels at Padma Beach, my local break. Some expats and tourists don’t like surfing with locals. They criticize them for failing to abide by proper surfer etiquette. But I find there is nothing more entertaining than watching a tourist catch a wave and suddenly get cut off by a young local who drops in out of nowhere, a devilish grin on his face, and rockets down the line as his friends jeer. I laugh every time.

Notwithstanding their home field attitude, I find that upon conversation with the locals, they are far more generous than their reputation sometimes indicates.

“If I on a wave, you can drop in any time,” a local teenager named Puru tells me. “It not about waves, it about friends.”

It only seems fair that locals should have priority on the waves, as over 3 million tourists invade this Indonesian province each year, many of them lured by the trade winds, lava channels, and coral reefs that produce some of the best and most consistent surf spots in the world. A friend once remarked that if someone were to create a virtual reality app for surfers, it would be Bali. On small days here, when groups of surfers start complaining that the waves are no good, I think back to what “no good” meant in the northeast U.S. It is all about expectations, and those of us who surf in Bali are quite spoiled.  

Jen Wilson