Note: This a guest post by Noah Shaberman.
There are few beaches in the world that offer consistent, diverse and quality waves within a stone’s throw of each other, but Echo Beach is one of them. Located a short distance up Bali’s south coast – and a convenient 20km from the airport – Echo Beach forms part of the laid-back village of Canggu.
The following guide looks at when and where to surf, and what you need to know as a traveller surfing the breaks of Echo Beach.
Where to surf
Sitting pretty in front of a cluster of beachside restaurants is Echo Beach main break. Predominantly a lefthander, the wave offers a steep drop into a powerful barreling section, before walling up and petering out into deeper water. Breaking over the rocky reef, this is a spot best suited to intermediate and advanced surfers.
Sandbar is an aptly named stretch of beach that encompasses several shifty peaks breaking over a sandy seabed. The waves here can be unpredictable. What moments ago seemed like the perfect takeoff spot can quickly become a board-breaking impact zone, if the surf’s big. Sandbar also works on smaller days, serving up fun little lefts and rights that cater to all levels of surfer.
As the northernmost break of Echo Beach, Rivermouth acts as the border between Canggu and Pererenan. A quick righthand reef break with a relatively easy takeoff, the wave offers a series of sections perfect for any surfer looking to practice maneuvers on repeat. This spot is best left to intermediate and advanced surfers—it becomes dangerously shallow on low tides, especially around the wave’s final closeout section.
When to surf
Like the rest of Bali’s west coast, ideal wave conditions are found from May to September. This is the island’s dry season, where prevailing easterly winds groom the incoming swell to offshore perfection. But don’t rule out the wet season! Surfers can still expect to find clean morning conditions at Echo Beach between November and March. And even when the wind swings onshore around midday, fun (and often uncrowded) waves continue to roll in.
Board Repair, Rentals and Lessons
Dinged your board? No worries. There are countless surf shops in the area that will have you and your board back out in the water in no time, and for a fraction of the price you’d pay elsewhere (Australia, I’m looking at you!) Lada Surf does a top job of patching up even the most banged-up of boards.
For those looking to catch their first wave in Echo Beach, there are plenty of places to rent a board from nearby. But, if you’re a true beginner, I suggest approaching a surf school. You’ll catch more waves, improve quicker and have an all-around better experience. I recommend Suksma Surf Bali, run by Goes Suardana. As a local, he knows where to surf and when, and the best place to refuel afterwards.
Accommodation is abundant along the main drag (Jl. Pantai Batu Mejan) leading up to Echo Beach, with something to suit every kind of traveller. From luxury villas ideal for romantic getaways to budget hostels perfect for cash-conscious backpackers, Echo Beach has it all.
At times, the main road can feel a bit hectic. For somewhere a little more laidback, check out the accommodation slightly to the north in Pererenan (Andy’s Surf Villa and Bungalows is a great mid-range option). Located just past the northern end of Echo Beach, Pererenan has retained much of the authentic Bali charm Canggu has lost through excessive development.
Food + Drink
If you’ve come down bad with a case of the post-surf munchies, you’re in the right place. The beachfront restaurants overlooking the main break serve up Indonesian staples as well as Western classics, and ice-cold Bintangs are available virtually everywhere.
Along the main road, there are even more options. Start your morning right with a refreshing bowl of yoghurt and muesli and end the day with authentic Greek cuisine at the Santorini Restaurant.
Know before you go
Most of the time Bali lives up to its reputation as an island paradise, but there are a few things to look out for.
Stormwater runoff: Bali’s wet season sees short and intense storms soak the island at short notice. Surfing in the aftermath of these deluges isn’t advisable – rubbish, dirt and trees (yes, whole trees) are some of the things you can expect to share the water with.
Lightning: Avoid the beach during storms. Period. In 2017 a Belgian tourist tragically lost his life after being struck by lightning in Canggu. No surf is worth electrocution.
Bali Belly: The least severe of the list but undoubtedly the most common, Bali Belly is often unavoidable. Do yourself a favour – stick to bottled water and steer clear of ice. Being generally wary of where you eat also goes a long way toward minimising your chances of Bali Belly.
Scooters: Easily the most dangerous thing you will likely do in Bali is jump on a scooter. Scores of travellers die riding on Bali’s roads each year, owing to dangerous road conditions, a disregard for basic safety measures and a general lack of experience with scooters. A good rule of thumb is to ride as if the laws of your home country apply.
Crowds: Stray boards and naïve drop-ins are a reality of surfing at Echo Beach – perfect waves are, unsurprisingly, a magnet for surfers! But keeping yourself and your beloved surf craft safe isn’t all that hard. Follow the basic rules of surfing etiquette, stay alert and, as always, respect the local guys in the lineup.
This guide has given you a basic breakdown of all things Echo Beach from a surfer’s perspective. It is, however, by no means exhaustive. For a true taste of the wave machine that is Echo Beach, you’ll just have to surf it for yourself!
Have you been?