Bump into Gde Narmada and he's sure to be surfing, on his way to see how the waves are or taking his young son down to kuta beach to teach him a few things about surfing and always with a look of contentment or delight on his face, his enthusiasm for surfing obvious an infectious. But Gde Narmada's love of surfing can seem strange, since he was born the son of a poor farmer in Tianyar, north Bali, about as far away from rideable waves as you can get in Bali. It was until 1969, at the age of four-teen, that Narmada first came to Kuta. But Gde Narmada's love of surfing can seem strange, since he was born the son of a poor farmer in Tianyar, north Bali, about as far away from rideable waves as you can get in Bali. It was until 1969, at the age of fourteen, that Narmada first came to Kuta. He had left Tianyar in north Bali two years before to enter school in Denpasar, but because he had no money he had instead to sell cakes from door to door. At the time, Kuta Beach was beginning to become popular with foreign travellers, and word about their unusual appearance and behaviour had spread around the island. The only hotel in Kuta at the time was the Natour, which then consisted of low scattered bungalows and had stood at the end of Jalan Pantai since before the Second World War.
Many of the
foreign travellers, who loved to see the local fishing fleets set out at sunset,
slept in sleeping bags on the sand, which then was especially white and clean.
There was no electricity and almost no transport, and so as soon as the sun
set Kuta became almost completely quiet and empty. One day Narmada decided to
see for him-self what the "hippies" were like, and so he set off by
bike for Kuta. Kuta and the foreign travellers made quite an impression on Narmada.
He recalls, "l was shocked to see them they swam with nothing on! And they
seemed peaceful, with their love of nature -because then, you see, Kuta was
all trees, fields and streams." It didn't take long for Narmada to make
riends with sorne of the foreigners, many of whom took a liking to him and started
asking him to accompany them on trips . around the island. "They would
come looking for me and ask me, for instance, 'Gde, can you take me to
Ubud, to Singaraja?"' he says. "It wasn't as it is today, with the guides chasing the tourists - back then, they chased me. And with the tips my guests gave me l was able to make more than enough to live on. Kuta then was very cheap. l was happy then." In 1973 Narmada moved to Kuta to live. The years went by and more surfers came to Bali, and he was soon spending more time with them than with other visitors. "They would tell their friends at home to look
for me when they came to Bali: 'Go see Gde he'll take you to all the surf spots'. But when l first saw surfing l was confused and scared - it was so strange! With time however l came to know surfers, they explained things to me and l was able to try it myself." Surfing fascinated Narmada, and he started surfing regularly with his Kuta friend Made Darsana (nick named "Joe"). "Joe used to lend me his board," narmada recalls. "The two of us would go the beach with one board and take it in turns to surf. We wore ordinary short pants, not board short. We surfers were all good friends back then, and it was easy to get waves because there were so few of us. We got so many waves we wanted to vomit! All day, from the moment we opened our eyes until it was too dark to see anything." At the same time other Balinese boys and young men were learning to surf as well, on boards borrowed from or left behind by foreign friends. These included Wayan Budi, Ny6man Suardana ("Godfrey"), Ketut Jadi ("Big Froggy"), Wayan Sudirka, Nyoman Radiasa ("Bobby"), Gus Gina ("Ripper"), Agung Adi and Wayan Suwenda -most from the families of the Kuta banjars Pande Mas, Buni and Segara. Along with those young men and a few others from Legian, Narmada and Darsana became some of Bali's first surfers.
From one point of view those young men's attraction to surfing seems strange, since for Balinese and many other Indonesians the sea was traditionally a dangerous, spiritually-charged (angker) place. Only very few local people went to the beach for pleasure. But from another point of view it seems natural, since Kuta is, a fishing village whose people were always close to the beach and the sea, and. local kids knew a form of surfing even before foreigners brought surfboards to Bali in 1970. "We called it serup (Balinese for "slip")," explains Darsana, "or another way of saying it is nyosor ombak "ride the edge of a wave"), We lay on bits of wood and caught already-broken waves to shore. We also used parts from the fishing boats that lined KutaBeach then - the lengths of bamboo attached to the sides of the boats - the pangantang. So we could understand the new surfing of foreigners." Suwenda adds, "We were beach and sea people. We played garnets on the beach and in the sea, we received lessons from the beach and. the sea. So we were quick to pick up on surfing, it came easy to us." But Bah's first surfers faced considerable obstacles, since for a long time Indonesian authorities and many Indonesians equated foreign surfers with hippies - in their regard amoral slackers and drug-users, whose presence corrupted Bali and its people. As Suwenda recalls: "The hippies didn't wear shirts and their hair was long, and. Qur parents didn't like us to associate with them.
often angered Bapak and lbu by going off with my hippy friends." In 1980 Suwenda won a surfing competition and was awarded three nights' accommodation for himself and his Australian girlfriend at the Bali Beach Hotel. in Sanur. There he was accosted by security guards who thought he was a "gigolo". But as we know now, in reality foreign surfers' presence in Bali boosted the island's accommodation, food, transport and other industries, and many of them were very fit sportspeople, dedicated to the pursuit of good, big waves. Bali's first surfers shared their foreign friends' condition and dedication to surfing, and were in a position to benefit hugelyfrom dealings with them (even if they never calculated upon finding them selves in such a aposition, as with Suwenda: "That aspect of surfing was never important to me. I never thought bout it, because l just enjoyed the life").
boards in trade with Australian surfers and opened a little surfboard-hire shop
in 1974. He now owns the successful "Joe's Surf Shop" on Jalan Pantai
Kuta. In the midle 80s Narmada opened a surf shop too. "A little "Shop,"he
recalls, "maybe two and a half by three metres. l had two or three second-hand
boards, ten locks of wax, five singlets, ten shorts, a few gropes. Surfers from
overseas often helped me." Now Narmada owns three "Ulu's" surf
shops, while several of his Kuta contemporaries run or are the main shareholders
of big foreign surfwear companies such as Quiksilver, Billabong, Da Hui, Volcom,
Aloha, MCD and others. Apart from the opportunity to
advance them selves materially,contact with foreign surfers also offered Bali's first surfers exposure to many new ideas/ knowledge about ways of life in other parts of the world such as Australia, USA, Japan, Brazil, France and Spain, and practice of English, Japanese and other languages. As a result, Bali's first surfers became more cosmopolitan and outward-looking than many of their peers. These days the surfers Wayan Sudirka and Ketut Denda live in Japan, Gung
Adi is in Australia and others like Narmada, .Radiasa, Suwenda, Made Kasim, ketut Menda, 'Wayan Gantiyasa and Wayan Pica often travel to Australia and Japan or are married to Australian and Japanese women. Furthermore, foreign surfers were usually very encouraging of the development of a Balinese surfing community.
The late Mike
Boyum, who lived in Bali throughout the nineteen-seventies, for instance, often
brought surfboards to Bali from the United States and Hawaii, and also ponsored
and offered local surfers valuable advice. Another foreign surfer, the Australian
Kim Bradley, impressed by the flexible and flowing surfing style that came easily
to many Balinese surfers, decided that competition among them would bring about
the rapid development of their skills, and so he organised a surfing contest
for them in 1979. Bradley, like many surfing visitors to Bali at the time, had
been hanging out and eating at Lasi Erawati's Pension on Poppies Lane One. Kempu's
husband Rizani Idsa Karnanda was not a surfer himself but had become a good
friend of many of them in the cafe. Bradley recalls: "l thought well, if
I'm going to do it here, l want to do it with the right infrastructure for Indonesia.
Rizani being a university graduate involved in tourism, l thought he'd be a
good man to go to for advice on how to make it not just a one-off but a continuous
thing. So after me pestering him for months and months What do we do about this,
Riz? What do we do about that?' - he's gone Took, okay. You handle the day-to-day
running of the thing and I'll take care of the Department of Sport and everything,
and we'll set this thing up properly for Indonesia'." On 8 April 1979 the
club was officially formed with Rizani as Coordinator and over 60 Balinese surfers
- from Kuta (30 surfers), Legian (21), Sanur (10), Uluwatu (5) and Canggu (5)
- as members. Its committee included Ketut Nugra, Nyoman
Radiasa,Wayan Sudirka, Wayan Wijana, Nyoman Sadia, Nyoman Jalad, Gde Narmada and Ketut Jadi.
The club held
its first contest at Legian Beach, and the presentation ceremony at Banjar Pande
Mas (on what is now Jalan Pantai Kuta, by Made's Warung) attracted an enormous
crowd of people, among them the Governor of Bali and the national Minister of
Sport. "To see the sport
get that recognition by the government was great for us, because it made us proud and it gave our sport and our lifestyle credibility in the eyes of the Indonesian people," Bradley remarks. Since then the club has organized over 120 such events and sent many of its members overseas to compete in and judge surfing contests and participate in surfing and cultural exchanges. In 1985 the club gained its first non-Balinese members, and now it has many, from Sumbawa, Lombok, Java and Sumatra, where related clubs have been set up and contests held as well. Thus, thanks to the activities of Bah's first surfers and some of their foreign friends over the last twenty or so years, surfing's standing in the view of the Indonesian community has advanced drastically and surfing is now the basis of an enormous industry here. Bali's first surfers have become respected members of the community and successful business
men able to
attract investment from all overb Indonesia and the rest of the world, to employ
hundreds of people and to support promising young local surfers. It was in recognition
of Bali's first surfers' achievements and contributions to the development of
a Balinese surfing community that the Australian Stephen Palmer helped Wayan
Suwenda run. a "Legends" contest in the
early nineties. The purpose of the "Legends" contest was to bring all of Bali's first surfers foreigners as well as locals - together in good will and encourage younger Balinese surfers to respect their elders.
observes, "Many kids don't know their stories, which constitute the history
of surfing in Bali. They don't recognize what those first surfers did for them
the surf spots they discovered, the techniques they developed, the businesses
they just rub their hands and go 'Oh, we're so lucky!' If we can't respect our elders and forget all they did for the development of surfing in Bali, then we are cutting off our roots."
Happening Series was held at Pulau Serangan, a favourite surfing spot of local and foreign surfers alike between the months of November and March. Kids from Kuta, Le.gian, ,Sanur, Denpasar, Pulau Serangan and Medewi competed for prize money and goods, while the Serangan vest held their shape and si ze from morning till afternoon. All day pretty girls in uniform wandered around ink nice to lonely boys and giving away stickers and their goods, and lunch and snacks were provided to hungry competitors and organisers, the speakers pumped out punk rock and grunge, and colourful Volcom
flags and banners flapped in the breeze. The presence and good ill of loved and respected older Balinese surfers like de Narmada, Bobby Radiasa, Ketut Menda, Wayan antiasa and Wayan Pica added to the social atmosphere f the occasion, and turned the Grand Final of Volcom's Big Youth Happening Series - already a festival - into a brand celebration of the current condition and ongoing envelopment of surfing in Bali. It is clear then that surfing remains close to the hearts of Bali's first surfers. Indeed, the depth and complexity of these men's relationship with surfing does not escape them.
Suwenda, for instance, surfing offers lessons in humility and caring for the
environment, and bears an almost religious significance: "When we're in
a be, we might be millionaires, we might have nothing -Is all the same, we forget
all that. We don't become egoists 'l have everything!' - because we understand
that the ocean can take everything from us in a moment. As surfers, we learn
level of nature and get a special sense of what it is to live. Surfing is so
special to me that I've had waves engraved on the stones of my place of prayer
in house." Wayan Gantiyasa's remarks show that surfing can be a means to
a livelihood and a person's calling in life. "Surfing has brought me so
much," he says. "It has taken me to Japan, Hawaii, Australia. Because
of it l have money, a house and car, a shop. l can support my family. And l
am happy surfing. l surf every day After taking my two children to school in
the morning l surf till midday, Then l take my children home, rest, eat and
go surfing again in the evening if l feel like it. Surfing is what l do in life."
And Gde Narmada, now aged forty-five, husband and father of three, has come
to regard surfing as something like a physical and spiritual necessity. "Surfing
is one of the most important things of all to me. The sea gives me something
special. If l go to the sea, see it, swim in it, surf in it - l receive so much!
If don't see the sea l don't have a complete day. l can get dizzy and nervous.
But if l do then it doesn't matter what's going on in the world. l think that
as long as I'm alive, l will remain this way. l think l will always live to
surf and surf to live."