The year was 1986 and for some strange reason my mother had agreed (and paid) for me to go on a three-week journey to the magical Indonesian Island with my best mate at the time and his mum. From memory the cost was 500 bucks. That’s flights, accommodation and food.
Being it lose to roam free on Bali as a 14 year old was a unforgettable experience. Made all the better by the fact that a horde of over ten other families from our home town of Avalon were on the Island too. That meant some of our mates had mums and dads and brothers and sisters all included in the daily plan equations, while Nick and I had pretty much free rain. We hung with his mum and her friend every now and then but surfing was our number one priority and we were gone before the sun was up most days.
Needless to say we had some great times surfing Canguu, Medewi, Ulu’s, Kuta Reef, Airport Reef and even the beachies from time to time.
Aside from those sessions and some funny nights shaking our pre-pubescent backsides on the dance floor of some of the Islands first real night clubs like Peanuts and Cheetahs – it was a body surfing session with five our mates from home that really stands out.
Having paid homage to the temple of Uluwatu earlier in the day we’d gathered at the Legian Beach Hotel (where most of the Av cat families were staying), to swim in the pool and drink a few Sprits. We’d surfed the beachies a bit in days gone bye but throughout this day we’d paid it no mind – up until 45 minutes from dark that is.
I’m not sure who’s idea it was but the fact was we’d all grown tied of the chlorinated pool the decision to cut through the gardens and check the beach for waves for “a womp” had been well received. With boardies on we were ready. NO flippers, no hand surfers no great plan. Just swim out and pull in to as many barrels as we could.
The swim out to the bank was pleasant enough and excited chitchat between the six of us pieced the sunset lit evening air between duck dives.
“It’s heaps bigger out here that it looked!” One of the boys declared once we’d punched past the shallows and pulled up to take stock. “Reckon” was the collective reply. Within minutes a train of waves arrived that were solid three feet. No huge. Not big. Solid.
It only took a few sets for us to develop the afternoons number one objective and that as to take of either side of the closing out wave and body surf inside the barrel towards each other hooting at the top of our lungs. While we all rode surfboards 90 percent of the time, all were quality body surfers with that ability to go shoulder on wall hand out stretched and surf the tube – for a while at least.
As the sun got lower and the waves got bigger, our bravado grew. In perfect unison with our ever-increasing confidence cockiness?) d the barrels that we were sharing also expanded with width and height. Shimmering light cut through the pitching lips from behind screen-printing our faces and bodies with a kaleidoscope of colours as we hurdled towards each other. Hold-downs were long and laughs were many.
While we’d had our moments of boredom and frustration on the Island (waiting for friends by road sides in pitch dark and long bumpy bemo rides), none of us wanted the sun to set this evening.
Like all good things the womp session of all womp sessions had to come to a close – pity we didn’t all realise that a little earlier than we did. With the waves now a solid six feet and the sky all but dark a few of us found getting in a lot harder than expected. The bigger set waves were now off limits and the current was moving in a way that swallowed the kicks of tiny flipper-less feet up like they were nothing.
Luckily we all made it back to shore safely (eventually) and laughed with relief. The thought that one or even two of us could’ve drowned sub-consciously lingered in the back of our minds, but the sheer delight of crashing into each other deep inside a five foot high crystal clear cavern head-first was just to damn delightful to not take centre stage.
Some of the faces my friends pulled while in those barrels I can still see now when I close my eyes some 26 years later, and they're memories I like to think my mind will hang onto forever.
~ Colin Bernasconi
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