I got the text message from a close friend around 3 pm. Happily nestled up at Uluwatu, I almost couldn’t believe what I was reading.
“You won’t believe what I’m seeing. They are destroying Canggu. Come. Now.”
Intrigued, but somewhat non-fussed, having watched Canggu already develop from an idyllic rice paddy paradise to urban-hipster scene, I hesitantly jumped on my moto for the hour ride on the chaotic Balinese roads to see what was going on.
Meeting up first with my friend in the Canggu satellite suburb of Berawa, I smirkingly asked, “So…what’s going on?” Half expecting some silly answer like Canggu had run out of Almond Milk or rainbow colored yoga pants were out of stock and the hipsters and yogis were causing a scene, I wasn’t prepared for what I was about to hear or witness.
“You’re not going to believe it, Fran. Two days ago it started. They are building a jetty to Echo Beach.”
My mind instantly flashed to thoughts of Kirra, my home wave, and how human intervention had arguably destroyed the perfect sandbanks that formed the lines etched into our memories from the likes of MP and Rabbit.
We quickly hustled across the back alleys that lead to Pererenan beach, and there it was. In full flight, a bulldozer actively piling rock upon rock forming a new jetty, with the hallowed rocky sand bottom peak of Echo Beach only 100 meters away.
Echo Beach, one local expatriate remarked next to me, “Is Trestles, but better. More swell, more consistently, and boardshorts. This is a surfing tragedy.”
Hundreds of locals, tourists, and expatriates quickly began to gather around the development site as the evening approached, called in via a last-minute text and Facebook group message. Trying to grasp the context of the scene through a series of translations of yelling and arguments, it appeared we were witnessing a $35 million development supported by the government. Though, apparently the local Banjar (Village elders) where not in support of the jetty proposal.
Local expatriate Rob Dubois, co-founder of local yoga studio, The Practice, commented, “They think this will help business in the area. This will destroy Canggu.”
I continued to meet surfer after surfer, devastated by what they were witnessing. Young tourist Max had flown in only the day before. “I have never been here before, but this place is famous for its surf. That’s why I’m here.”
“You have no idea what you are doing! What this is going to do!” yelled local surfer Made in both English and Indonesian.
As the crowd thickened, a response ‘Patrol’ team sent by the developers charged down to the beach front to try and disperse the crowd. Ironically wearing t-shirts embroidered with the words “Save Our Village,” they were overheard saying, “Just get rid of the people. Just get rid of them.”
Announcing that they would amend the plans while frantically waving the development papers over their heads, one member of their group began filming the faces in the crowd. I was told this was done in order to pressure or cause complications for any known protesting identities later. I suddenly felt quite threatened, having simply turned up on my surfing holiday to see what was going on, and now feeling like a criminal for doing what any self-respecting surfer would do when witnessing the destruction of one of the world’s most famous waves.
The crowd marched on in unison for a symbolic paddle out, as non-surfers remained on the beach, hand-in-hand forming a wall separating the development from the surfers. Paddle outs, usually representing the passing of a loved surfer, one couldn’t help think, we were witnessing the death of Canggu.