We all dream of empty lineups. The luxury of having total freedom to choose any wave that takes our fancy is a privilege reserved for a select few: pros competing in competitions, hardened adventurers who have managed to get far enough off the beaten track to escape the ever-increasing masses, and the downright lucky.
I can’t be alone in fantasizing about the hundreds of thousands of waves that must have gone unridden at the world’s most remote spots. For millions of years the ocean has been churning out liquid gold, endlessly delivering surfable waves to shallower waters. What was the North Shore of Hawaii offering 500 years ago? Were the barrels as picture-perfect as they are today?
This week in Indonesia’s surf capital we’ve been afforded a glimpse into what the ocean must have looked like “pre-surfing.” Both magnificent and highly frustrating in equal measures, these stills captured from the webcams on Bali’s Bukit Peninsular are the stuff of dreams.
The Nyepi Festival is translated locally as Bali’s “Day of Silence.” The evil spirits are thought to be in transit, flying high above Bali’s tropical waters, and it’s up to the residents of Bali to make sure they pass on by lying low and pretending there’s no one home. So strong are the beliefs that Bali effectively shuts down for 24 hours. The airport closes. Lights must be switched off. Enforcers patrol the streets to return any ill-advised tourists to their hotels and, fundamentally, nobody surfs. Nobody.
The empty lineups are certainly a rare site in what has become one of the favorite destinations for the traveling surfer. For those of us who dream about the Bali of old, this is as close as we’re going to get. It’s just a shame we can’t get in the water.