How have things changed since you first started surfing in Bali? How have the crowds and the people visiting changed?
A lot of things have changed since I first started surfing at Kuta Beach. For example, back in the day at Kuta Beach, there wasn’t one single person selling drinks, no stalls selling clothes or surfboard rentals or surf schools, and now the whole beach is full of drink sellers, beach umbrellas, and chairs for rent. The crowd is now everywhere in and out of the water. Everyone wants to surf and Kuta Beach is the perfect place to do it. The water is warm and the waves are good all day, every day.
Do you see the tourism impact on Bali as a good or bad thing?
Since I was a grom, I have traveled all over Bali and am still making my way yearly in and around the Indonesia Isles looking for surf. One thing that frustrates me and is a major drawback for a lot of people who want to travel to Indo is the amount of disrespectful tourists and ex-pats trying to take over in the water and on land (not naming nationalities, but I am sure people will have a fair clue of whom I speaking of). The Balinese are always so warm and welcoming and it saddens me to see these people passing through, causing drama and disruption on the islands.
The bad thing is the place is full of people who want to see and enjoy Bali and our economy is based on tourism. But two of the major problems that we have are tourists on motorbikes for the first time and the other is trash everywhere. People throw their beer bottles and plastic on the roads and leave their rubbish behind on the beaches. It feels like Bali is just getting raped by these people who don’t show respect and it is very sad to see. Not so many people respect our place and they just abuse it. But now, slowly but surely, the government and the younger generation are starting to care about our island and organize beach cleanups and will tell people to clean up after themselves.
Tell me about the early days of the “Momentum Crew.” Do you still keep in touch with Kelly, Taylor, and Rob?
I was so lucky living in Bali because of the Momentum Generation. They all would come traveling through here to get their footage, and back then the waves here were always good with little to no crowds. We all still keep in touch. It was hard back then, but now with technology, we all know what the other is up to. We chat often and I always look forward to the gang visiting.
Tell me about Desa Limasan.
Desa Limasan is a 5-star retreat. It is my new project with my father in law located in East Java. The closest town is called Pacitan and so Desa Limasan is located at Watukarung Beach. We now have eight different types of Limasan (Javanese type of house) and we want to try and create a village with original Javanese houses (Limasan). When people see it, it will remind them of old Java. It is a gateway for people who live in the city to enjoy the small fishing village. It is also my getaway from the madness of Bali. I feel so relaxed and it completely recharges me. When I am there all I can think is “This feels right and is exactly what I need to clear my head and help me reset.” It is a good place to slow down and live the simple life. Also, there are two world-class surf spots out front which are always empty—a barreling right on one side and a barreling left on the other—but only for experienced surfers as it is shallow.
There are so many incredibly talented surfers in Indonesia. Actually, some of the best freesurfers I have seen anywhere in the world. Why do you think that none of them have ever made the World Tour?
Well, we all grow up surfing good waves every day and sometimes that just makes the people here already happy and content with their lives. It is an extremely friendly place to live and there is so much love on the islands, so it is hard for them to want to leave that life behind and try to chase others things in life. I think with the new generation we will have surfers on the pro tour soon. But people here are extremely content.
Tell us about your family life. Sinar seems like he is going to grow to be an artistic force to be reckoned with and Varun looks like he is going to follow in his father’s footsteps.
For me, my family is everything in life and I am so blessed to have such a beautiful family with my wife Chandra. Every parent says this about their children but my kids are really great kids. Also, one of the best feelings in life is to be able to share the things that you love to do with your kids and to see their faces full of joy and excitement that they get through surfing.
Varun is now 15. He is getting better and better every day with surfing. Sinar is 7. He has so much energy to be around for such a little guy and he is constantly trying to catch up to his older brother at anything.
Lakey Peak supergrom Bronson Meydi has now been living with us for more than two years. He is considered to be a part of our family. Varun and Bronson always try to push each other in and out of the water and I love to film the boys surfing these days as it is like a mini pro junior contest when they surf together. But they are also best friends and are like brothers.
What changes would you like to see happen in Bali?
Hopefully, we will eventually have less traffic on the road, fewer tourists on motorbikes with no idea of what they are doing, and in doing so there will be less road accidents. Also, a big thing that I pray for is for there to be less trash on the beach and people will start to clean up after themselves.
Yes, at the moment I am working on something to help combat Malaria and to try to help people in the smaller villages and poorer parts of Indonesia.
I love the Balinese people. So peaceful and respectful of others. One thing that always strikes me about the Balinese is their religion and how they do not force their beliefs onto other people. They also know how to celebrate a holy day better than anywhere else in the world. Lots of good positive vibes, music, and dancing. It’s always a wonderful time to visit during these holidays. But the main thing that I always notice is if these holy days where in Ireland there would always be a high volume of alcohol consumed. That doesn’t happen among the Balinese.
Yes, the Balinese people are so peaceful and respectful to others, They all feel so blessed every day in life for what they have, no matter how little or how much. We all see each other as equals and are always friendly with everyone. They want to give back to others; we are big believers in Karma here. Balinese religion is so colorful in that way and I love it. There is so much energy in the streets with dancing and singing and you get a natural uplifting positive high from just being around these people.