NUSA ISLANDS: SURF GUIDE
The definitive guide to surfing the Nusa Islands, written by surfers who have surfed the Nusa Islands year-round in all conditions. We've read too many surf guides, written by non-surfers, or people who have spent a handful of days in total on the Nusa Islands. We thought it was about time for someone who has spent a meaningful amount of time surfing each of the breaks on the Nusa Islands to have a go and put pen to paper so to speak. We put this guide together with surfers of all skill levels in mind, so as you read along, pick out the snippets relevant to you. So where do we start? Perhaps a little video to get things warmed up...
IS THERE SURF ON EACH OF THE ISLANDS? Surfing the Nusa Islands is really what put the region on the tourism map. Having said that, it doesn't mean there is surf on each of the Nusa Islands. Nusa Penida - There is NO surf on Nusa Penida. Zilch, Nada. If you think you know better, you're welcome to go look for yourself.
Nusa Ceningan - There is 1 x surf break on Nusa Ceningan at Mahana Point. Nusa Lembongan - There are 4 x surf breaks on Nusa Lembongan.
The surf breaks on Nusa Lembongan is what surfing on the Nusa Islands is all about. The 4 x surf breaks are all located on the western side of the island along the stretch of router-reef that runs parallel to Jungut Batu - the main village of Nusa Lembongan.
The outer-reef where the surf break are form natural protection to the rest of the island. To get to the surfing breaks is a couple of hundred metre paddle from shore, or a quick boat ride if you want to be dropped at the reef with fresh arms (for a couple of dollars).
The outer-reefs form a barrier between the full force of the ocean and the shore, which makes for beautiful calm lagoon; ideal for all sorts of calm water sports - swimming, canoeing, paddle boarding and the like.
WHERE SHOULD I STAY IF I WANT TO SURF ON THE NUSA ISLANDS? 100% stay in Jungut Batu in Nusa Lembongan. To do anything else is really doing yourself a disservice. When you stay in Jungut Batu you have all the best surf breaks on the Nusa Islands right at your doorstep. Ohana's beachfront resort & beach club, and AQUA NUSA (our premier private villa brand), are both perfectly situated for surfer's. We (the owners of Ohana's & AQUA NUSA) are surfers ourselves and as a result we tend to develop properties where there is surf. When we're not on Nusa Lembongan, our other home in Bali is directly out the front of Kuta reef, Airports and Middles (we rent that villa out too, it's called Karlamanda) - and our Australian home is on top of Kirra Point (yep, you can also stay there - Kirra Point Penthouse)! The common thing about each of these places is they are all in incredible locations, there is great surf, and when not surfing, they are not too detached from civilisation; which makes them great destinations for the whole family.
Did you know, the site where Ohana's is located, was formerly known as "Mainski". This was the very first property for foreigners on the island, and it's perfectly positioned directly in front of Shiprwrecks and Razors. It was supposed to be short for "man-on-ski" but in true Indonesian fashion they stuffed up the writing of the sign. "Man-on-ski" was how the locals first described the weird sight of people riding surfboards when they saw it for the first time.
WHAT IS UNIQUE ABOUT SURFING IN NUSA LEMBONGAN VERSUS BALI? Unique factor 1: Variety of left & right hand breaks within easy distance to each other
Good quality right hand reef breaks are somewhat of a rarity in Bali (as most of the best known Bali waves in the Bukit are lefts), and Nusa Lembongan is home to two of the best right handers in the whole of Indonesia, especially without needing to get too remote. Along the stretch of coast out the front of Jungut Batu (the main village on Nusa Lembongan), you'll find a mix of great left and right breaks.
The four main breaks in Nusa Lembongan are all also within a few hundred metres of each other making it easy to surf a variety of different waves, across pretty much all tides, without needing to drive anywhere.
Unique factor 2: Crystal clear water and less polluted Unlike surfing in many place in Bali, where you're surfing often on a base of black volcanic sand which makes the water murky (and questionable with god knows what running out of all of the estuaries in Bali), in Nusa Lembongan you are surfing in beautiful crystal clear water.
It feels cleaner and you feel like you're truly surfing in paradise.
Unique factor 3: Not too remote - loads to do for the non-surfers
When planning trips (other than pure surf missions), we have often found it difficult to find surf locations that offer a balance of great, consistent surf, as well as things to do for the rest of the time when not surfing or if the waves are flat. Sure, you could go deep into the Mentawai's chasing waves, but there really isn't much to do there outside of a hardcore surf mission. Nusa Lembongan is very unique in that you you have some of the most consistently good, high quality right hand reef breaks (there are lefts too), yet are not stuck in the middle of a remote jungle with nothing else to do aside from surf. So if you're bringing along a non-surfing partner, friends and/or family, then Nusa Lembongan offers something for everyone with loads of restaurants, coffee shops and things to do, aside from just surfing. If you check out the activities section on our website, you'll see ideas for all sorts - couples, families, groups and more! The downside to Nusa Lembongan is all your friends and family will want to come along, which might cut into your surfing time.
Unique factor 4: Less crowded in general
Surfing on Nusa Lembongan will typically have less crowds than surfing in the most well known breaks in Bali. With less accommodation than Bali, and the four main surf breaks all close together, the crowds tend to get spread out more than in Bali. Now, don't let us mislead you, surfing on Nusa Lembongan can still get busy - especially in peak seasons, though we still manage to get regular sessions either on our own or with only a handful of others in the water.
Unique factor 5: Waves for all abilities
In the same day, at different times on the same break, depending on the tide you can be surfing 6-foot mechanical barrels, or see a learn to surf school with people catching their first ever runners. The reason this is possible is that the surf breaks on Nusa Lembongan are very tide affected which makes it creates a variety of conditions for all skill levels.
SURF SCHOOLS AND SURF GUIDES For beginners, there are fantastic local surf schools and surf coaches to help you get your first waves. For the more experienced surfers, be sure to ask the locals or even arrange a guide for the first few surfs as they'll give you the inside tips on the best break and tides to surf, and the best times to surf depending on the conditions. The different seasonal currents, trade-winds and swell directions (as well as tides of course), can all influence which of the breaks will be working best on any particular day or session. CHECKING OUT THE SURF - WEBCAMS There are a couple of webcams along Jungut Batu where you can jump online and check out the surf. Here is the link to the camera for Razors & Shipwrecks so you can see the action in real time! BREAK #1 - SHIPWRECKS - NUSA LEMBONGAN Shipwrecks is the most consistent wave on Nusa Lembongan. 9 out of 10 surf's we have on the island would be at Shipwrecks. It's an absolute swell magnet.
It's a high quality right hand reef break, though it can wedge in appropriate conditions offering a very fun left hand ride for a couple of quick turns (albeit not so long, but still longer than most beach breaks people grovel in around the world).
Shipwrecks can be surfed on all tides, though is often best surfed on the mid-tide. The size of the tides does affect that. On the high tide often the wave provides a big take-off, but then the wave fattens right out.
The wave lengthens and walls up better with less water on it. It can be surfed right the way through to dead low, though the reef gets shallower, and the walk back in to the beach across the coral can be interesting for your feet. Shipwrecks will typically max-out at 6-8 foot. At this size, you're often finding yourself paddling out of harms way, dodging rogue bombs, and the reef doesn't handle the swell much bigger very well. When the swell gets to this sort of size, all attention starts to focus on Lacerations surf break.
BREAK #2 - RAZORS - NUSA LEMBONGAN Razors is a fast, barrelling left hand reef break, which breaks on the channel opposing Shipwrecks. You can easily surf both Razors and Shipwrecks in the same session by paddling across the channel that separates the two waves. Like Shipwrecks, Razors is very much a swell magnate. Razors is best surfed on high tide.
BREAK #3 - LACERATIONS - NUSA LEMBONGAN Arguably the easiest place to get right hand barrels in Indonesia. Absolutely mechanical perfect barrels.
You could possibly compare it to a right handed Bingin.
Less consistent than Shipwrecks and needs more swell than Shipwrecks to work. Best surfed when the tide is a little higher, but still on the mid-tide, when compared to shipwrecks. It gets too shallow to surf on dead low. Often when Lacerations is getting too low, you can shift to Shipwrecks if you're not yet surfed out.
BREAK #4 - PLAYGROUNDS - NUSA LEMBONGAN A super fun wedge reef break that offers both a left and a right.
The left hander is a longer more friendly ride, and probably better than going right on most waves. If you pick well however, you can get great cover ups on the right hander. The wave can be surfed on all tides, though some mushroom corals can start to pop up out of no-where as the tide gets too low.
In most conditions, Playgrounds is a very friendly wave and beginners will love surfing here on the higher tides.
BREAK #5 - MAHANA POINT - NUSA CENINGAN Mahana Point is a fun left hand wave on Nusa Ceningan. People who have surfed on Nusa Lembongan a lot generally won't go chasing waves here as the main breaks in Jungut Batu are usually better, unless the surf very small elsewhere. Mahana Point can pick up a lot of swell, though it is also susceptible to being wind affected given its exposure, so best shot is to surf it in the mornings. Mahana Point can be surfed in all tides, though often the lower tides are a better option. Having said that, if you're exploring Nusa Ceningan for the day, be sure to take your surfboard or you'll get some serious FOMO if you get to Mahana Point and the waves are peeling off. It can be super playful and a lot of fun!
NOVELTY WAVES Okay, so I know we said earlier there was only 5 surf breaks on the Nusa Islands, and for the most part that is true. The 5 surf breaks we have detailed are the main surf breaks for surfing where most people surf. They are also the best quality waves. Though truth be told, there are actually a few other "novelty' waves that will work under the right conditions.
There are "novelty" waves to be had at Tamarind Point, Mushroom Bay, the channel between Nusa Ceningan & Nusa Lembongan and even Gamut Bay in Nusa Penida.
We've surfed all of these breaks, but they are rare as hens-teeth so get in any sort of quality, and even then, there not that good compared to the 5 x main breaks are in normal conditions.
When we've surfed these breaks, often the surf is absolutely massive and some of these lesser known locations are protected offering smaller waves in these conditions. But let's be honest, none of these novelty waves are going to blow your socks off... STRIKE MISSIONS FROM NUSA LEMBONGAN Nusa Lembongan is an awesome place to base yourself for strike missions to other islands, whilst also offering the benefit to be able to be back on Nusa Lembongan at the end of the day in a great vibrant location (rather than roughing it in the jungle and boring the life out of your significant other). We are very lucky that Nusa Lembongan is the home port for the Kai Koa fast-boat which is famous for hosting the world's best surfers on strike missions. Desert Point, Sumbawa, G-Land are just some of the epic waves that can be reached quickly for strike missions from Nusa Lembongan on short notice!
BEST TIME OF YEAR TO SURF Nusa Lembongan offers waves all year round. The main surf season is from May to September. Having said that, we regularly get unbelievable waves, all year round. Surfing outside of the main surf season often means less crowds too. Outside of the main surf season, the winds can be a little less predictable, though morning or late afternoons sessions often offer great conditions.
So if you are looking for an epic surf holiday, with plenty of other great things to do, then Nusa Lembongan might just be the destination you've been searching for!