Either you came to Canggu as a surfer, or you’ll leave as one – there’s just no other way. Why? Because the most accessible waves on the Island of the (Surf) Gods slam into the ’gu’s black-sand shores, from gentle rollers for the beginners to some pretty high consequence gnarl burgers for the experts. Here’s the lowdown on shooting the curl in Canggu and further afield.
Echo Beach, rather conveniently located a minute’s stroll from Dojo, is the centre of the Canggu surf scene. The stretch of black sandbars and lava reef ain’t for first timers, but provide a playground for intermediates-and-up most days of the year, becoming the domain of experts only when the surf gets large.
Because it has the highest concentration of breaks, Echo draws the biggest crowd of the Canggu beaches, but if you choose your times wisely, and don’t mind surfing in less-than-perfect conditions, you can share Echo with only a handful of fellow shredders.
The beach is broken up into three main parts. The Left is right in front of the cafés and seems to be the most localised of the breaks here. If you’re a patient and respectful goofy footer, you might just get a head-dip out there.
The Sandbar, in the middle of the beach, is the least predictable of Echo’s breaks. A shifting tepee peak that can produce long reeling lefts, or shorter right handers, watch it before you head out to find the optimal spot. A little luck goes a long way at the Sandbar.
The Right, or Rivermouth, is in front of the creek at the northern end of Echo. This rock reef flourishes in a bit of swell, and breaks on all tides. It fills up with an adept local crowd when it’s really on; be careful when fighting for the leftovers because some of the smaller ones run into a pretty shallow rock garden on the inside. Newbies here always sit too deep, so pay attention to your landmarks.
Out the front of Old Man’s is prime learning turf. If you’re just starting out, the surf schools that operate on this beach will walk you out through the shallow lagoon and push you into some gentle pre-crumbled waves, where you can perfect your paddle and pop-up. Once you’ve graduated from surf academy, the left just to the north of the beginners’ area offers a reasonably friendly place to catch some waves without your instructor, under your own steam.
Off to the south there is sometimes a big, wally righthander that’s perfect for intermediates who want to go a million kilometres an hour, but that only works on low tide and when there’s a bit of swell.
Along this entire stretch, the biggest danger is each other and the heavy, hard, pointy missiles you’re all riding; there’s been many a collision at Batu Bolong, resulting in many a damaged board and/or person. Take care of each other out there.
Berawa is for people who are in the know, and now you’re one of those people. It absolutely hates a full tide, so give it a wide berth if the water is high up the sand. There is a channel right in front of the access with a right and a left breaking into it, as well as some fickle, but sometimes fantastic, reefs to either side of it. Check it regularly, because you gotta be onto it to score it.
Immediately south of Berawa are the beaches along the Seminyak stretch, which can offer up fun banks on their day, with less crowds. Have a look at Batu Belig on high tide with a medium swell and you may be pleasantly surprised.
To the north of Canggu there are a lot of very uncrowded, semi-secret beaches that we’re not going to tell you about, but that are worth a look if you have the time and a sense of adventure. Just jump on your scooter and get scouting.
Around the rest of the island, you’ve got old faves like Uluwatu and Padang Padang on the Bukit Peninsular, new faves like Sanur and Keramas, and you’re within a two-hour domestic flight from more perfect, world-class waves than you’d be anywhere else in the world. Make sure you keep up on the swell, wind and tides and be willing to suffer a little bit of travel time in order to get the waves of your life.
Sharks aren’t an issue in Canggu, and other marine biteys and stingies seem to mostly avoid the area. The sun is insane and the black sands of Canggu absorb a lot of heat – cover everything up always. There are plenty of lava rock formations below the surface, so try not to use your face to break your fall. The locals are friendly until you mess up their waves, then they might get a little “protective”. There are big swells that pound this coast year round, but particularly between May-October – know your limits, and stay away from the dangerous currents. When it rains a lot, be wary of the spots near the creeks, as the run off can be polluted and might sideline you with a nasty ear/eye infection, or something worse.