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Stormrider Guide to surfing Lombok

Indonesia, EAST ASIA


Lombok surf at Desert Point, Paul Kennedy

Summary

+ Voted world's best wave - Overcrowded Desert Point
+ Consistent year-round surf - Only one outstanding break
+ Great scenery - Hard access to eastern spots
+ No mass tourism - Lack of accommodation outside Kuta

A mere stone’s throw away from Bali across the deeply cut channel is the Lombok surf zone, a different, drier world that is like an exploded version of the Bukit Peninsula on Bali, just without the 5 star hotels.

The real touristy feel is reserved for the Gili’s way up the north of the Lombok Strait, which feed off huge swells and NW winds, but there are further possibilities for surf along this west coast north of Sengigi and amongst the serene islands nestling behind Bangko Bangko. The south coast is cliffy and rocky, with lots of little islets and punctuated by a few really deep bays, which give Lombok way more flexibility in regards to swell size and beginners waves. It’s hard to suss the waves from the charter boats, who have their usual stops, but rarely find the time to explore, so there are some quiet corners along this coast for sure. At its closest point, Lombok sits only 18km (11mi) east of Bali, yet major physical, cultural, linguistic and religious differences exist. The deep strait separating these islands links the Indian and Pacific oceans and is part of the “Wallace Line”, an established physical division between Asia and Australia. Bali is green with lush, tropical vegetation, while Lombok is drier, more rugged, with completely different flora and fauna. While the mountainous north rises to 3726m (12,224ft) at the top of Mount Rinjani, the south is a range of low inland hills spread behind the sweeping bays and pure white sands of the southern beaches. In terms of location, most surf breaks are truly breathtaking, but are generally regarded as of lower quality or intensity than Bali’s, with the notable exception of Desert Point, elected “Best Wave in the World” by Tracks magazine’s readers.


When to Go

More than any other island in Indo, Lombok is a year-round surfing destination. The peak season is obviously from April until early November, when classic 6-12ft (2-4m) longer period swells arrive from a SSW-WSW direction, which continue to arrive at 3-6ft (1-2m) during the wet season. More S suits Desert’s, the Gilis and the deep bays of Grupuk and Ekas, while more west will hit Mawi and exposed reefs nicely. Wet season tropical cyclone positions can vary greatly, thus sending short-lived swell from a 180º window, packing as much power as winter depressions. Winds blow like clockwork: the mild E-SE trades start in April, SE being the major direction, up to October with more S winds towards the end of the season. November is a transition month with oscillating winds around SE-SW. Then, it shifts to W-NW with W first and then NW until end of March. Get a tide table online or in Bali and pay attention to the range: there is a big and a small tide every day, with many spots working only at mid to high tide.

Surf Spots

Furthest west of the 3 small Gili islands,  Gili Trawangan has a shallow fringing reef off the southern tip, serving up fast, hollow, but generally flawed right lines. Tricky wave to ride and plenty of current so experience required. Needs hefty S-SW swells to clear the coral that is usually frequented by snorkeling tourists. More a party, couples, chill out destination so don’t expect many waves. Gili Air is over-protected from swell and dead onshore when the SE trades blow, meaning this is a very unlikely score. Huge SSW swell, big, dropping, spring high tide and light W-NW wind cook up some short, sharp barrels that peel perfectly down the SE tip. A surprising amount of locals do surf Sengigi, a circular reef that is mainly a left plus a sectiony right, which needs rare N winds. Plenty of SW swell and tide will clear the coral and fire off some cylindrical lefts, but it spends most days below the chest-high minimum required. Desert Point t6R.bu7 When it is on, Desert Point is indeed one of the longest, makeable lefthand barrels on the planet with over 20 seconds tube time possible on one wave. The take-off area can shift around a little but generally rewards a deep attack. High speed is the key as it quickly winds up and starts peeling mercilessly across the shallow reef, cutting a trench in the coral where the mechanical lips have been slamming for centuries. The caverns get larger and faster as the inside section commits the tube rider to a lock-in that usually ends on dry reef. Only surfers good enough to deal with the tricky exit, the shallow reef, evil out-going currents and plenty of wave-starved rippers should apply. Desert’s has a reputation for inconsistency, with only the biggest groundswells igniting it and high tides making it disappear as fast as it came. Surf charters keep flocking from Bali and dedicated hardcore surfers wait for weeks in basic beach shacks, forming a frenzied, barrel-hungry pack on those rare classic days. Boats have access to the sheltered bay of islands behind Bangko Bangko where there are some big swell, high tide options for intermediates around the other Gili islands like Ringgit. Decent lefts run at Belongas when the SSW swell hits this isolated reef just right and winds are E or even NE. Racy lip line with some tuck sections that will suit average surfers just fine at mid tide. Mawi is a quality, south coast, dry season break that works in all swell sizes, set in a beautiful west-facing bay. Consistent spot that attracts boats and land-based surfers from Kuta and Grupuk losmens when the SE blows strong. Small swells see a fun, peeling peak until the hollower right starts closing out at overhead size. The powerful left then rumbles on down the reef up to double overhead plus, offering a heavy drop/barrel section, hooking wall and final tube before shut down. Very strong currents in the channel and a nasty sharp reef mean intermediates need to be on their toes. Pointbreak style set-up on western fringe of pretty beach, Mawan causes SE-SW pulses to radiate round the reef for some long, high performance walls. Consistently has swell, but glassy or NW winds required, so it’s a wet season spot. A short boat ride to the next bay west of Kuta unveils some low tide rights that trip into a fast inside barrel. Air Guling is exposed to swell and wind that needs to be more N than W, so it’s rare to score after 9am. If the tide is up, check the short, rippy, hollow lefts at the reef gap, mid-bay. Kuta is the surfing hub of Lombok, another wet-season-centric spot as the righthander on the western headland is offshore in NW winds and likes a SE-S swell. Like Mawun and Air Guling, the left across the channel is lower quality and often messy, but both are fun, no consequence waves for all abilities and a lazy session instead of driving off in search of better waves. A straight shooting S swell will penetrate the bay and unload on Tanjung A'an, a nasty sharp reef with serious tubing intent. Guaranteed shade-time, this is heavy water, especially below mid tide and not a wave to be attempted by the meek. N winds or early glass make it less consistent than other spots nearby and due to it’s quality, has a few local “minders”. 2km east of Kuta, out on the reef fringe in front of the Novotel, Segar is a small swell, wind sensitive, fun righthander, plus occasional left. More peaks in either direction, but NE is offshore so early mornings or glassy, peaky off-season days will produce easy rides for the odd crowd. Bombora-style, lumpy right that stretches to an impressive height, but flatters to deceive. Like the impressive twin peaks on the headland, Outside Grupuk is more rolling hill than impressive cliff. Orderly drop and plenty of shoulder real estate make it accessible to improvers when small and intermediates when big. Breaks consistently on any S swell, but easily blown out by any southern hemi wind. Mid to high tides and often crowded. Don-Don breaks in the middle of the bay, in front of the semi-submerged wooden fishing frames once the tide has moved in a few hours. Non-abrupt glide into predictable, easy walls that are a bit faster on the lefts. Like all the Grupuk spots, can get stupidly crowded with all skill levels in the water, so be wary and give the beginners room. Inside Grupuk is mainly rights, unless small and fairly similar to the other waves in the bay, namely rolling, simple drops and slopey walls ideal for improving turn combos and generally cruising. Just as crowded as the other waves; pick up a boat in the village for easy access. The road coming from Kuta stops in Ampang, an east facing village, so it requires a rare combination of S-SE swell and W wind. In these conditions, long bowling rights break south of the village at Awang, offering tubes over a shallow coral platform. Inside Ekas is a generously covered reef peak marooned in another deep bay/estuary that needs a moderate SW swell to wake up. Sucky and swift, the shorter rights feather up nicely and open up occasionally, as the SE trades blow into the barrel. Meanwhile, the longer lefts wall and roll predictably, inviting big hits in a playful, safe and therefore crowded environment. Low to mid tide for the rights, high for the lefts and any flavour E wind. The chaotic, powerful left at Outside Ekas shifts and jumps around the line-up below steep cliffs at the eastern headland. Consistently drags in far more swell than Inside Ekas, the high speed walls and odd tuck section can get really long at size, when it becomes an advanced surfers break. Currents are strong and hold-downs are long, plus there’s sea-life and crowds. Out on the exposed SE tip of Lombok, a series of reef cuts and passes offer small swell options, including the lip-smacking performance ramps of Sereweh up the eastern channel. If there’s no sign of whitewash on these reefs, then Lombok is officially flat. Really a wet season option as a small SE swell and N winds are needed to make the long boat ride worth it. Hard to access by land, hard to scope by sea.

Statistics

J
F
M
A
M
J
J
A
S
O
N
D
dominant swell S -SW S -SW S -SW S -SW S -SW S -SW
swell size (ft) 4-5 5-6 6-7 7-8 6 4-5
consistency (%) 60 80 90 90 80 70
dominant wind W -NW E -NW S -SE S -SE E -S S -SW
average force F3 F2 F3 F3 F3 F3
consistency (%) 65 88 74 80 79 72
water temp (C) 29 28 28 27 27 28
wetsuit boardshorts boardshorts boardshorts boardshorts boardshorts boardshorts

Travel Information

Weather
Lombok lies less than 400km (250mi) south of the Equator in the tropics. Days are almost universally 12hrs long with sunrise at around 6.20 a.m. and sunset at 6.30 p.m. The daytime temperature averages 30°C (86°F) all-year-long, but take warm clothing if planning a trek of Mt. Rinjani. Lombok’s tropical monsoon climate has two distinct seasons; dry (May to September) and wet (October to April). Monsoon refers to the wind – even in the wet monsoon the rain tends to be short lived and localised. May, June and July are generally considered the best for visiting but spring and autumn are ok despite the humidity. Jan-Feb suffer heavy rains and stifling hot temps and can be considered a time to avoid. Water remains around an ideal 28°C (82°F), so a shorty would only be used for protection against the reef.

Lodging and Food
Basic rooms in Kuta cost under $5, for more comfort head to the Kuta Indah Hotel (fr $20) or the luxurious Novotel (fr $67). Very basic hut accommodation is available at Bangko-Bangko (Deserts) and Laut Surga (Ekas), where there are also new, expensive, surf tourist options. Lombok Surf Camp has all inclusive beginner packages from $550/wk in the soft Grupuk waves. For surf charters check Freeline, Surf Travel Online and dozens more offering a range of vessels, duration and price. Be aware only the purpose-built surf charters like Sri Noa Noa will sail the south coast in heavy seas; the local jukungs will go round the north. Lombok food revolves around poultry, meat and fish cooked with tropical veggies in spices and coconut milk sauce.

Nature and Culture
Trekking at least part of the way up Rinjani is the reason many tourists come to Lombok, take a packaged tour to join them. Activities include kite surfing, diving, snorkeling, fishing, cycling along the coastal road to appreciate the breathtaking cliff scenery, or even skateboard the bowl in Grupuk. Witness traditional culture in Relbitan and Sade, north of Kuta.

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