One of the best thing about a surf trip to the tropics is the warm climate and temperate seas where you can ditch the wetsuit for boardies or swimwear and revel in the newfound freedom of movement. Heading to a hot country also means you can get away with packing less. It’s not uncommon to see travelers boarding flights with just a board bag and a backpack.
What to bring on a surf trip to Bali
Traveling surfers need to pack as light as possible so we don’t get stung with extra baggage fees especially since we have boards to check in. The packing list below includes gear which we have found to be more than useful on repeated trips to Bali. Not to worry if you forget anything. Unlike the more remote islands in Indo, Bali is well developed and you can probably find anything you need there. Good surf shops are mainly concentrated around Kuta, Seminyak, Canggu and the Bukit.
FCS Travel Board Bag & Nose Protector
Your travel board should be a reliable all-rounder, made a bit tougher to endure the inevitable bumps from traveling. Conventional wisdom says to take a slightly longer board to Indo. One suited to waves that have a bit more force than your local mushy beach break. Those narrower, pointy high performance shapes come alive at reef breaks where there is plenty of power on tap. I have a Lost Mini Driver FST, slightly longer with less volume than my daily driver, which never sees the surf in Australia but is perfect for Bali.
You can also choose to get one made from a local shaper who is much more experienced with the waves in Bali. Nothing better than a custom board as a souvenir to remind you of those perfect waves you snagged.
Beginner surfers don’t need to bring softboards as they are available for rent at most beaches in bali. I would however bring my own dependable leg rope.
Front Foot Traction
First year using front foot traction and I am not going back. Especially good in Indo where your wax can melt off before you even hit the water. Not having to buy wax, wax up or scrape the wax off at the end of the trip are definite pluses. I have yet to have my foot slip off yet with the Octopus front pad setup.
FCS Travel Cover
Seen people check in boards wrapped in bubble wrap or thin day bags and just pray for the best. I would definitely veer on the side of extreme caution when traveling because everyday spent fixing dings on your surf trip is a day lost surfing. I stick my board in a day cover which then goes into an FCS Double travel cover which is padded out with towels and rashies. Also managed to score some nose and tail protectors on a past trip to Bali.
Bits and Pieces of Surf Hardware
Extra Set of Fins
Extra set of fins. We have been lucky up to the last trip when one of the kids lost a fin to a Balinese reef. After much calling and messaging we managed to get what must have been the last set of kidi size Futures from a surf shop in the Uluwatu area. Lesson learnt.
FCS Ratchet tool
Apart from being easier to use than the smaller fin keys, the ratchet tool has a really important function. It comes with a head for removing stripped hex screws. You don’t want to be packing your board for the plane and just realizing that you can’t get the fins off.
FK Surf Wax Scraper
Don’t forget to bring a wax scraper or you will be trying to get that wax off with a credit card.
Hurley Windskin Jacket & Dark Seas Division Boardshorts
Dark Seas Division board-shorts
If you are going to be surfing 3-4 hours a day, you really need a pair of technical boardies designed for surfing. I had a pair which was uncomfortable, would catch during pop ups and gave me mid thigh rashes. Lucky I managed to find a pair of Dark Seas Division boardies at Drifter which were super stretchy and felt really good. The 4 way stretch material meant that you hardly even felt they were there. Used to have to wear a pair of bonds undies with my board-shorts, but not with these. No ball rash at all. Hang them out and they are dry by morning. Also like the low key design which looks fine out of the surf. Save the flashy designs for the frothed up groms.
Hurley Advantage Plus wind skin jacket 0.5mm
Coming from a place where I am wearing a wetsuit pretty much every session, my protected soft skin is definitely not up to the job of surfing shirtless in Indo. Rashies offer little protection leaving you with skinned chest and ribs and killer nipple rash. On a recent trip I decided to try Hurley's wind skin jacket and it was the perfect solution. The jacket's outer is smooth and gives just enough protection from the constant contact with the board. At 0.5mm it's thin enough so you won't feel too hot even in the afternoon sun. The jacket is a lifesaver. Even after surfing daily for 2 weeks, I left without the usual raw chest and rib abrasions.
Tip - Bali may be hot but don't go shirtless on long boat trips. The combination of wind and splash thrown from the bow of boat makes for a cold experience.
Depending on where you will be surfing you may want to bring along reef boots. The coral in Indo can be razor sharp and cuts in the tropics have a good chance of getting infected. Boots let you push off the bottom when you fall off instead of resorting to the belly flop. They also come in handy when you are entering and exiting the water at breaks like Uluwatu and Balangan where you have to walk over a stretch of coral reef, and Medewi which is notorious for urchins.
The FCS Chamois towel is great for traveling. It sucks up moisture, folds up really small and is large enough to keep your bits covered when changing. Dries really fast too.
The classic digital Casios are a good reliable cheap option, but I kept losing them. They also look a bit “80s kid” out of the water. Upgraded to a bomb proof Gshock in the hope that since they cost a bit more, I would look after the watch better. So far so good.
Sun protection is essential in Bali
A good pair of polarized shades which will protect your eyes as you stare into the golden rays of that beautiful Balinese sunset.
The Laroche Posay Wetskin is SPF50, absorbs completely into your skin, doesn't leave an oily residue and is meant to last for 4 hours in the water. You can even apply it on wet skin. I use this as a base layer and put physical blockers on the areas which need more protection.
Surf Yogis Sun Screen
I use a mineral blocker for the parts which tend to burn the most like your nose and cheeks. The Balinese bred Surf Yogis sunscreen is like a paste designed to be a physical barrier to reflect sun-rays. This stuff doesn't work at home where its rock hard, but it's perfect in Indo where the heat melts it to a perfect consistency that stays on while surfing. Good stuff - all natural, reef safe, smells like chocolate and saves your face from burning.
FCS Surf Hat
A surf hat can give you even more protection from the scorching sun. The hat also does an excellent job at signalling that you are a middle aged dad. Just in case.. you know any surf chicks start getting any ideas. The hat is the repellant you need.
DJI Osmo Action 2 for water shots
There are times when I have had to paddle out to a boat, swim across rivers and gotten drenched by monsoon rain. A good wet bag keeps stuff dry and safe from the elements. It also served as a make-do catch bag once. Kids filled it with live pipis they caught and took the haul back to our stay for cooking.
Vapur Water Bottle
The vapur water bottle is foldable and collapsible, but rigid when filled with liquid. Superlight and doesn't take up much space when empty. Great for traveling. I like to bring a bottle with me on surf trips. Good to be hydrated and a reusable bottle saves me from buying bottled water and adding to the trash heap. The opening on the Vapur is also wide enough to let you add hydration powders etc.
Unless you are traveling to the most remote areas, there is super fast Internet in most of Bali. Locals mainly use Whatsapp for communication and having mobile Internet makes traveling so much easier. You can check Surfline and update your pals back home on the waves they are missing out on. Most hotels / shops / restaurants have free WIFI. You can also pick up a local SIM card from the airport on arrival or book one in advance with Klook.
DJI Osmo Action 2
Recent addition to the pack. Used to have a much loved Action 1, but it started leaking and died on me. This new upgrade seems much more robust and leak proof. Its also super tiny.
Check out the full review: DJI Action 2 Surf Cam
Duty Free Alcohol
While the local Bintang beer is cheap, Wine & Spirits are super expensive once you land in Indo. A move by the government to reduce the amount of drinking in the country. Don't forget to pick some up on they way out of your home country. The duty free at the Bali airport is on the way in is more expensive.Aeropress
I kick myself for not thinking of this sooner. Indonesia has ideal climate for growing beans and you can buy them at every convenience store or Pepito market.Great variety of beans from around Indo including the famous Kopi Luwak or civet poop beans. With you own aeropress you can brew your own cup of what some may say is the best coffee in the world.
If you have any boardies, rashies lying around that have fallen out of favor, bring them along as gifts. Surf gear costs quite a bit for some of the local guides and they would appreciate these gifts.
Hope you found something in the list that will make your surf trip more enjoyable. Have a great one!