“Maybe the coach is late and I can nap on the beach for a few minutes while I’m waiting,” my dumb sleepy brain blurts out. It’s 6 am, I’m heading to my surf lesson, the sun has barely opened an eye, and Canggu looks every bit as groggy as I do.
Surf is the number one reason I came to Canggu, but nobody told me it would have to be this early. So every time I struggle to get myself out of bed, I’m desperately looking for excuses not to go. And every time I plop into a bean bag chair and have the first bite of my post-surf breakfast, I’m happy I didn’t find any.
Point being, surfing is one of the best things you can do in Canggu, and I feel it’s my duty to get you to try it. So even though I’m not yet qualified to give advice to real surfers, I have a tip or two that can help beginners. Here’s everything I know about learning to surf in the ‘Gu.
Is surf in Canggu good for beginners?
Canggu is not good for beginner surfers. It’s great for beginner surfers.
Bali in general has everything a first-timer could wish for: qualified instructors that are fun to be around, warm water that doesn’t require a wetsuit, glassy waves without too much whitewash. And Canggu has surf spots that almost always work for rookies — right on the main beach.
I’ve taken surf lessons in Portugal, Dominican Republic, and Sri Lanka, and there’s always something missing. Either the ocean is freezing, or the waves are too rough and foamy, or the instructors have no idea what they’re doing. So believe me when I say that Bali, and especially Canggu, really has it all for a wannabe surfer.
How much are surf lessons in Canggu?
The local surf community has put a set price on lessons offered on the beach to prevent the schools from squabbling over pricing. Surf lessons usually cost 350K IDR ($25) per person for a 2-hour session. And whoever you ask on the beach, they should charge you the same amount.
Whether you take a lesson by yourself or with a friend, the price doesn’t change. But if you’re a group of 3 people or more, there’ll normally be two instructors. That way everyone gets enough attention, guidance, and waves.
You can also book a surf lesson ahead on websites like Viator, where you can see some photos and read the reviews:
📍Safe & Fun Surfing Experience in Canggu – from $30
📍Surf lessons Bali, Canggu – from $25
Canggu surf schools
Batu Bolong Beach and Canggu Beach are packed with surf schools, each trying to grab your attention when you walk by. And that works well if you just want to dip your toes into surfing without too much planning ahead.
But if you’re serious about learning how to surf, you’ll quickly discover a good instructor is key. As are the right conditions and weather. So it’s best to stick with one instructor you feel good about, and let them recommend the best time for your lesson.
Below are some reputable surf schools in Canggu, so you can contact them beforehand and book a lesson. The prices here may be a little higher than they are on the beach though.
- Canggu Surf School (part of The Chill House)
- Nengah Private Surf Guiding
- In Da Surf Bali
- Kedungu Surf School (not quite in Canggu, but the secluded Kedungu Beach they teach on is part of the appeal)
Surf camps in Canggu
Now, a surf camp is best if you want to make maximum progress in a limited time. Surf camps are kind of like all-inclusive hotels — except instead of getting hammered on free piña coladas, you surf your arms off.
Surf camps in Canggu typically offer packages that include accommodation, breakfasts and dinners, surfing, yoga, and a bunch of social activities. But you can also book a night or two just to try it, and then pay for the lessons as you go.
📍Dreamsea Canggu, Bed in 4-Bed Mixed Dormitory Room – from $35 per night
Dreamsea is one of the best surf camps in Canggu and part of a huge global family of camps. The Canggu property has beautiful sunlit rooms, a pool, and a great instructor crew.
📍Quiet Leaves Surf Stay – from $38 per night
This local family-run guesthouse has only six rooms, and the surf lessons are covered by a local family-run school Baruna Surf Culture. They have packages for beginner and intermediate surfers, and you can book one even for a couple days.
Where and when to surf in Canggu
If you’re still learning, your “where” and “when” will likely be decided by your instructor. But after a few lessons you might want to grab a board and try practicing by yourself just to get the hang of it.
Best Canggu surf spots for beginners
What makes Canggu such a magnet for surfers is that it has spots that work for different levels, from Bambies still trying to get their sea legs to experienced rippers hunting those perfect barrels.
The Canggu surf spots that work for beginners are all reef breaks, which means the wave breaks against the coral reef at the bottom. That makes the wave more consistent and predictable, because the reef bottom is always the same. These are the spots you’ll be surfing at as a beginner:
- Old Man’s – opposite the Old Man’s bar. This is probably the busiest spot, because that’s where most of the schools operate. Old Man’s offers both left-hand and right-hand waves, which starts to matter once you get on the green wave.
- Batu Bolong – just across the channel from Old Man’s. Also packed, with left-handers only.
- Kedungu Beach – a less busy beach about 20 minutes away from Canggu. That’s not in Canggu, I know, but the beach is the perfect secret spot for avoiding the crowds. Plus, Kedungu Surf School is my personal favorite.
Best time to surf in Canggu for beginners
Canggu has surf all year round, and when you’re still learning, you don’t need a serious swell. Sure, there might be days when the ocean is completely flat, and occasionally the swell will get too big. But most of the time you’ll be able to go.
Now, the surf spots above work best in mid tide. Low tide takes you too close to the reefy bottom, making it risky. High tide makes the waves bigger and more powerful, and that’s not something you want as a newbie surfer.
As far as the wind goes, your ideal setup is an offshore wind that’s not too strong. When the wind is onshore, i.e. blowing from the ocean, it messes up the wave.
So before you go surfing by yourself, check the tide times, the wind, and the swell size in the surf report. The best time to surf for you is mid-tide, with gentle offshore wind (marked green in the report). You also want to look at the swell size: 5-6 feet may already be too big for you.
Surf gear: What you will and won’t need in Canggu
The amount of gear you need to surf in Canggu is minimal, so don’t go on a shopping spree just yet. Plus, you don’t want to spend too much on surf equipment and clothes before you decide that you’ll keep surfing in the future.
The stuff you definitely need to surf in Canggu is:
- A one-piece bikini with sleeves if you’re a girl. I’ve tried many options — regular bikini, bikini and a short-sleeve, bikini and a long-sleeve — and this is the best. The sleeves will protect you from sunburns and early morning chills, and because it’s a one-piece, everything will stay where it needs to be.
- Board shorts and a long-sleeve if you’re a guy. Again, the long-sleeve will keep you comfortable even when you’re riding a scooter to an early morning session, and the sun won’t burn your back. Make sure the shorts stay put when you pull them. You don’t want to float around with a bare bottom for 20 minutes trying to retrieve your shorts after a wipeout.
- Sunscreen with SPF 50 and up. This one’s a no-brainer. You’ll be in the water for about two hours, with tropical sun scorching your face. If you want to stay pretty and not get skin cancer, put on powerful sunscreen. Most shops sell that zinc-based stuff that stays on your face and makes you look like a tribal warrior. Use it.
- A reusable water bottle, if you still don’t have one. It’s heartbreaking how much trash you can see in the ocean, so don’t make it worse for Bali by buying bottled water.
Now, what you won’t be needing as a beginner surfer in Canggu is:
- A board. If you’re just starting out or transitioning to a hard board, buying a board of your own makes zero sense. You’ll be changing boards as you learn and grow, so just stick to rentals until you settle on a board type and size.
- A wetsuit. The water is warm all year round. If you put on a wetsuit, you’d be boiled alive.
- Booties. Even though beginner spots are usually reef breaks, if you go in mid-tide, you won’t reach the bottom with your feet.
- Wax. You’ll be renting your board, and the rental will wax it for you.
Where to rent a surf board
All surf schools on the beaches of Canggu also offer rentals. A surf board rental usually costs 50K IDR ($3.3) for 2 hours or 100K IDR ($6.6) for the whole day. If you’re planning to regularly go surfing on your own, it might make sense to rent your board on a weekly basis. That should cost you 500K IDR ($33) per week. Make sure you get a good, strong leash, and double-check to see that the fins aren’t damaged.
Surf shops in Canggu
Finally, the easiest part: shopping. Canggu excels in that department, and of course there are multiple surf shops where you can gear up for your lessons.
Boardriders for the best selection of gear
Boardriders next to Echo Beach is one of the biggest surf shops in Canggu. From bikinis and shorts to wax and sunscreen to booties and wetsuits, you’ll find everything you may need. They also have Otis eyewear and quality surfboard rentals.
FLKLR for hip and sustainable surf clothes
FLKLR, or Folklore Surf is a sustainable surf brand that makes some of its accessories and clothes from recycled plastic. They also make custom-designed surf boards to die for. The shop in Canggu is their only showroom for now, with another one opening soon in Japan.
Billabong, Rip Curl, and Roxy for familiar styles
Chances are, you shopped for swimwear at Billabong, Rip Curl, or Roxy way before you decided to try surfing. These chain stores do have a good selection of bikinis and shorts at affordable prices, so you can get the stuff you need without breaking the bank.