Indonesian surfers on the rise

Indonesian surfers Varun Tanjung and Marlon Gerber share a wave in Bali.

Indonesian surfers Varun Tanjung and Marlon Gerber share a wave in Bali.

After an initial influx (well, it was one guy with a longboard) in the 1930s, surfers began flocking to the shores of Indonesia en masse in the mid- to early 1970s. Pioneered by the likes of Gerry Lopez and Mike Boyum, the perfect breaks of Uluwatu, G-Land, and Padang Padang were the ultimate destinations for the globetrotting surfer. By the late ’70s, surfers from around the world were spending months on end in search of Indonesia's sacred surf. At about the same time, locals in Bali put aside their fear of the ocean (many of them couldn’t swim) and joined the fun-filled fray. After a few generations, the local Indonesians would be on par with the worlds best.

One of the first Balinese surfers to make an impact on the international surf scene was Made Kasim. Featured in a handful of surf movies, Kasim opened the door for the next generation of surfers with the "Island Of The Gods." Following in Kasim's footsteps was a lanky Indonesian/Chinese surfer by the name of Rizal Tanjung. "My biggest influence, still to this day, is Rizal, my brother-in-law," says one of Indonesia's top ranked surfers, Marlon Gerber. "The visiting pros had a big influence on all of us surfers in Bali, but they would come and go. Rizal taught me how to work with surf photographers and how to maintain a good relationship with not only the people we work with, but everyone in general."

And while the majority of Indonesia's surfing talent is from Bali, outer islanders like Oney Anwar (Sumbawa) and Dede Suryana (Java) are leaving their marks internationally despite the difficulty of getting visas to countries like the U.S. that are wary of travelers from the mostly Islamic nation.

And just like in other surf corners of the world, the act of riding waves dominates day-to-day life in Indonesia. "Surfing has given me a life, it’s made me the person I am today. I don’t even want to imagine my life without surfing," says Gerber. "My nephew is a little surf rat now; watching him grow up is like watching a replay of my childhood. He's doing exactly what I was doing as a grom (young surfer), and to see how stoked he gets, I just wish every kid could experience that.” Judging by the talent of Varun, Marlon's nephew, the future of Indonesian surfing is in good hands.