I shall intersperse both Dave and my stories in the blog so you can see what I did and feel what he did:
Overnight the swell doubled. Dave has been itching to surf Ulus. It looks great in the morning but we were told to wait for the mid tide. By the afternoon the wind is on the water making it roughly textured. It looked big and fun, but it’s hard with no reference points to tell how big it really is. Dave is impetuous, and decides to paddle out.
“We were told that most of the waves around, including Uluwatu, worked best on a medium low tide. With this in mind, we checked Ulu’s the first morning of our stay on this remote part of the Bukit peninsula. It was high tide, about 20 people out, and the waves were huge! Watching some of the surfers drop in, it was clear that the waves were at least 20 ft on the sets. Knowing that my board was not big enough, and hearing that high tide was not the best time to surf, Sierra and decided to visit the famous Uluwatu temple and wait for the conditions to shift. After spending a few hours at this beautiful temple, which is perched on a 500ft cliff overlooking the water, we decide to head back home, eat lunch, and then check the surf again.
The surf was still big, and starting to get a little mixed up. A storm was out on the horizon that was slowly and purposefully marching in. Given that I had not surfed yet, I made the impulsive, and predictable for me, decision to paddle out.”
I perch myself on the corner of Fins’ balcony, where I can peer down at the surf below. Dave appears, paddling his board out of the sea cave towards the channel to the left of the wave. A strong current washes him immediately down the point and into the inside. Nervous, I watch as he paddles and paddles and goes nowhere. I see a set coming and cringe. Fifteen feet of white water hits him, and hits him again and again. He paddles, and goes nowhere. I am beside myself with worry. The person I love, this big handsome strong man, could not look any smaller. Another set comes. There is nowhere down current to come in.
“The paddle out at Uluwatu generally begins with a short paddle to the reef then a long walk over the reef, then a classically short painless paddle into the lineup. All went smoothly until the paddle out into the lineup, where I immediately hit a swift down point current. Within a minute, I was hundreds of yards down the wave, paddling my brains out, and not making any progress getting out of the impact zone. I took two smaller sets on the head (by small I mean triple overhead), and finally after a half hour paddle, I made it outside the current.
One small thing to mention, there is nowhere to go in down the point unless you feel like paddling over a mile to the next sandy beach. The rest of the coastline is cliffs, and with big waves smashing up against them. In order to make it in at Ulu’s you have to paddle all the way up the point to allow the current to sweep you back into the beach cave where you enter the water on your way out. I was very worried during the paddle out that I would become exhausted, and then have to make the mile paddle down current. Thankfully I did not. ”
Finally he made it to the right hand channel and began gaining ground. I breathed again, relieved and got ready with my camera.
“Once I made it out, I spent the next hour trying to sneak into a wave that I could actually catch. I would drift inside for a smaller one, and then find myself scratching to make it outside on the sets. I was able to pull this maneuver off just once, and caught a speedy 15ft wave about 200 yards right into the channel.”
I watched Dave’s every move through the lens of my 300mm lens. “Excuse me.” I turned as someone touched my shoulder. “Would you like to buy a DVD?” A man stood with a basket of rip off movies. “No thank you.” I smiled and turned back to see Dave dismounting from an inside wave. Of course, I sit watching for an hour and a half and the 15 seconds I turn my head are the ones in which he catches a wave!
“Super stoked on being able to catch a wave, I got a bit more confident. This brought me inside again where I got caught. I had no chance to make it outside on the biggest set I had seen all day. These waves were by far the biggest surf I have seen from the water, and definitely felt as much when I tried to duck dive I took a huge breath and dove under the first wave of the set. Immediately I felt an intense pressure in my ears, and then came the washing machine. I held onto my board as tight as I could, and got tumbled violently three of four times. I finally started feeling myself come to the surface and a few seconds later I got a chance to breathe. This same story repeated itself three more times as I took the entire set on my head. A this point I was viciously tired and out of breath. I was done. Fortunately for me, I was washed inside and not down the point. I grabbed ahold of my board and took the next large wall of whitewater towards the beach. I sat down on shore and took a breather. ‘Not smart,’ I thought to myself.”
Just after Dave came and joined me at Fins the storm hit with a vengeance. Walls of rain came thundering down. Wind whisked the water inside where we sat enjoying a fine dinner and celebrating Dave’s survival.
My perch at Fins wet from the rain, Ulus breaks in the background