lovina lovina

8 March 2010 12:39:00 AEDT

The Bali Sea, 2009

Goodness shouts...Evil Whispers - Balinese Proverb

“It’s going to be quicker to cut through the centre of Bali than go all the way round from Medewi.”

“Yes mister but that road very bad at night if you want to get there dawn. It take same time go round from west. That road very good and quiet that time. We get to Lovina at seven o’clock.”

“Okay sounds good. See you in front of the hotel at 2 in the morning. Cool?”


It was a cooler December night than most. The rains had been late this year and the most that came through each night was a passing shower that was soon shredded into moon scattered high cloud. A week ago the swell of the century had bombed the Hawaiian Islands. After Hawaii, the energy had pathed off and broken up, shooting out rare high period action to all of the remote corners of The North Pacific. Fishermen that ply the silent South East Asian seas of Banda, Sulu and The Moluccas would be scratching their heads at this one. Once calm reefs their families had been working for a lifetime transformed for a few hours into unchallenged 3-4 foot bending cylinders. Only the oldest amongst them drawing back on their pipes and flashing back to the 1950’s.

I was counting on something more from this swell. I was counting on it breaking through the South East Asian chain and linking up into the Bali Sea, moving down onto the northern coast of Bali near the sleepy town of Lovina before passing through into the Indian Ocean. It was a big ask – it was 2 o’clock in the morning and Nyoman was here to pick me up.

Three hours later we were in Gilimanuk on the western tip of Bali. The ferry from Java had just landed. Rank after rank of grey labourers shared themselves into the back of open dump trucks held together with spot welds and dynabolts. All of them rumbled off into the great interior for an unimaginable day of labour on some ‘infrastructure’ project. We sped up again, heading east on the northern coast for the first time now. The sun rising in our eyes right ahead and a faint offshore rolling down from the mountains to the right.

The towns are quieter here, sadder. The northern coast was well clear of the tourist spend down south. Some people had told me that this was how Kuta was 20 years ago…I heard that a lot in fact. Waves are far too rare to lure any paying surfers but the diving is good. The few ramshackle resorts around Lovina are blended in with the villages – everything tumbling down into the sea and the black sand beaches. I could start to make out the coast now in the half light. The Dutch had lost an entire fleet here at Lovina when a ten foot swell had refracted down the Makassar Strait into the Bali Sea, but that was 200 years ago and right now I couldn’t see a thing. I will never forget what I saw next though.

We rounded a corner and I saw two divers fully rigged and wet standing on the side of the beach road. One of them was a young woman with lightly tanned skin and glistening blond hair…presently her face was covered in blood. It ran down her neck where it stained her wetsuit with a metallic iron sheen. The male with her was trying to hold her up. Nyoman pulled up immediately and I bailed out to help.

“I can’t see”

“It’s okay, I think you just have blood in your eyes”

A nasty 3 inch gash pulsed just above her hairline. Blood beaded on the depth gauge on her breast. As the man with her spun around there was the unmistakable sound of a wave cracking across reef to my left. I suddenly put it all together. The two of them had been finning out to dive on the reef at dawn when a set wave had rolled them on the reef. The girls head had bounced off the back of the guys dive cylinder manifold. A few strands of mattered blond hair had wound to the valve.

“Nyoman, take these guys to the nearest hospital…just let me get my board.”

The three of them pulled out into the light morning traffic, a few of the locals had come down to see what was going on and to watch the wave.

The same swell train that had rocked Oahu a week ago was reaching endgame here on an un-named reef in the Bali sea.

I paddled the 500 yards out to the reef in record time – making a quick mental map of boils and shallow spots on the way out. It was only a 3-4 foot right hander but it broke lightning fast. The black sand around the reef gave every set a lime green swirl to it – it was like surfing inside of an avocado.

Nyoman pulled up just as another guy was paddling out. We waved as we crossed. I hadn’t even counted on this reef breaking. If it was working here then the river mouths and points further along the northern coast would be firing. As we rumbled along the strip, Nyoman turned to me.

“In the car that girl said there was something in the water that was holding her ankle when she was trying to swim back from the reef.”

“Probably just shock from the bloodloss”

“Ah yes…probably.”


Story 6 of 365 (359 stories and 359 days to go)

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