Homegrounds, Jl. Benesari, Kuta, Bali 16/03/19, 1735pm.
Garut Widiarta sits at the front bar of his cousins new restaurant with the gold of the sun burnishing his already brown skin. Garut is a little darker these days now that he has grooved into fatherhood and prioritized more time in the surf. You can finally see a little age on him. At the crinkles next to his eyes and the deeper dimple when he smiles that gleaming smile.
I sat with him talking about marriage and kids and low tide Padang Padang. It’s no secret that a very lean and hungry Garut has been ripping with a new vigor. He knows he has another Rip Curl Cup in him. Just like his cousin Made Winada Adi Putra. Or his other cousin who certainly should have one, Raditya Rondi. It’s Raditya’s new place that we are sitting in. Right smack dab next to the Goku Resto, the official clubhouse of the Halfway Boardrider’s club.
This family of male surfers stays close to each other. Whether it’s side by side resto’s or side by side in Rip Curl Cup low tide finals. They are princes and they know it. On there way to be Kings. Adi Putra is practically there. You can see in Garut’s eyes a new maturity regarding all this. And over our cold, afternoon beers, I ask him a simple question about surfing the monsoon season. He actually laughs and takes a sip and says “C’mon, it’s the best time, it’s always the best time in Bali”.
And I sit and let that settle. Despite the winds and the garbage season you can still ride perfect surf on this island 365 days a year. “You just gotta go find it” Garut says. Truth there, I think. Especially after witnessing one of the more energetic monsoon seasons this island has ever seen. Seems all the veterans were guiding all the groms. straight through the rains and brown waters and over to the beachbreaks and over the eastside reefs until just about every last new discovery on the island was covered in zeal. And that wild energy came from somewhere.
The sessions were surging with youngsters like Varun Tandjung stepping up and old lions like Rizal howling into barrels like a teenager. I asked Garut where all that new energy came from. “The kids, man. Can’t you see it? Bali is going to be theirs”. Another truth. Bali is indeed ready for its inheritors. The old guard, still holding down the fort, are running out of things to teach the kids. And what a great job they have done with what they have had. This next generation, aside from being nimble surfers, have an almost dignified air about them. As if they feel the weight of what they are about to be given. The pride and the beauty of Balinese surfing.
Despite the horrors and the blessings of tourism that have been heaped upon them. Although it is hard to think of who is going to take Adi Putra’s Matador place in the Padang Padang line-up, it’s a little easier to see who will move into Garut’s more electric spot. And the best thing about sitting on Jalan Benesari with Garut is that you can see that he is not worried about it.
That he and his generation have very little to worry about at all. With the help and influence of the guys at Rip Curl and badasses like Nick Chong and all the guys at all the label headquarters, Garut and his like have not taken the gold, but rather have absorbed it. Smart enough to know a miracle when they see one. Surfing as a lifestyle in Bali is the best in the world, and they know it. Family, culture, money, faith and absolutely perfect, warm, offshore surf.
Raditya pulls up and bounds into his resto with that puppy energy of his. A quick laugh with us and he’s off. One of Garut’s friends shows up on his cool fixed gear. More laughs. Another beer. The sun cuts down below the buildings and the lights of the street start to wink on. A surfing life in balance seems to live on this street. I say my goodbyes and hop on my bike for home. Knowing that a thousand surfboards will be sliding over the waters at dawn. Surfboards like Garut, like mine, like all of ours. Surfboards that are such a huge part of Bali. Surfboards that provide the real footholds we have on ourselves and the island we love.