By Janet NistedITWPA Member
“Thank God that’s over,” said Trevor as he wearily stumbled out of the dusty minibus into the welcoming entrance of the Java Cove Beach Hotel. Over an ice-cold Bintang, he described the 12-hour, bone-rattling journey by road from Jakarta. “That road’s got more holes in it than one of granny’s lace doilies,” he said. We celebrated our own decision to do the trip by air with another Bintang.
Batu Karas village isn’t everyone’s idea of paradise. The black sand beach is not the stuff of picture postcards. Shops are limited to a few sleepy makeshift stalls selling gaudy rayon beachwear. Things move frustratingly slowly at Batu Karas, including the internet, electricity supply, and service at the local warungs — perhaps a reminder that life doesn’t have to be lived at full tilt.
There is energy here, though — and it’s the reason people come. “It’s great to see an ocean with a pulse,” said my husband upon arrival as he gazed at the peeling right-handers rolling around The Point.
Batu Karas, West Java, isn’t a hard-core surfing destination. But for longboarders, and for beginners, it’s close to heaven. The Point works with just a one-and-a-half-foot swell. Its long, fat waves are ideal for longboarders and unintimidating, fun, and very forgiving for learners. Some say the waves here are “the best beginner waves in the world.” It’s not surprising that Batu Karas produces some of Indonesia’s top surfers.
Longboarders can get a surf pretty much every day. Even when the waves are very small, they’re very rideable. The two best-known breaks are The Point and The Reef.
The Point: Long, consistent, and fun, this easy right-hander breaks over an even, sandy bottom bay for over 650 feet. Longboard bliss.
The Reef: A 15-minute walk up the beach, this right-hander is best on an incoming to high tide. Cranking over the reef for around 500 feet, the waves here can get fast and hollow. This break is suitable for longboards; however, shortboards come into their own on days with good swell.
Bulak Benda: This hollow, right-hand reef break attracts all available swell and offers plenty of excitement with a shortboard. It’s not uncommon to have this rarely-surfed break all to yourself. It’s for competent surfers only, especially if the surf is up. The wave is fast and hard-breaking, and once you’re under motion you have only a second to take off.
You’ve got to be keen to get to Batu Karas. Fly into Bandung or Jakarta, then choose either the bus or a Susi Air flight. With the current state of the roads from both Bandung and Jakarta, the flight is highly recommended.
Getting your board there:
Susi Air charges a full fare for your board. Alternatively, you’ll find decent hire boards on the beach at Batu Karas for $5 a day — not great boards, but not bad either.
When to go:
Avoid Indonesian public holidays. If you are there on a weekend, you’ll want to get away from the local crowds at The Point. For a combination of swell and wind direction, the best months are April to October. The surf is less reliable from November to March, and wind direction can be more onshore.
There are options to suit all budgets. We stayed at Java Cove Beach Hotel, situated a very handy twenty paces across the road from The Point. The service was exceptional and always delivered with a huge smile.
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