Written and Photographed by Michael Jennings
As one adventure ends, another would begin. We had just wrapped up six days in the Philippines and Matt and I were booked to go to Bali next to hang out and surf with Ryan Hardy.
Ryan has been spending six months of the year in Bali with his family working at Bali Bodyboard School. I grew up in a small town in South Australia with a population of fewer than 400 people and, as soon as I started my addiction of the ocean and bodyboarding, Ryan had always been an idol of mine. I had seen him around competitions but never had the chance to meet and hang out with him. Over the last few years, my work with Limited Edition had given me the chance to work with Ryan more, but being invited to his house was something I had dreamed about since the age of 14.
Day One: Thriller in Manila
It did not take long until Matt Lackey and I encountered our first hiccup of the trip. When we booked our flights, we were made aware that it took 25 minutes to get from Manila’s domestic airport to international departures. We figured we had plenty of time with two and half hours to spare between flights but as we began our approach into Manila, things started to go awry.
We were about 20 minutes away from landing when I looked out the window and noticed a distinct set of lights on the ground. The strange thing was that I thought I had seen the same lights earlier. Nervously, I turned to Matt and said, “I think I have seen those lights, I swear we are going around in big circles.”
Twenty minutes passed, and I noticed the same set of lights out of my window again. We were doing circles, and we should have landed more than an hour ago! By the time we landed and disembarked the plane, we had just 45 minutes until our next flight and we still had to make the journey to the international airport.
We quickly claimed our bags, rushed out the door, and hopped into the first taxi we could find. We had been in the taxi a few minutes when the driver revealed it was going to cost us US$45 for the trip. Matt lost it! “Are you kidding!” we yelled. Eventually, we were able to convince our driver to reduce the price, but we still needed to stop at an ATM for more cash. We made the plan that I would go to the ATM and get the money to pay the fare while Matt would rush all our luggage to the gate to check in.
We managed to make it through the check-in gate with just minutes to spare. After this eventful day of travel, I had been pushed to my limit, and I told Matt that if we had missed the flight then I would have broken down and cried. I was done! Travel has a funny way of pushing you further and further, sometimes to the point where you feel you cannot go on, but somehow you always manage to get through it. It is these times that push your comfort zone and really let you know what you are made of.
“Travel has a funny way of pushing you further and further, sometimes to the point where you feel you cannot go on, but somehow you always manage to get through it.”
After boarding our flight, we were finally on our way to Singapore and our final destination in Bali.
Day Two: No Sleep ’til Bali
I had never been to Bali, so there was a sense of excitement when we were arriving and flew past the Mount Raung volcano, which had caused so much disruption to flights the previous months.
The first thing we had to sort out after collecting baggage and clearing customs was cash. After trying the ATM six times, Matt was still unsuccessful in withdrawing cash and we could not figure out why. Instead, I grabbed some cash we got into the taxi that Ryan had organised for us. We arrived early and decided to get ourselves some scooters to serve as our island transport for the trip.
It took us a bit of time to get used to the bikes, but a few sweeping corners in, we were onto it. I was not sure what to expect when riding up to Canggu and seeing the waves for the first time. At first glance the waves weren’t very good, so instead we grabbed a table and ordered our first taste of Bali; Nasi Goreng. The waitress delivered our appetising meals, and Matt warned me of the perils of eating salads that could have been washed in tap water. He followed on with, “avoid getting drinks with ice in it too.” Having a limited time frame, we couldn’t afford to get sick.
After a feed, we went back to the surf where Matt found some little wedgy waves and I rattle off a few frames. Soon after we packed up and headed back to the house.
It took a little over half an hour for us to get home through the peak hour Balinese traffic where Ryan and his family were waiting. There were hugs and excitement as we exchanged greetings and caught up. The last 36 hours had been testing so we retired to our room for some much-needed rest. We’ve made plans to get up for the early in the morning, and the forecast was looking a little more promising tomorrow.
Day Three: Barrels, Buddies and Bintangs
With well-rested bodies, we were ready to go and make the commute to one of Ryan’s hidden gems. As much as Bali can be a dirty place, it’s refreshing to ride a scooter in the morning and feel the breeze. Ryan’s little spot didn’t produce, so we decided to continue to another shorebreak spot he found. As we arrived, we saw an empty lineup with two-foot waves crashing on the shore. It was easy to get excited for that as we hadn’t seen much else this morning.
Ryan opened the session with a smooth air-forward off a wedgey section, which triggering Matt to raise his arms with excitement. It is hard to comprehend sometimes that my job is to travel the world and film two bodyboarders who have been voted best in the world by their peers numerous times. The session continued with the two of them trading waves and having a ball.
“It is hard to comprehend sometimes that my job is to travel the world and film two bodyboarders who have been voted best in the world by their peers numerous times.”
When we got back to the house, it gave us the chance to get on the internet and catch up on our day-to-day routine. One of them would be calling home and hearing from loved ones. Matt would always talk to his wife Gabi and see how things were back home. That’s when he got a surprise. Gabi was to inform him that he didn’t have much money in his travel account. I heard Matt yell “WHAT!” from the room next door, and come storming out.
It appeared that on our first day in Bali when Matt tried six times to withdraw money, his account funds had been deducted, but he had not received any cash. That left a whopping AU$1500 missing! Since it was a mutual account, Gabi had to call the bank in the morning and see what was happening, but until then Matt was almost penny less. Nothing like a good money draining mishap to put a dampener on the trip!
But we shook off the bad vibes as we had found out that a good friend and renowned bodyboard shaper, Jarrod Gibson, was going to be dropping by, as he was in Bali for a wedding. He wasn’t aware that Matt and I were staying too, so we planned to surprise him by answering the door when he arrived. We heard the doorbell ring around twenty minutes later, and Matt and I opened the door screaming out “GIBBBBOOOO!” Not sure if he was confused or excited as he dropped his bags but had a big grin on his face.
We settled in for the night enjoying a couple of beverages and filling the air with endless conversation. We talked about old board shapes, waves around the world and some humorous tales of past trips. It turned out to be one of those amazing nights shared with good friends, and something I will always remember.
Day Four: Waves and tunes
The forecast was looking very similar to the previous day so, instead of going to Ryan’s hidden gem, we headed straight to the shore break we had surfed the day before. It was much the same as the previous day. It was easy to see that Jarrod was the last of us to fly in, as he was the first one suited up and in the water.
As the tide dropped, we decided to check out another option and head off on the hunt. We arrived to find crowded, cross-shore waves. Regardless we suited up and hit the water. It’s not long before Jarrod is dodging fiberglass spears as less experienced ocean goers tried to show their bravado with explosive maneuvers that were potentially past their skillset. Thankfully, Jarrod’s experience kept him out of harms way.
When we arrived back at Ryan’s house in one piece, we got news that (professional bodyboarder) Josh Garner was playing an acoustic show just down the way from the house on our last night. The forecast was looking the best of the trip for the following day but, after a busy day, a night out would give us a chance to unwind with some good food and enjoy the atmosphere before jetting out. Josh was playing soulful originals and some cult classics. It was a great environment to put your feet up and appreciate what was going on around you.
Day Five: The swell had arrived
In the morning, we gathered our gear for the last time and rode down to Canggu in convoy. The swell had increased to around four foot with some nice wedges coming through. This was the stuff that Ryan and Matt excelled in.
“The swell had increased to around four foot with some nice wedges coming through. This was the stuff that Ryan and Matt excelled in.”
Ryan, having grown up around Mandurah Wedge, where he was crowned the champion of this year’s ABA event held there, and Matt who has grown up surfing Gold Coast’s Duranbah where it wedges off the southern break wall creating one of the best beach breaks in Australia. Seeing conditions like this was surely a highlight, allowing the boys to perform some of their best surfing of the trip. It was a chance for the guys to surf and leave the water feeling satisfied with the waves and what I had captured on the camera.
With the waves turning onshore, we had a chance to cruise around and take in some of the sights. With a successful day in the salt and some fun cruising around, it was time to head back to the house and pack our things. We returned our scooters and had one last dip in the pool that overlooks the surrounding rice fields.
We said our last goodbyes and made our way back to the airport. It was a different kind of satisfaction than what we felt when leaving the Philippines. That was a more productive trip based on the waves. However, Bali was a trip that was more based around the relationships of two hugely successful bodyboarders and capturing their life through lifestyle and experiences.
Boarding the plane, I feel happiness in knowing that with travel, you never know what is around the corner, and sometimes you just need to roll with the punches and live life!
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