Canggu. It’s the kind of place where there’s always an open spot for your surfboard on one of the many racks dotting the open-air, seaside warungs. Sure, the board may get crapped on by a few geckos posted in the awning of shady palms above, but it will still be there – despite the transient mass of surfers zipping in and out on their death scooters.
I call them death scooters only because every time I’m on one I feel like I’m about to die – or someone or thing within eyeshot has a much higher likelihood of being harmed. The locals had a good laugh at me as I tried to figure out where the electric starter was while juggling my surfboard and throttle with a look of self-destructive terror on my face. I bobbled slowly into a fence post; it just wasn’t working.
Canggu is also the only place I’ve ever seen a dead dog laying on the beach. The sight in itself was repulsive, but what made it even more gagging was the fact that the dog was inside of a bag. I’m not sure what that means or says about life here– but, it happened, and was in stark contrast to everything else the place has revealed to me.
Depending on the tide, a variety of waves expand and contract down the beach. A rock reef left here, a sandbar wedge there, a peeling river mouth right over there. The diversity of waves on offer in such a short distance is jarring, and its place at the epicenter of performance surfing makes all the more sense – especially considering its rapid development in recent years.
“A lot of expats and Europeans have moved to Canggu,” says Rizal Tanjung, “but it’s good because they give more jobs to local people.” Betet Merta went as far as to say that the influx of Europeans makes Canggu not even feel like Bali anymore.
“None of this stuff was here just six years ago,” says Made, a 20-year-old local surfer and member of the Canggu Surf Community as he points to the tables of tourists enjoying oceanfront meals. “It was all trees and rock. Now it’s good the guests come, and we meet people from around the world and can make money, but I liked it the way it was, too.”
But Bali hasn’t left Canggu; the Balinese spirit shines brightly in the face of tourism’s dulling effects. As a small example, each day locals place small paper boxes carefully filled with flowers, food, and ornaments in front of their doorsteps, shops, and sidewalks as an offering to the Gods. Each day those gifts remain there, untaken. But morning after morning, new baskets appear, and although it may seem ineffective, the generous act is anything but. These small gestures of goodwill and trust will always be received, no matter the recipient, but can never be taken away.
Look for more updates from Bali as SURFER reports live from the mecca of high-performance surfing.