Over the past 30-plus years, a world of travelers, back-packers, upscale resort escapists and thousands of surfers have cruised the jam-packed streets, bars and cafes of Bali’s international surf/resort town of Kuta (and adjoining Legian town) for food, drink and evening fun. But with this weekend’s bombing of the Sari Club outdoor bar, (over 185 people dead as of Sunday night’s count and hundreds injured or missing) our world is once again a different place. For the first time the jackals of terrorism have taken direct aim at one of surfing’s most popular points of relaxation and good times.
It was as any Saturday night would be on Jalan Legian, the main drag through the heart of Kuta. This is the community that the sport of surfing built, more so than Huntington Beach or Haleiwa or Jeffrey’s Bay or even Byron Bay. Since it’s creation in the early eighties, the Sari Club has been the most well known meeting place for every surfer hanging in Bali. The beer garden-like bar is sandwiched in the heart of Kuta’s oldest shopping/eating zone and has seen almost every surfer stop in for a drink or as a meeting point for friends around dinner time.
Before there was the Tubes Bar or Kuta Square, TJ’s or Studebaker’s, even before there was a Hard Rock Cafe or Aromas – and light years before the modern malls and outlying shopping centers, there was the Sari Club. The nightclub was an oasis watering hole with that bright “SC” neon lit sign that could be seen blocks away down the car choked boulevard. You knew where to find a friend or get a cold beer and you didn’t need to explain to anyone where to meet you, you just said, “We’ll see you at the Sari Club later…” and that was that. Everyone knew the Sari Club.
Mid-October is getting late in the surf season for Bali, that the bomb blast was not “set” for earlier in the evening when so many stop by for a drink ( rather than later), and that the Sari Club was so over-filled with Aussie rugby players and their friends, that at this hour there has been no report of dead or injured surfers, male or female, in the Sari Club attack. But, with only a few names released to the public as of this writing, there is a strong chance that our sport will hear of friends either on the death roll or injured lists to be released in the near future. After all, this strip of surf-town Kuta was where most gathered for a late night Bintang beer and to talk over surf strategy for next morning’s dawn patrol. The Sari Club was where you checked in with others before the land journey on to Java’s G-land camp.
The broad stroke of cowardly terrorism has directly tainted our lifestyle. There’s no longer a way to avoid it, turn your back to it or pretend that the menace won’t be lurking in the shadows or locked away in the trunk of a car parked on the street as you walk by. The radical Muslim cause seemed to be focused strictly and specifically on Americans. Now however, we all must stand guard. Brazilians, French, Kiwis, and on this day sadly, Australians are targets. Surfers from every continent will have to re-evaluate their travel strategy. This time it was a beer garden in Kuta. Where is next?