At least five tourists died in rough waters while surfing in Bali in early January.
The rainy season has brought high winds. They, combined with large swells from the south Indian Ocean, caused large waves to break on the south coast of Bali. On Jan. 8, eight surf tourists died in the surf.
My Aussie friend Greg, who is an ex-pro big-wave surfer, could not get to the victims in time. A word of caution: only very experienced big-wave surfers should be out in these conditions.
Tourist surfers routinely come to Bali seeking the perfect wave. They buy a board from a surf shop and head for sea. As with most things in life, the danger lies in the lack of experience. A less-than-robust leg-wrap is the usual suspect.
Big-wave surfers lengthen and beef-up the leg-wraps on their over-sized big-wave boards to ensure that they never get separated in adverse conditions.
Surf tourists often launch on a board too small for the wave conditions with store-bought leg-wraps. The $10 leg wrap snaps, leaving the surfer at the mercy of an 8-knot current. The day the drownings, Greg and his Hawaiian surf-buddy Kiki launched from the pier at the five-star Nicho Hotel. Two guest were swept off the pier behind them; their bodies were washed up a few miles down the beach.
In less than 24 hours, Greg witnessed five drownings, none of which he could intervene with. Others perished on that day and subsequent days, but the numbers and details are not confirmed. We expect the usual cover up on these stories. No press, no police reports.
Lost surfers is a regular occurrence in January and February. Inexperience surfers, mostly Europeans, especially Russians, come under-skilled and ill-equipped. They are arrogant until the leg wrap snaps and they are left swimming in the surf. It only takes seconds from them to disappear.