So, this is Christmas.

I’m sitting on a beautiful, carved-wooded seat on the porch outside my bungalow, looking at verdant, green gardens and listening to an assortment of tropical birds.  In my hand, a cold Bintang.  In my mind?  This morning’s amazing surf.

It’s hard to believe it’s Christmas Eve.

We arrived at the Chillhouse – Bali Surfer’s Retreat two days ago.  We were picked up after a short wait at the airport and driven through the madness of Balinese traffic for about an hour before arriving here.   I think it might be hard to understate the absolute pandemonium on the roads in Bali.  Never in my previous travels have I seen quite so much going on at once.  In fact, the trip felt more like being transported down a river full of fish than driving. With motorbikes zooming on either side of you into oncoming traffic, families of up to 5 people jammed onto a bike, and massive crates of eggs somehow coasting through the madness on the back of a scooter, unscathed, it was wild.  At intersections, critical mass (and mass in general) ruled the day – the flow dictated, in turns, by the number and size of vehicles attempting to travel in a given direction more than any sort of logical progression.  The result, was a surprisingly peaceful ride where one simply accepts the status quo, suspends judgment, and trusts the driver’s survival instincts.

So, now, here I am sweating profusely, but hardly complaining.  In 45 minutes I have a yoga class with an adorable little man named, Wayan.  Yesterday’s class was nearly full, with 4 expat Brits living in Sydney, Rick and me, a German couple, some Australian’s on their honeymoon, and two German girls.  It was a bit of an oddball group, and the yoga was a somewhat bland mix of beginner-friendly poses and more challenging stuff, but I was so thrilled to have the breeze blowing over me and Rick behind me grunting with effort, that it made it all worthwhile.  Hell yeah.  Yoga in Bali.

My joy in the yoga class was perhaps magnified by the fact that I was anxious to move around a bit.  The whole day was spent with our kind driver traversing the various sites of Bali in a 7-person van.  Rick and I banded with a group of 4 British/French types and visited Ubud’s Sacred Monkey Forest, as well as the volcanoes of the Northeast,  near Kintamani, and a beautiful Balinese temple where we paid a small donation, and were wrapped in gorgeous silk sarongs and directed to explore.  It was a day of so many sights that I could hardly take it all in.  Bali is a beautiful place.

Today, we headed to Canguu beach for a surf session aiming to get a read on our surfing abilities.  I have to admit that when we arrived and everyone looked out at the surf, it looked pretty large to me.  I was a bit nervous watching the thick, towering sets come in, but in trying to avoid sounding like a wimp I agreed that, yes, it did look like a perfect spot for all of us to get our feet wet.

We paddled out, avoiding the nasty shore break, past about 3 spots of breaking waves, until we were well off the shore.  There, our guide Nova chatted a bit with Rick and I, but mostly eyed the incoming sets, keen to get us on some waves.  The surf in Bali can appear quite calm, but there are unexpectedly strong sets that just emerge out of the sea.  Just the day before, a person had disappeared in to the ocean at the beach we were surfing, and not returned.  Surf boats were patrolling the area as we surfed. (Thankfully I learned this AFTER surfing.)

Anyway, we watched some big waves roll in and eventually, Nova told me to paddle for the next incoming wave.  I did, and I caught it.  It was bigger than anything I’d ever surfed before and as I dropped about 2 feet from the lip onto the wave I realized this fact.  Nearly straight-legged from the simple shock of standing on such a large wave, I tumbled quickly into the whitewater below me.  It was less powerful than I anticipated, which was heartening.

Knowing the sensations after my first tumble, I felt a bit better going for the next few.  We saw a set coming in and Nova nodded for me to paddle. As I paddled I heard him yell, “MORE! BIG WAVE!” Which of course made me want to immediately stop, so I tried to look back and say that I didn’t WANT a big wave, but I was too late.   There I was at its break and I apparently I wasn’t getting the job done because as I felt the wave rise beneath me, I got a strong push from behind and heard him shout, “UP!!!”  So, being the good-direction follower that I am, I did just that.  I popped up on what was undoubtedly the largest wave I have ever ridden.  And, it was UNbelievable.  Steep at first, fast, but patient under me,  I rode it almost to the beach, where finally I got swallowed up in the whitewater. Emerging from my tumble, all I could do was laugh and shout.  It was an amazing wave!  And I rode it!  And I nailed it.

Then, then I looked back, and realized just how far I had come, and how weakened my arms felt from the post-wave adrenaline giddiness. I turned my board around and began the slog back out.   And that was the beginning of me getting wrecked by my surf session.  I caught 4-5 more waves, and managed to ride them pretty well though they all broke left and I had to ride them with my back to them, which was weird after all of Australia’s right breaks.

I was an amazing session.

We came back to the house, had a quick lunch, and then I got my first (of many) full-body massages in Bali.  Also amazing.

I can’t really even begin to state how much fun this place is.  Each day I have a surf, then yoga, and various other trips or classes planned.    I am especially excited for my cooking class later this week.

I have had a lot on my mind recently, but it’s easily erased here.   Thank the sweet Balinese waves for that.

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