Ticking off the bucket list in Canggu
It’s 6.00 am. I haven’t woken up this early in such a long time that I can barely remember how to turn off the alarm that’s now blaring at me. I’m suddenly thrust back into an old world of getting to bed on time, of showering to wake yourself up, and of fumbling around in the morning darkness to avoid waking the sleeping family sprawled out all around me. Turning the alarm off before the entire family wakes up feels like a massive victory at this point, but I succeed. Still got it.
Whilst getting up this early is reminiscent of my old 9-5 life, everything else about this morning is entirely different. I’m leaving my glasses and wallet behind. I’m going full commando, freeballing it all the way. And I’m even leaving behind that one device that we bring everywhere with us, and that we feel irrationally lost without. That's right, no iphones allowed today, for today I finally tick off something from my list of things to do before I die. Today I learn to surf.
One of the best places to do this, I’m told, is Bali. And one of the best places in Bali is Canggu. And the best place to stay in Canggu, is undoubtedly this place. Hotel Tugu is not a new hotel. In fact, it was the first hotel to open in Canggu some 20 years ago, before the area became the ultra-hip surfer paradise that it is today. And this maturity translates into an exceptionally well run and wonderfully cultured stay. Not to disparage the neighbouring hotels too much, but you only have to walk past these other options to realise the unique style Tugu has adhered to, with its blend of dark wooden furniture and Balinese artwork balancing perfectly with its modern luxury hotel aesthetic. The white plastered walls and huge World Cup billboards of the hotel next door help exaggerate Hotel Tugu’s desire to not just be a hotel in Bali, but to have Bali exemplified throughout the hotel.
Having called hotel reception the day before to pre-order my dawn breakfast, I’m both amazed and a little sheepish at the hotel’s willingness to open the kitchen early just for me, but I gratefully accept. If there’s one thing I’ve come to expect from Bali by this point, it’s a strong breakfast performance, and this lives up to the reputation. But even more memorable than the food was the build up this breakfast was creating ahead of this very special morning. Eating alone, surrounded only by the waking birds and their songs, I wasn’t even able to hide behind my smartphone like most of us usually do when we’re eating alone. As unoriginal as it is to lament the way smartphones have made us less capable human beings, this breakfast was a welcomed reminder that as uncomfortable as it is to sit alone without a phone at first, it is as equally inspiring, as equally eye-opening and as equally freeing to be left alone with a couple of poached eggs, a good coffee and just your thoughts in the morning. This was how my day started, and it was the perfect preparation before heading out into the ocean to surf.
Hotel Tugu is a five minute stroll to Pantai Batu Bolong beach, where I meet Dennis, my surf guru for the day. Dennis is about 5’9”, long black hair, and deep, dark brown skin from a life spent in the waves. He whips off his top to change into a wetsuit, revealing a perfectly honed surfers body; chiseled, toned and tanned. “You, shirt change,” Dennis says, with a bluntness only Indonesian people can pull off without sounding cruel. I clumsily take my top off to reveal the perfectly honed dad bod, half blind from having to leave my glasses behind and slightly too full from what is now feeling like a ridiculous decision to order eggs benedict for breakfast. Don’t worry, I tell myself, I’ll impress Dennis with some high quality surf chat instead. “Is that to help the surfboard glide over the water smoothly?” I ask Dennis, as he rubs wax all over his board. “No, this is the side you stand on - wax helps your feet stick to board,” Dennis replies. Ah. Nevermind then.
In a matter of moments we’re both on the beach, the drizzle now starting to gather momentum, and Dennis drawing in the sand with his finger to illustrate the kind of waves we’re going to find in the water. We practice that quintessential move over and over, from lying flat on the board with your arms poised either side, to springing up to your feet, knees bent and arms angled in true surfer style. After my wobbly start earlier, Dennis seems slightly more impressed with my moves, and suggests we make our way to the sea. Either that, or he has written me off completely at this stage and no longer cares. Either way, the theory part of this day is over, and now we’re 100% in the ocean.
This is the moment I’ve been waiting for all my life. I’ve literally never stepped onto a surfboard before, but I’ve always wanted to try it. For some reason I’ve always had this suspicion that it would come naturally to me, but since becoming a father I’m also irrationally worried about anything that has the potential to kill me and leave my family to fend for themselves in a dank, fatherless world. So it’s with a healthy mix of excitement, confidence and terror that I find myself furiously paddling at Dennis’ instruction, waiting for him to shout the command for me to pop up on the board as the impending wave builds behind me. I feel the wave gather momentum underneath, I hear Dennis’ command, I try and remember the moves from the beach, and suddenly, miraculously, I’m standing atop this man made thing and riding across the top of the water for what feels like an eternity. Surely something’s not right here, it shouldn’t be this easy, and I’m still going! The wave seems to build in power instead of slowing, and so I just carry on riding it, with what I imagine is a huge grin spread across my face. When I finally paddle back to Dennis after this virgin flight, he’s grinning too, and he’s doing that thing surfers do with their thumb and little finger (which I later learn translates as “hang loose bruh”). He whacks me on the back in a fatherlike, approving manner, and then says, “Now we find even bigger waves”, before paddling further out to sea. I chase after him as I catch myself thinking, this is every bit as brilliant as I hoped surfing would be, and I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to try it.
When I finally make it back to the hotel I can barely feel my arms, but I’m elated at the experience. And as much as I know this will hurt for the rest of the week, I have learnt something new, something I’ve wanted to do all my life, and it has been more than worth it. On the way back to my room I stop off at reception to book a massage, in the hopes that they have some kind of magical cure for being an unhealthy, unfit bastard. And whilst it turns out they don’t, the Balinese massage they do offer is probably the next best thing. I think I could get used to this surfing thing.
Hotel Tugu Bali has kindly offered our readers a 10% off their best available rate with a complimentary 1-hour massage in their award winning spa when you book a room by mentioning this code: IPYAP.