Padang Padang’s Surfing Heritage

Padang Padang’s Surfing Heritage

Two fisherman on a rock at Sunset in Padang PadangTwo fisherman on a rock at Sunset in Padang Padang

The following is a brief introduction to the cultural, historical and economic significance of the world-renowned surf spot at Padang Padang, Bali, and the annual Rip Curl Cup surfing event held there in partnership with the local community.

Image of a barreling wave in Padang Padnag, IndonesiaImage of a barreling wave in Padang Padnag, Indonesia

The Wave
The wave at Padang Padang is a remarkable natural phenomenon, providing one of the most perfect and thrilling experiences in surfing. One can think of Padang Padang as surfing’s equivalent to such natural wonders such as the Grand Canyon, the Great Barrier Reef or Mount Everest.

The surf spot is located just offshore of Pantai Padang Padang and is widely regarded as one of the Top 5 surfing locations in the world. Among all of Bali’s treasured surf spots, Padang Padang is truly the crown gem, drawing thousands of surfers and surfing fans from around the world every year to experience its mythical waves.

Monkey sitting on a fence infront of Padang Padang surf breakMonkey sitting on a fence infront of Padang Padang surf break

Padang = Natural Resource
The wave at Padang is an important natural resource. Like Bali’s beautiful beaches and unique culture, the surf spot at Padang is also an economic engine for the local economy. The same way that the beauty and unmatched snow of the Swiss Alps draws ski tourists to visit its alpine slopes, so does the wave at Padang draw surfing tourists from around the globe.

Furthermore, while the experts-only wave at Padang only breaks on a handful of the biggest days of surf in the dry season (April – Oct), there is a second wave, across the deep-water channel, that provides surfing opportunities for beginner and intermediate surfers on most days of the year. Known as “Baby Padang,” this wave is one of the best beginner surf spots in Bali. Several locally-owned surf schools operate at Baby Padang.

When the premier wave at Padang Padang comes alive, the water is filled with all the best surfers in Bali, along with numerous top international professionals, putting on world-class performances. The beach at Padang, meanwhile, is famous for its golden sands, beautiful beachgoers and vantage points of the action in the water. All these elements combine to make Padang the ultimate surf contest site, and the choice location of the Rip Curl Cup Invitational.

Rip Curl cup Padang Padang trophyRip Curl cup Padang Padang trophy

Rip Curl Cup at Padang
For the past 20 years, Padang Padang has been the site of the Rip Curl Cup Invitational, Indonesia’s longest-running and most prestigious international surfing competition. The Rip Curl Cup at Padang is the only World Surf League event that features top international surfers competing alongside Indonesia’s best.

The inaugural event was held in 2004, and in 2007 international surfers were invited to compete as well, providing an international stage for Indonesian surfers to test themselves against the world’s best. World-class professionals such as future world champion John Florence (Hawaii) jumped at the opportunity to compete in the prestigious event and surf Padang with just one other surfer out. The following year, the Rip Curl Cup was held as the trials for the 2008 Rip Curl Search World Championship Tour event.

A person taking a photo of the sunset at Padang Padang on an iphoneA person taking a photo of the sunset at Padang Padang on an iphone

Rip Curl Cup 2023
2023 marks the 20-year anniversary of the Rip Curl Cup Invitational. The event will be broadcast live to the entire surfing world, showcasing Indonesian athletes and Indonesia’s world-class waves. The waiting period for the perfect day of waves will be the full month of August.

Local Balinese surfers continue to perform well and reach the final rounds of competition. The last time an Indonesian surfer won the title was in 2016, when local Bukit surfer Mega Semadhi won his second Rip Curl Cup trophy, to the delight of the entire village gathered on the beach and cliffs cheering. During the awards podium ceremony, the crowd sang a spirited rendition of the Indonesian national anthem, led by Mega’s proud mother who joined her son on stage.

Through the live online broadcast, combined with online and social media coverage, viewership of the Rip Curl Cup by surfing fans around the globe is in the millions. The event is covered by leading international surfing and sporting media, as well as national Indonesian media such as Jakarta Post and Trans7 TV.

Impact on Local Economy

  • The Rip Curl Cup at Padang creates a boon for the local Uluwatu economy at multiple levels:
  • The event provides jobs for local people working as security, stage crew, broadcast crew, etc.
  • The local Padang lifeguards are hired for water patrol and water safety
  • Rip Curl hires the local Balinese dance troupe to perform a traditional Balinese Kecak Dance for the event opening ceremony
  • Rip Curl hires the local Gamelan orchestra to perform at the awards ceremony after the contest
  • The event brings a high volume of visitors to the beach during the month of August, increasing sales for the local warungs, salespeople and vendors on the beach
  • Rip Curl donates event merchandise to all the local warung owners and beach vendors

Preserving Padang Padang
In the Balinese language, Padang Padang means “green grass.” In an effort to preserve the natural beauty of this special place, Rip Curl takes manifold steps to ensure the annual event leaves the beach, cliffs and the surrounding hills as green as the day they were named:

  • Recycling and trash bins are placed throughout the premises to make it easy for everyone to dispose of their waste properly
  • Organic, chemical-free portable toilets are also on site and available for the many fans attending.
  • Rip Curl works with the local Desa to organize beach cleanups at Padang Padang beach and the cliff top.

Cultural Heritage
Since ancient times, Padang Padang has been an important place for the people of the Bukit Peninsula because of the unique natural anchorage there. The original name of the beach is Labuan Sait, which means “small harbor” in Balinese. For as long as anyone can remember, fishermen have used the deep-water channel at Labuan Sait to anchor their small, paddle-powered fishing boats and access the shore along the normally rocky and wave swept Bukit Peninsula. Even today, you can still see a few of these traditional fishing boats tied up on the beach at Padang near the lifeguard tower.

Image of a Balinese temple in Padang Padang, IndonesiaImage of a Balinese temple in Padang Padang, Indonesia

The Temple
Labuan Sait is a mystical, sacred place for the local Balinese. For generations, the people of Pecatu have performed the annual Hindu ceremony of Melasti at Labuan Sait beach. The Balinese celebrate Melasti to cleanse themselves of any bad spirits by making a procession from the village to the sea. When Pecatu village celebrates Melasti, you will see nearly 1,000 people marching for 7 km along the road. At the head of the procession is a statue of their deity held high, which the people follow all the way to the Pura Dalem Pengeleburan temple overlooking the beach at Padang, and eventually down to the sand at Labuan Sait to perform the cleansing ceremony.

Split Image of the cliffs in Padang Padang, IndonesiaSplit Image of the cliffs in Padang Padang, Indonesia

The Cliff
The cliff front directly above the wave provides the best view of the action. On a good day of waves at Padang, the cliff will be enjoyed by many visitors. When a set of big waves appears on the horizon marching toward the reef, you can hear the cheers from the cliff all the way down on the sandy beach.

The world-renowned wave at Padang Padang and the heritage of the Rip Curl Cup Invitational represent valuable resources for Uluwatu, Bali. They serve both as points of unique cultural pride, natural beauty and economic value for the local Bukit community.

Rip Curl is committed to continuing the rich tradition of the Rip Curl Cup Invitational and doing so in a way that preserves a synergistic cooperation with the various local stakeholders – local surfers, warung owners, beach vendors, and the village Desa – at Padang Padang. Through this unique and storied event, Rip Curl Cup hopes to continue to give back to the local Uluwatu community in the future and act as a responsible steward for the natural wonder that is Padang Padang.