Until Zye Norris dropped into the wave of the day, as depicted in the image above, most of the morning had passed without too much drama. The sun had risen over the Wallace line as it had for millennia and the exodus to Bali’s best right breaking wave had been orderly and hopeful from all points of the compass.
Cars and scooters all found their favourite spots to rest and the morning was inviting and full of those sounds that put a catch in a surfer’s throat. The hiss and crash of unseen conditions, the ticking of an engine cooling down, the scraping of wax across a deck, the whomp of car doors being shut, of early bird surfers trotting down to the water’s edge, leashes clacking, sleep still in their eyes.
Saturday night’s parties and subsequent disasters were wearing off and that glorious feeling of shedding all responsibilities began to compete with the warmth of the rising sun.
The line-up was at capacity by 8am. The heavy cats on the outside, like boxers, finding their opponent's range. The jackals slightly inside, seeking opportunity with whipcord instincts, looking for any weakness from anyone taking off further out. A tube too deep, a faltered bottom turn, any misstep that would allow a them to spin and turn and go. And at the end bowl, the beginners, with all that is Holy somehow protecting them as they crashed over the falls time and time again into the jagged shallows. The inside scene would make anyone believe in angels.
Now it wasn’t that Zye’s wave looked any different coming in from the horizon; it was the way it was surfed that lit the fuse. Colour coordinated in all black, riding his jet black surfboard, his drop was all Canggu, smooth, knees knocked, alternative hair flying. A single mid-face turn. A kick stall, a collapsed crouch and it was 1975 at Off-the-wall all over again.
The rest of the line-up could feel it, things had changed, paddling became more confident, faster, more alert, the hunt was on. The tube threw its curve ball and Zye fit himself inside neatly. A perfect line announcing the arrival of a perfect offshore wind, on a perfect day at Keramas. The rest of the line-up could feel it, things had changed, paddling became more confident, faster, more alert, the hunt was on. Even pushing through a lip on the way out became part of things, the spray from the wave raining down on backs as unblinking eyes scanned through the downfall for the next wave.
About this time Lee Wilson ambled down the beach, practically a co-owner of the break. No one surfs it better. No one. And everyone knows it. His arrival marking the day as real. Lee took his time to pause on the beach with wife and kid.
The pro surfing dream. Stunning wife in the morning light, perfect child already searching for high tide treasure. Timing it perfectly, he attaches his leash and pops in and paddles out from the north in twenty quick strokes. Clever. Knowing. He takes his place in the saddle with a few nods and smiles to the Sanur locals, also co-owners of the place. It is already a given that Lee’s surfing will be the best of the day.
Things really heat up when another Father shows. Rizal and his royal family spread out on the best poolside lounges that Hotel Komune could offer. Rizal paddling out in that lazy yet intimidating way of his with his son Varun, a glow around them both.
And then…something very odd. Some goofy looking fella, misplaced, strolling down the beach from the God’s know where with a skimboard under his arm. All perfectly harmless…until he dashes down the slope and belly skims into the shorebreak, making his way out into the main line-up. Sensing the weirdness, the difference of this guy, the ranks close.
The crazy guy takes off anyway, somehow, and drops in on his skimboard, standing up. The guy knows what he is doing, but his biggest problem isn’t the shock of the crowd at his abilities, it is the two local surfers he drops in on. Brad Domke, skimboarder, is in a fix…until Rizal Tandjung paddles over to throw oil on the water. He and Brad take off on the same wave sometime later, just to prove a fun point, actually joining hands to seal the deal. Tensions ease and the session continues. Brad is not seen on another wave.
But late comers Kiron Jabour and Billy Kemper are. Helping Lee Wilson set the place ablaze. Lempog and the local crew, now inspired, get to real work, kick in with their best and head for the sky wave after wave.
And so Keramas bears the weight of our best surfers and some of our looniest visitors. It is the way of our world. As if the waves themselves know that the day will be a great day as long as great surfers keep showing up.
Zye Norris tucks in. Pic: Pete Frieden