Now here's some good news; Bali could be about to open its borders to foreigners next month. Sure, it's as the swell season is winding down, but those hungry for a trip may be able to catch the last few rifling sessions before it all goes kaput.
In the past, travelling surfers needed a string of negative PCR tests to get in to Indo and for onwards travel. Given that surf tourism is a large part of the archipelagoes's financial makeup, it's no surprise that businesses have been hurt in the wake of the pandemic.
However, if you were already over there, you might have just enjoyed some of the most pristine and quiet conditions that this little slice of bliss can huck your way – probably the quietest it's been since Indo was first uncovered by the travel-bound surf hound. Take Luke Cromwell, (aka @photobossbali) for example, the Welshman has been sending it in Bali for the past decade, working as a boat skipper and recently turned his hand to surf photography.
Of course, Indo's far and away contrasted to his home break around the rolling hills of Pembrokeshire, (that's a county on the most western part of Wales) and his images have been stacking up double taps for months now. So we decided to check in with Luke to discuss a Welshman's life abroad, COVID impact, favourite waves and more.
Hey Luke, tell us a bit about yourself?
Luke Cromwell, 36 years old from a small fishing village called Tenby in South Wales. Grew up surfing around the coast of Pembrokeshire and competing in the grom contests around the UK.
Working within the fishing industry mainly on local boats but also doing seasons in Scotland on the large Crab Vessels, I also did a few winter seasons in the North sea to help fund my surf travel adventures.
How'd a Welshman end up full time in Indo?
First trip to Bali was in 1998 with the British surf team. Moved to Indonesia full time in 2011 when I was offered to Skipper a surf charter vessel called Tengirri. During the 10 years here, I have worked mainly in the Charter Boat industry Sailing right the way through Sumatra in the west all the way to Papua in the east.
Highlights of that period were getting to work alongside some of the older iconic characters like Tony 'Doris' Etherington but also exploring the most remote parts of the spice islands with Alan Green on the infamous Indies Trader 4.
How did you get into surf photography?
Bought my Camera gear in 2017 after my boss on Tengirri suggested it to make some extra funds during my down time. Didn't really start taking it seriously until COVID hit and now I'm lucky enough to be out shooting surf most days and currently working on a project for the action camera company insta360.
Experimenting with these new 360 cameras has been a lot of fun and i'm very grateful for the opportunity to keep working on my photography career.
For the travelling Welshman or woman, heading over there – what would be your advice?
For a holiday, yes do it, Indonesia is an endless adventure blessed with an amazing culture and some very friendly people. For a long term perspective, let's just say it's not for the faint-hearted, it's not all rainbows and butterflies as the instagram world may portray. If you are considering it give us a shout for any info, always happy to help out.
How’s it been with the COVID restrictions?
Yeah, COVID restrictions have been tough for everyone. Lots of expats and travellers have had to leave the country but it's the locals that have really suffered. With the huge collapse in the tourism industry many local families have been hit hard financially.
COVID has hit Indo hard in terms of surf tourism, what’s the vibe over there like right now – do locals and resorts want people to come over?
The vibe wasn't very good when COVID first hit but things have changed. The locals want the travel restrictions removed and are very welcoming to any new travelers. If you have a trip to Indonesia planned then go ahead and get out here when the Travel restrictions are relaxed.
Tell us about your time over there, how have you found it connecting to surfers? And any shots you’ve taken that have been a standout?
My time here has been a non-stop adventure but full of ups and downs. The photography mixed with running the surf charters has put me into a tight community of solid characters, they all know who they are and very grateful to have support from them.
I love shooting in the water but it's always hard to beat a pulled back lineup shot.
So you've been out there for a while, 10 years or so, any plans to return to the motherland?
Plan to stay here in Bali long term, I live on the Bukit peninsula with My lovely girl Eka. She looks after business and we got a nice little setup.
Would love to travel back to the UK more often and really miss the family and friends back in Wales. Such a good community at home, really miss the banter and good vibes from all the local crew.
For those considering the mission are there any essential travel items you’d suggest for people to take?
Just the usual Indo travel essentials. Nothing has really changed with COVID. Travel light to Bali and get your supplies here. (First Aid kit is always in my bag. Good antibiotics and antiseptic to clean them reef wounds)
Lots of problems with card scams at the ATMs, good to have spare credit cards or one of the for emergency (Only use the good ATMs inside the banks). Good travel insurance and international driving licence.
Waves! What’s your favourite to shoot in Indo?
Padang Padang is a real Jewel in the crown but the crowds of photographers spoil it for me. I like to shoot anywhere it's barreling, sunrise and sunset. Usually somewhere off the beaten track.
Any surfer that’s in the lineup who inspires you?
I love working with crew from home, always good to catch up with the British lads. On a local scale I shoot a lot with Darmaputratonjo and the crew from Padma beach, always good vibes with them.
So many rad photographers, I really like the work from Leroy Bellet, his work is next level. The past year I've been lucky enough to do a lot of time travelling with Mikala Jones, His POV work has definitely been an inspiration and I love his low key under the radar style.
Nate Lawrence and Jason Reposar have to be up there with my biggest inspirations here in Indonesia. Both cool guys and I love their creative styles alongside thier no ego attitude, Really great guys.
Surfing and shooting are two different things, how did you figure out where to sit in the lineup?
Still haven't worked this out, guess it's just a bit of luck and tons of time spent in the Ocean.
Love to say a big thank you to the family and friends at home that have helped support us with the photography over the past year or two. Diolch yn fawr Cymru am byth (That's; 'Thank you very much. Wales forever' FYI)