A Girl’s Guide to Bali Line-ups

It’s not just about bikini sizes–this is next level.

Words: Mariah Ernst / Photos: Margarita + Rip Curl

Bali’s line-ups are among the most crowded in the world. Everything from packed speedos to discarded noodle packages clog the waves. As easy as it is for a girl to get a drink at a bar in Kuta, it’s often not so easy to get waves. Luckily, ladies have myriad and sundry manipulations at their disposal to increase their wave count at every session. There is a passive aggressive and even aggressive aggressive tactic for most any situation and set-up to get More Than One’s Fair Share of Waves. The goal here is not Most Waves or All The Best Waves, just a high ratio based on your position in the pecking order. It’s not just about bikini sizes- this is next level.

The first order of business is to establish a presence at your home break. The Girl Who Always Surfs the Ledge at Brawa or That Chick Who is Always Out at Skatepark. All you have to do is show up. I personally have deferred to a tiny Japanese charger in an intimidating Disney rashie and a buckled bucket hat just because she is always on the same exact fucking wave in front of Anantara. It’s kind of hers. So pick a spot, any spot, be yourself and eventually the local boys will start calling you in and seasonal expats and Balinese alike will defend you when people drop in (especially if you express or even feign a bit of hurt- pro soccer players do it and so can you).

Unfortunately, on Bali the same group of chill people doesn’t show up every day. If you regularly shred places like Uluwatu, Canggu and Bingin you can enforce your God Given and Lovingly Sculpted Right to waves via pouting, name calling, dirty looks, splashing water, giggling adorably, playing nice, playing tough, playing dirty, lazy bikinis, chatting up people and of course generally shredding the gnar. On 2-4 foot days, whatever manipulation the occasion calls for, do it. On 6+ foot days, oftentimes dudes will call you in just to see a chick try to get barreled or eat shit. No matter what you’re apt to do, paddle and go.

The crucial move in crowded situations is to appeal to men’s sympathetic side. It’s not hard to do. If you paddle into one and someone drops in, make sure when you paddle back out you make a big fat cute pouty face to the offender and throw in a pretend cry with shoulder shake to anyone else that’s looking. Splash a few times to make sure your pantomime has registered. And do one of those sexy cute cry faces, not an ugly cry face. Unless you can do a properly funny ugly cry face, then you get extra points for being hilarious and cute and offended. Then paddle back to the upper middle of the pack and claim your rightful prize, the next set wave. Pretend-splash the offender- he is officially branded as an ass who drops in on chicks. Woe to the celibate loser who tries it next. However, if you’re out at one of those weird days at Canggu Right with a pack of 30 pure-bred heartless fat hairy cro-magnons (pre-neanderthal types) then you’re kind of fucked. I’ve never had any luck. I paddle in. You are on your own at this point.

Now, traveling away from your usual spots is a different matter. It takes a little bit more fallopian. Ladies, I know we were all brought up to play nice, play down our strengths and talk about our fat asses, but now is not the time. Paddle out, paddle up the point, go for the first available wave, go for another, and even if you go over the fall, make sure everyone out knows you are going to GO. I’ve had sessions where I’m not feeling it and people are paddle checking and snaking me left right center. I’ve also had the vibe going where I paddle firmly and with purpose and I am left to my own devices. Now, the way co-ed surf pecking order goes is this- your femme status is higher than any bro who is only slightly better or of similar or inferior surfing ability. These people you can snake freely. Others you can snake with impunity only if you’re super nice, super cute and or super manipulative.

I like to fluff about and get amongst it, then if I’m in a good position I’ll yell out, “My turn!!!!” and start digging very very seriously. It’s about 65% joke but people react to it for one reason or another. Another one that works is to wiggle right in front of someone, paddle block them and go. They’d have to effectively paddle into your shoulder blades to get the wave and they get a view of your bum in the process. It doesn’t really matter what you’re wearing contrary to popular belief. And as always with bad behavior, paddle back out and giggle and say sorry and then laugh good-naturedly in someone’s face if they do anything besides smile and shrug back.

A few other tactics I’ve noticed along the way is to paddle straight to the peak, turn around and magnanimously give away the first few waves like Mother Teresa in a g-string, and then take your pick of incoming set waves. Also, I knew someone who had a Balinese uncle at Bingin whom she asked for help. Uncle Wayan made sure she caught waves, even some big sucky ones she didn’t particularly want, but in which she got fully barreled.

Know the rules and bend them with integrity and grace, finesse and intelligence particular to those of the XX chromosome persuasion. Nothing is more persuasive or viable than being yourself with aplomb, having fun and showing r-e-s-p-e-c-t to yourself and the big fat Bali family. The Zen Buddha may say, “Only by not trying and becoming present with oneself, can one catch the wave.” That, and a smile a wink a nod and a few tricky tricks.