Travel Story A family friendly surfers' paradise in Bali

Photo of Steve Penn

On the island's east coast, this legendary surf spot now has plenty to keep all of the family happy.

A chance to visit Hotel Komune at Keramas Beach on Bali’s east coast was an opportunity to tick a wave off my bucket list. 

Every surfer has their top 10: surf magazine images etched in your memory with the hope they’ll one day become reality. Those waves you want to enjoy with a bunch of mates, or monsters you’d sit out safely in the channel, a witness to their raw power, size and beauty.

Keramas is both. Breaking 50m from shore over a sharp, shallow black-lava ledge, it’s widely regarded as one of the planet’s most fun high- performance right-handers. When it’s big, it becomes a barrelling beast I’ll happily leave to the pros.

In 2013, Keramas rocketed into my top five after witnessing Australian Joel Parkinson claim the Oakley Pro Bali in perfect four-to-six foot waves. He later described the event as one of the best he’d ever surfed. Every year since, pros have headed back to compete against hot-shot locals and international up-and-comers in the Komune Bali Pro. Back-to-back winner Taj Burrow described the event as one of the most fun he’d ever taken part in. 

Whispers of this right-hander in the late 90s led to magazine shoots in the 2000s. One of these — a shot from a helicopter showing Andy and Bruce Irons’ aerial assault on this “secret” break — was enough to prompt Aussie surfer and property developer Tony Cannon to buy a ticket to Bali and find this unspoilt piece of paradise.

Arriving after trekking through rice paddies from Ubud, he saw the potential immediately. The Hotel Komune dream was born. 

Mr Cannon purchased a plot of land behind the shoreline warungs and took his vision to friends, Fitness First founder Tony de Leede and former pro surfer Luke Egan. 

Employing award-winning Italian architect Giovanni D’Ambrosio, the mates set about building a low-key resort that’s eco-friendly but up-market and caters for surfers and their families wanting an escape from the chaos and commotion of the west coast. 

“We wanted a resort that, when you’re sitting in the line-up looking back at the beach, blends into the beauty of the natural surroundings,” Mr Cannon explained. 

In 2012, the first stage of the plan opened to the public: 66 four-star rooms set quietly among the lush tropical gardens, plus a beachfront bar and pool. 

Locally owned warungs that had been damaged during a large swell were rebuilt into a modern two-storey structure in the classic Balinese, thatched- hut style. Large floodlights were installed to illuminate the break from dusk until dawn — Keramas is the only world-class wave on the planet that’s surfable 24 hours a day.

The warung’s top deck is used by Komune to host surf events, private wedding receptions and yoga classes. The bottom level is run by the locals and has a pool table, board hire, cheap eats and the quickest top-quality ding repairs on the island. It’s a partnership that has helped preserve the original character and charm of surfing at this now-famous break.

I stayed in one of the new five-star beach-view pool suites. These 22 luxurious rooms are set just high enough for you to spot check from your king-size bed or while taking a dip in your private pool. They’re the latest stage in an ever-growing plan that now includes three villas and a corporate function room, while areas of rice paddies owned by the guys will be developed as new ideas take shape. 

One project currently under way is a free-range kids’ zone including a pool, flying fox, petting zoo and “the fruit bowl” — a freshly painted skate park which will be a huge hit with the groms if they can keep the dads off it. 

Having recently had shoulder surgery, I could unfortunately only witness this bucket-list wave. Limited to shore, pool and bar activities, I decided to explore the resort from the better half’s perspective by visiting the kid-free Health Hub.

It’s housed in a collection of 300-year-old joglos — steep- roofed wooden homes imported from Java and reassembled plank by plank to create the serene atmosphere of a traditional village. 

There are 10 massage rooms, a yoga studio and a fully equipped air-conditioned gym staffed by trainers including former West Coast Eagle Chad Fletcher, plus a lap and relaxation pool, beauty spa and juice bar with a healthy breakfast and lunch menu of locally grown produce (a watermelon pizza must be healthy, right?)

I have a rule on holidays to always follow the locals’ recommendations. A mistake in Paris — duck gizzards aren’t my cup of tea — but the first of many at Komune was exceptional. “You have to try the four-hand massage,” Tony de Leede told me. This hour- long choreography of rhythmic strokes and pressure techniques is performed by two deceptively strong Balinese therapists. If two hands are better than one, then four plus feet are sublime. 

“Mate, make sure you try the chicken schnitty before you leave,” general manager Wayne Moffat advised as we tucked into sesame-crusted tuna steak on our first night. Perfect, night two’s menu selection sorted. 

For all Komune’s natural beauty and architectural brilliance, one very special feature can slip past you with just a smile. The staff of almost 180 are nearly all proud locals employed from the Keramas village, from front desk to the lifeguards on the beach and the driver meeting you off the plane.

Komune has at its core the classic surf trip to Indonesia: the chance to tick a wave off the bucket list that you’d only surfed in your mind. 

Wrap that in five-star luxury and you have the ideal place to take the whole family. 

Steve Penn tells Niall McIlroy about Hotel Komune on the world-famous Keramas surf break where the waves, black sand beach and stunning resort combine in a dramatic setting in Bali's east. Duration: 06m 15s Seven West Travel Club

Fact File

Disclaimer

Steve Penn was a guest of Hotel Komune Bali.

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