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Sumbawa Surf: Why Surfers Prefer it to Bali

An enthusiastic surfer catches a robust wave, exemplifying the exhilarating Sumbawa surf experience
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Bere Horthy

Travel Writer

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Let’s talk about Sumbawa, a paradise hidden in Indonesia’s many islands that’s starting to catch the eyes of surfers around the globe.

While Bali has long been the go-to for wave riders, Sumbawa surf is swiftly becoming a favourite for those in the know.

It’s about more than just less crowded beaches; it’s the quality of the surf that’s turning heads.

In this article, we’ll dive into what makes Sumbawa’s waves a top pick over Bali’s more known breaks.

We’ll also compare the top surf spots, get into the nitty-gritty of their unique features, and explore why this destination might be the perfect place to go on your next surfing trip.

How to get to Sumbawa

Sumbawa sits snugly next door to its more frequented neighbour, Lombok, stretching over 100 miles to join the Eastern end of Nusa Tenggara.

It’s a bit of a stretch to get there, but the journey is part of the adventure.

The most straightforward route involves a short hop by plane from Bali or Lombok to Sumbawa Besar, with Lion Air offering these flights.

It’s worth noting that if you’re bringing a surfboard, it’s probably best to take the boat as the flights don’t always allow you to check in your boards.

The other option is to fly to Lombok and get the 45-minute fast boat over to sumbawa Maluk Bay.

This option is a bit more pricey but a h*ll of a lot faster.

To book this boat, you can contact Kirana Retreat via WhatsApp and they’ll sort the rest.

Exploring Sumbawa’s top surf breaks

As we delve into each break, we find that Sumbawa’s surf scene is a mosaic of power and grace, a canvas for both the seasoned and the growing surfer.

The East Coast is the realm of the advanced — where the waves are a test of mettle and skill.

The West Coast, in contrast, holds spaces where one can hone their craft on waves that teach rather than test.

  • Yo-yos 

Boasting consistent breaks year-round known as The Hook and The Wedge, Yo-yos is reliable year-round.

Whether it’s the smaller, smoother rides tucking in against the cliff or The Hook’s reputation as a wave machine, there’s something for every surfer here.

Small and glassy in the rainy season, it grows big and punchy when the dry months roll in.

  • Scar Reef

This spot is a left-hander’s dream, famed among the surf elite for its medium to large southwest swells.

Here, a deep takeoff is your entry ticket to a stand-up barrel, with a shallow end section adding a bit of spice to the mix.

Not one for the unprepared, Scar Reef is a thrilling ride at mid to low tide.

  • Super Suck 

Making regular appearances in surf publications, Super Suck delivers on its name with a legendary barrel that demands respect.

Ideal for those seeking the barrel of a lifetime, it’s a spot where timing and tide create the perfect dance of wave and wind, offering a fierce challenge to those who dare.

  • Tropicals

Just off a white-sand beach, Tropicals is a milder, yet no less exciting, left-hander.

It’s a wave that can surprise you with its beach break personality when the onshore winds decide to play.

Best for intermediate surfers, it serves up a satisfying mix of long rides and fast sections in the dry season.

  • Lakey Peak

Located in Sumbawa’s centre, Lakey Peak is an A-frame that demands attention.

With a personality that might remind one of the legendary Supertubos, it’s a spot where you can find surfers carving out top and bottom turns on a wave that’s as rewarding as it is challenging.

Tailored for those who know their craft, it’s a wave that offers no room for hesitation.

Sumbawa vs. Bali

Between Bali’s vibrant pulse and Sumbawa’s serene rhythm, surfers find themselves drawn to the latter for its pristine conditions and smaller crowds.

Where Bali’s waves have graced countless surf videos and attracted surfers from around the world, Sumbawa’s breaks remain less known, offering a more secluded surf experience.

The appeal of Sumbawa lies in its promise of solitude paired with the same quality of waves you’d expect to see in more popular destinations.

Sustainability efforts in Sumbawa have taken centre stage, as the region commits to preserving its natural beauty and ensuring that surf resorts and camps tread lightly on the environment.

This eco-conscious approach not only enhances the surf experience but also positions Sumbawa as a responsible choice for travellers seeking to minimise their footprint.

Sumbawa surf for every skill level

Sumbawa’s surf spots cater to a diversity of surfing skills, with waves ranging from world-class to beginner-friendly.

Advanced surfers seeking the thrill of a northern right or a fast-breaking left will find their match on the east coast of Sumbawa, where the waves are as consistent as they are challenging.

Meanwhile, central Sumbawa is home to reef breaks that are ideal during the high tide, perfect for surfers aiming to notch up their experience.

For beginners and intermediate surfers, spots like Tropicals offer an inviting playground.

These waves break with a reliability that can improve your surfing skills without overwhelming you.

Families, couples or solo travellers alike can appreciate these mellow waves that serve as the perfect backdrop to a tropical surf retreat.

Sumbawa surf is not just about catching waves — it’s about the entire surf scene and the culture that comes with it.

It’s a destination that offers variety and quality in waves, which, combined with its unique surf ethos and commitment to conservation, makes it a standout surf paradise.

Whether it’s during the wet season or the preferred April to October period, Sumbawa’s breaks offer a surfing journey that’s both responsible and exhilarating.


Sumbawa’s coastal culture

While Sumbawa’s surf spots draw people to its shores, the island is more than just a playground for wave riders.

The natural beauty of this corner of the Indo-Pacific is undeniable, with a landscape that rolls from volcanic peaks to lush jungles.

Beyond the beach, the island’s cultural sites tell tales of a rich history, while the local cuisine offers a range of complex and satisfying flavours.

Immerse yourself in the coastal culture where fishing trips at dawn are as much a part of the daily routine as a surf session at high tide.

In the towns and villages, Sumbawa is known for its warm hospitality, where you’re genuinely welcomed.

This authentic engagement with local life adds a rich layer to the surf experience, making Sumbawa a holistic travel destination.

Why Sumbawa surf wins

From the uncrowded surf breaks that offer both the hollow waves favoured by advanced surfers and the mellow waves perfect for beginners and intermediates, Sumbawa presents a world-class surf experience.

It’s a destination for surfers looking to elevate their surfing skills without the fray of a more popular destination.

Sumbawa’s unique surf ethos is embraced by surf retreats that dot the coastline, allowing seamless access to some of the best waves in the world.

With a surf scene that’s less known and more preserved, it stands as a serene alternative to Bali’s bustling beaches.

So when you’re considering where to visit for surfing, remember Sumbawa offers not just world-class surf breaks but a chance to seclude yourself in the true essence of surf culture.

In this less-traversed part of Nusa Tenggara, Sumbawa is a surf paradise beckoning those who seek to connect with the ocean, improve their craft, and absorb the tranquillity of a destination still close to its roots.

For a blend of natural beauty, cultural wealth, and top-tier surfing, Sumbawa’s waves — and its welcoming shores — are hard to surpass.