Surfing the Island of the Gods: A History of Change, Continuity, and Waveriding in Bali

Eckmann, Kimberly
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University of Hawaii at Manoa
In what can only be called a lusting after waves, surfers in just over 30 years have literally transformed parts of the Indonesian archipelago, and have changed the lives of many Indonesians. Because Bali has been a hot tourist destination for much of the twentieth century and because its tourism economy continues to flourish, this 'island of paradise' became the birthplace of surfing in Indonesia. Since its introduction to Kuta beach in the early 1970s, surfing has been a major part of life for both its fast-growing local following as well as the thousands of surf-tourists visiting every year. Although surfing would seem to contradict the fear of the ocean among many Indonesians, and although sun-tanned skin is shunned, the alternative lifestyle associated with surfing has become quite accepted in Bali and seems destined for similar success throughout the archipelago. While some scholars contend that tourism and subsequent Westernization are damaging Balinese culture, this honors project seeks to affirm that surfing and surf culture is beneficial to Bali and its people. Through an exploration of surfing's history in Bali, and an analysis of contemporary considerations, including relevant physical and cultural changes within Bali's landscape, it explores the nature of surfing on the world famous 'island of the Gods."
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