Bali is one of the top surf destinations in the world and Padang Padang beach hosts the annual Rip Curl Cup, a prestigious event open to Indonesian surfers and selected invitees only. The competition takes place on a single day in a seven week period between July 15th to August 26th based on when the conditions are likely to be as close to perfect for surfing as possible. As the Rip Curl website says – 'IT'S ON when IT'S ON!' The 9th August happened to be the chosen day for this year's event and we were lucky enough to be around to witness it
Surfing has it's own language. We were treated to a running commentary describing gnarly barrels, inside and outside lines and pumping six foot tubes. By the end of the day we were pretty much fluent in 'surf speak'
One of the competitors was Bethany Hamilton who sprang to fame in 2003 when, at the age of 13, she was attacked by a 14-foot tiger shark while surfing off Kauai. The attack left her with a severed left arm but miraculously she was back in the water just a month after the attack. She's since become an inspiration to thousands but sadly progressed no further than the quarter finals
Winner on the day was surfing's enfant terrible, Chris Ward, whose been a surfing phenomena since childhood. His track record has been patchy both on and off the surf including getting arrested for assault outside a bar in California in 2008. That said, he's becoming a changed man evidenced by the fact that as soon as the winners cheque in his hand, he was down on one knee proposing to his girlfriend….
The setting was fantastic, probably one of the best beaches in Bali not least because of its dramatic entrance down a narrow set of steps hewn out of solid rock. The atmosphere on the beach was great, constant music provided a perfect soundtrack to the day, drinks were cheap and there were plenty of beautiful people around to share the occasion with
As far as spectators sports go, surfing's a funny one. As the competition progresses the four surfers in each heat get progressively longer times to select the two waves that they are going to ride with 50 minutes being the allotted time in the final. As a consequence there's a lot of watching and waiting but then when it does happen it's an amazing thing to see. We were lucky enough to see two 'Perfect 10s', one from the local hero Mega Semadhi who led for 49 minutes of the 50 minute final, and one from the winner Chris Ward who snatched victory when he rode the perfect wave in the very last minute of the competition. Thrilling stuff!
….and of course she said 'YES'!