Padang Padang

Exquisite left-breaking reef wave located in Bali, Indonesia; an emerald-green tropical tube described by photographer Aaron Chang as a "rare, treasured and magical spot." Padang is often called "the Balinese Pipeline."

Richard Harvey, 1973 Australian national champion, is credited as the first person to ride Padang, in August 1973. Harvey picked his way down the rocky coast by himself one morning from nearby Uluwatu, the break that just two years earlier had introduced the surfing world to the miraculous Indonesian coastline. "The wave that came into view," he later said, recalling his first look at Padang, "was so insanely hollow I staggered." Harvey successfully rode three waves and retreated, happy to have steered clear of the shallow reef. Fellow Aussie Peter McCabe, along with Rory Russell of Hawaii, were early Padang standouts.

American surf movie audiences got their first look at Padang in the 1977 film Free Ride, although it was unidentified and vaguely located on the "island of a thousand temples." Padang wasn't named in the surf press until 1980; just one year later it was cited in a Surfing cover story as one of the "Ten Best Waves in the World."

Padang is located about one mile northeast of Uluwatu. In contrast to Uluwatu—one of the world's most dependable surf spots, breaking from two to 12 feet over a broad field on virtually any tide—Padang requires a huge Indian Ocean–born swell (most likely to occur from May to September) and a medium-low tide; some years it hits top form just two or three times. The ride at Padang gets longer when the surf increases, as the takeoff point moves further up the reef. Since the early '90s, crowds here are the rule, drop-ins are frequent, and the mood in the water can get surly. Padang is best at six- to eight feet; smaller waves break too close to the reef— which remains a constant hazard, even under ideal conditions—while bigger waves break too far outside. "Padang" means "grass" or "grasses."

The Rip Curl Cup, a non-rated professional contest, has been an annual event at Padang, conditions permitting, since 2004. Cup winners include Bol Adi Putra, Lee Wilson, and Chris Ward. Early rounds of the Rip Curl Pro Search were also held at Padang; one week prior to start of that event a rusted 50-ton Tawainese fishing boat ran around on the Padang reef, suffered a ruptured hull, and spilled bunker oil into the wave zone and beach. The boat was later set on fire by Balinese police, and dismantled.