Majestic: Crowds watched in awe as “Uluwatu Steve” rode some of Bali’s biggest surf on record at the weekend. Conditions forced Steve to catch a ride on a jet ski from Legian Beach to Uluwatu, where he dropped into the monster waves.
SEMINYAK ~ Possible planetary alignments and recorded high monsoon winds in the Indian Ocean caused massive waves around southern Bali last week and into the weekend, offering a once-in-a-lifetime chance for diehard surfers to experience Baliâ€™s biggest, pounding, towering walls of water.
By William J. Furney
The Bali Times
With staff reporter Rian Dewanto
Officials warned surfers to stay out of the roaring ocean, with waves reported at up to seven meters high, however, and while most did, others jumped right in.
Lifeguards said they made a number of rescues over the weekend, but that many people were too fearful to attempt to surf as the waves pounded the coastline and rushed onto land.
There were no recorded deaths but the waves caused damage to properties and small traders located alongside beaches, the authorities said.
In Jimbaran, dozens of fishermenâ€™s boats were damaged by the waves, which started hammering the shorelines last Thursday and into the early part of this week.
â€œA lot of boats were broken in half. Many of them were small boats, some were the bigger ones,â€ local fisherman Sahi Tarmudji told The Bali Times.
He said in some cases new boats needed to be bought, costing anywhere from Rp2 million (US$229) to Rp50 million, but the fishermen were not concerned because they didnâ€™t directly own the boats. Instead they were owned by cooperatives for whom the men worked.
The Badung government estimated total losses in the southern areas the regency encompasses at around Rp441 million. Local fisheries board chief Putu Oka Swediana said there was no word on aid assistance from the government.
â€œWe have forwarded the information to the Bali government, but we donâ€™t know whether it will be followed by government aid or any other provisions,â€ he told The Times.
The Bali office of the Meteorology and Geophysics Agency told The Times that the tides were the highest ever recorded around the island.
Spokesman Sutrisno said warmer seas off Australia had also helped to whip up the winds that drove the waves onto land.
â€œWe noticed what was happening when the tide hit Bima (island). We found that a pressure differential of 16 millibars triggered a monsoon that set off the destructive waves in Bali,â€ he added.
Meteorologists did not link the phenomenon to global warming or undersea earthquake activity that could cause a tsunami, said Sutrisno.
The agency issued an alert to fishermen and other seafarers effective until Wednesday this week to â€œbe carefulâ€ when setting out to sea. On Thursday, it issued another alert, warning that high tides and strong waves would continue to affect southern Bali and surrounding areas â€œfor the next few weeks.â€
The National Disaster Management Agency said the waves forced more than a thousand people from their homes around the country over the weekend â€“ from Sumatra to neighboring Java and Bali.
“The number of people that fled from their houses has reached 1,246 people,” agency official Setio Sutarto said, adding that they had sought shelter in school buildings and other public institutions.
Most destruction occurred in West Java and West Sumatra, he said.
Here in Bali, tourists were warned to stay away from beach areas, as keyed-up surfers jumped into the swirling foam for a rare, thrilling ride.
Said one, Junius Wau, a professional surfer from Nias island who won the Nias Open Surfing Contest in 2002: â€œThe waves were extremely good. Iâ€™ve never seen anything like it in Kuta before. The waves were 11 feet high and 40 meters long.
â€œWe got the predictions from the internet before the waves arrived so we didnâ€™t miss them when they came.â€