Brave and independent, strong and supple, with brilliant white teeth, flawless caramel skin and sun-bleached locks, the wave princesses of Bali are pin-ups of health and natural beauty.
On Bali’s surf beaches these girls, ranging in age from under 10 to their late 30s, glisten in the sun as they race laughing to the sea; there is no fear of dark tanning, of bucking the advertised trend for white skin.
“Surfing is fun, don’t be scared of getting dark, because hitam [black] is sexy and sweet — white skin is boring,” says 39-year-old Stella Hermina, founder of Indonesia’s first female surf club, Putri Ombak.
The club, this week celebrating its fifth birthday, numbers around 30 members, and most are Indonesian and at least a third are champion surfers.
Jakarta-born Stella started the club to encourage more girls and women to take up a sport long dominated by men after discovering for herself the buzz of the waves, a discovery made not long after the first Bali bombing that crushed her furniture business and left her looking for an alternative income and a hobby that would reignite her natural exuberance for life.
As a non-swimmer, surfing in deep and dangerous swells was not initially on her list of possible hobbies.
“I started surfing in 2002 when I was 28 or 29 years old. I had moved to Bali in 2000 to set up a furniture and art business, but then there was bird flu and next the first Bali bombing. With the bomb, business started to go bad so I started a home industry making natural soaps, but I didn’t have a hobby and needed an outlet,” says Stella of the simple driver that got her started.
“I tried fishing, but that was boring, so then I tried snorkeling, but that also was not intensive enough as I like to be active, so I tried surfing — I was not scared of the water, but I was scared because I couldn’t swim. But because I had a leg rope to the board I soon thought I need have no worries of drowning, I believed in it so I was confident,” says Stella, who literally took the plunge into the warm waters of Kuta Beach, renting a surfboard for three days and spending from dawn to dusk in the ocean trying to find her sea legs.
A decade on and several championship surfing wins under her belt, Stella and the Putri Ombak female surfers are encouraging others to learn to surf through their Facebook page and on Kuta Beach, where club members share their skills and sea knowledge with other girls and women.
These surf teachers come in all sizes, from pint-sized surfer girls Cinta, Dea and Taina to older surfers such as Stella.
“This is the tail, this the leg rope, up front that’s the nose and these at the side are the rails,” explains Taina as Dea lays on the board then springs catlike to her feet. “See this is what you do in the wave,” says Dea.
These teachers then guide new female surfers into the waves, always close at hand to help and build confidence in the water.
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Source: The Jakarta Post | Author: Trisha Sertori | Photos: J.B. Djwan