A Guide To Bali Localism With Betet “Da Guy” Merta
Need advice, take it from the local.
There are groms; there are men toted as the world’s oldest groms, and then there is Betet Merta. He stands at 5’6; wavy black hair hangs below his shoulders, and he’s all stoke, party, surf and fun. He’s thirty-something (I think), but has the appearance and energy of a Balinese man in his early to mid-twenties, or a Balinese man in his late thirties; they don’t seem to age. I went on a trip with him to Costa Rica a few months back with Bruce Irons, Dylan Goodale and some other gents who were filming for a new surf film called Snapt 3 (The sequel to the cult classics Snapt and Snapt2).
His banter is priceless. But some of the better things he said, I can’t exactly publish. After a session in small, gutless waves at Playa Hermosa, he was on a tear. He came in to glance at the photos. There was a shot of him doing a rail grab nose-pick, fins above the lip and half his body in the water. “Mike send me that,” he said still dripping from the session. Photog Mike Townsend Airdropped it to Betet while we sipped on post-surf Imperials, he turns to me, “I make this one. What should I caption?”
“Just that,” I tell him. Less than a minute later it’s on Instagram, the caption: I make this one.
He’s a lovable personality, but if you’re in the lineup at his home break, you don’t fuck with him. He’s one of the highest profile surfers in Bali, has been a finalist in the Padang Cup a few times, and everyone seems to respect his authority. “Come stay with me in Bali,” he says. “I get you any wave you want.” And, that may sound far-fetched, but it’s true. They don’t call him “Da Guy” for nothing. Betet’s the man you ring up when you get to Bali if you want to surf the best waves, get your rocks off at the best clubs and do it right.
Little men make for bigger tunnels, and live even larger lives.
It was only appropriate to do a guide to localism in Bali through the eyes of Da Guy. *English is his second language; it didn’t seem right to re-cut his rhetoric*
Stab: What’s the best way to stay out of the heat with the locals?
Da Guy: The locals not really heavy like Hawaii. It’s pretty mellow. If you respect the local, he respect you more.
If you drop in or are being a dick what are the consequences?
You get sent in. Or maybe you get a little bit slapped. But I’ve never seen nothing crazy. Maybe like 10, twenty years ago it was more gnarly. Just whenever local go, let him go. I never see fights or anything. Anytime I’m in the lineup I take whatever wave I want. If I go and then someone still goes, I tell them, “You cannot do that anymore.”
How is it compared to localism in California or Hawaii?
Fuck, I think the locals are gnarlier in California more. It’s not local gnarly like Hawaii. Here if you respect the local, they respect. Sometimes it sucks because the locals are too mellow you know?
What should surfers traveling to Bali stay away from?
Stay away from me! [he laughs]
When it’s crowded how do you get waves?
Da Guy always gets waves when it’s crowded.
He also make this one.
If you’re a good surfer does that give you the right to more waves?
Maybe if you know Da Guy.
What locals should you never burn?
Rizal Tanjung and Dede Suryana, they’re gnarly guys in Bali.
What’s the most localised spot?
Madewi Beach is pretty localised. If you go over there to surf, you have to buy stuff. You have to buy drinks or a Madewi shirt or something. Because it’s a two-hour drive from town. The locals are pretty cool, but you have to buy something or else they’re like “get the fuck out of here” and they won’t let you surf. They don’t have much tourism there, so if you surf, you have to support the locals.
Full of stoke and when you grow up in Bali, you’re full of wide open splendour.
Is it true people come into to town and pay the locals to help them get more waves?
Yes, that’s all my friends’ jobs. It’s always the Japanese surfers. They pay the locals to drive them to the good spots and get the waves they want. The Australians always do their own thing, they get bikes and get themselves to the spots. The Japanese are smart, so they pay the locals and get good waves.
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