CANGGU Eat Pray F&#k


Tracks - - Canggu - By Matt Ge­orge


Once a surf­ing out­post, now a colony, it’s been cut off. The nat­u­ral dis­as­ter known as tourism, com­bined with a to­tal lack of civil in­fra­struc­ture to han­dle it, has re­sulted in geo­graph­i­cal iso­la­tion due to snarled traf­fic. From Kuta to Canggu, once min­utes, is now a bad hour of breath­ing near pure car­bon monox­ide. This traf­fic is a re­sult of a mas­sive ex­o­dus of ad­ven­tur­ers, scoundrels, crim­i­nals, dream­ers and ve­g­ans who have forged Canggu into the most out­landish surf­ing com­mu­nity in the world. As­ton­ish­ingly usurp­ing the Holy Grail of Uluwatu as Bali’s prime surf des­ti­na­tion. Canggu has mor­phed into a mi­asma of ev­ery surf­ing creed, colour and phi­los­o­phy drawn to its per­ceived promised land of cool where any surfer on earth can re-in­vent them­selves. Or get blown away by the cops in broad day­light. Just like a west­ern mad­man did re­cently when he went troppo and at­tacked the po­lice. The sun does shit to peo­ple here. And all of this ac­tion mi­nus the sym­met­ri­cal, blue off­shore dream tun­nels that have made In­done­sia ev­ery surfer’s fan­tasy. Canggu, a steam­ing hot beach break zone with brown silty rice paddy run-off seas and dark, vol­canic sand that can burns the soles off wa­ter buf­falo. A surf zone that is a bouncy cas­tle for aeri­al­ists and a Re­nais­sance Faire for retro rid­ers. Canggu, the petri dish of re­stored west­ern groovi­ness, art, fash­ion, food, multi-na­tion sex­ual op­por­tu­nity and ram­pant devel­op­ment. Com­plete with the sub­se­quent en­vi­ron­men­tal and cul­tural dis­as­ter that such pros­per­ity de­mands. But de­spite it long be­ing ground zero for the surf­ing hip­ster move­ment, the prime des­ti­na­tion of the di­as­pora of those who long for “the way we were”, Canggu is now reach­ing crit­i­cal mass. Like a run-over Ibiza with rice, a place like this can only main­tain its cool for so long. To­day, the busi­ness of Canggu is busi­ness. And the dark, cu­mu­lonim­bus of over-sat­u­ra­tion are fast ap­proach­ing from the hori­zon.


I talked to Dustin in his of­fice which over­looks the Deus Ex Machina “Tem­ple of En­thu­si­asm”. A nou­veau rus­tic com­pound which ac­com­mo­dates a restau­rant, a surf shop, an art gallery, a skate ramp, shap­ing bays, a surf­board fac­tory, a photo stu­dio, a bar­ber­shop and a cus­tom mo­tor­cy­cle garage. A site that since its in­cep­tion has been more re­spon­si­ble for the al­ter­na­tive surf scene in Canggu than any other. Mostly due to Humphrey’s vi­sion of a gen­tler, cooler surf­ing world. One that be­longs in the up­per ech­e­lons of hu­man achieve­ment and art. And he’s damn near achieved it. Deus truly is a tem­ple, com­plete with a royal court­yard that serves as both mini-mu­sic sta­dium and am­phithe­atre for such guest speak­ers who vary from Bob Mc­tavish to Alex Knost. From where I sat I could see peo­ple swan­ning into a re­tail space that looks more like a hall in the Mu­seum of Mod­ern Art. El­e­gant wine coloured al­ter­na­tive surf­boards, jux­ta­posed against a pha­lanx of en­vi­ably cus­tomised mo­tor­cy­cles. The scent of surf wax and chain lube go hand in hand at Deus.


“Why has Canggu be­come what it is? Be­cause it looks so easy to live here. But it isn’t. You gotta be some­body with some­thing, any­thing, to of­fer or it just doesn’t work. Why is Canggu filled with so many so cre­ative minds? A cou­ple rea­sons. Ubud has al­ways been Bali’s cre­ative artist’s hub and there was a mi­gra­tion from there of peo­ple who wanted to surf here. Also, long­board­ing was pos­si­ble in the waves out here so it at­tracted that crowd and then the al­ter­na­tive board crowd and these are gen­er­ally cre­ative peo­ple who make cre­ative com­mit­ments way be­yond the thruster crowd. Cool peo­ple just wanted to live here and do cool shit. Canggu holds that pos­si­bil­ity. Like the Amer­i­can wild west back in the day. Ad­ven­tur­ers came here to be self-made. And it hap­pened”.

“Deus has had a defin­ing in­flu­ence on Canggu, sure. Ba­si­cally be­cause af­ter years of doc­u­ment­ing fran­tic surf­ing, the long­board­ing and the 60’s and 70’s in­flu­ences of a slower, cooler surf­ing just plain ap­pealed to me. Watch­ing those dif­fer­ent lines from back then for the first time made me want to get into what I was re­ally into. A more art­ful surf­ing scene”.

“And the big­gest in­flu­ence of all is the waves. The waves here talk to more peo­ple than the dan­ger tubes. It’s the waves above all that have dic­tated the cre­ative vibe of Canggu. I mean, just this morn­ing, Ayok, one of our lo­cal Ba­li­nese rid­ers, just or­dered a 5’2” fish and a 9’8” long­board. You wouldn’t find that any­where else in In­done­sia”.


I sat with Ayok in the Deus restau­rant. Lunch hour was boom­ing. From where I sat you could see the groovi­est peo­ple on earth. My God, the hair. Braided, beaded, pony­tailed, slicked, shaven, bunned. And the jew­ellery … love beads to tantric yoga river stones to di­a­monds and sweat stained leather medal­lions. And the pants, bell bot­toms to peg­gers, tans to gos­samer scarves. All thrift store-in­spired and sold for top dol­lar. A beat up Fe­dora costs a lo­cal a month’s wage.

Ayok and I were shar­ing an or­ganic Bud­dha Bowl salad, Canggu also now hav­ing es­tab­lished it­self as a culi­nary Eden. With hun­dreds of in­no­va­tive restau­rants pop­ping up like the very mush­rooms they sauté over liq­uid ni­tro­gen. Just where ev­ery­body finds their chia seeds in this world of rice re­mains a mys­tery, but over Ayok’s shoul­der I could see a pair of de­vel­op­ers, Ital­ian shoes, ar­chi­tect plans laid out on the hood of a rover, point­ing to and dis­cussing the gi­ant cafe­te­ria pizza joint that was go­ing up right against the wall next to Deus. It was to be built over one of the last rice paddy lots avail­able and would change for­ever the emo­tional land­scape of what is the hottest three-way cor­ner in Canggu. Where Deus once ruled like a lone fort in a groomed rice paddy, now all the ac­tion on the strip has caught up and moved in right next door.


“It’s hard to talk about it. Talk­ing about the bad things will never end, but it’s good for our lo­cal peo­ple busi­ness. Lots of money from ev­ery­body in the world. But at night, it’s a bit too much now. It dis­turbs the spir­its. It’s harder and harder to hear the quiet and the voices from the rice pad­dies and the tem­ples that are so im­por­tant to the peace of this place. The spir­its used to whis­per; now they have to yell to be heard.

That is shame for me. I have a big hope that I was born ear­lier”.

“Now there is eas­ier work than rice, more money. But I feel sad for the young lo­cal peo­ple that wake up in the morn­ing and see ev­ery­body drunk try­ing to get home. Like that is nor­mal life. Money life. We need their wal­lets … but this is my vil­lage? Drunk party peo­ple that speak many dif­fer­ent lan­guages but never ours?”

“We found naked peo­ple in our tem­ple on the beach on top of each other. We beat them with bam­boo poles. Or peo­ple pee­ing on the Tem­ple walls. We bring them to the po­lice. Would you find that in a church back in Ger­many or Rus­sia or wher­ever they come from? Bali peo­ple are wel­com­ing, but not to ar­ro­gant peo­ple”.

As we stepped out­side af­ter our talk, I thought of that nec­es­sary si­lence. Now the sound­track to Canggu is club mu­sic and jack­ham­mers. I looked across a dusty, lit­ter strewn park­ing lot to yet an­other club. This one, with a cow­boy theme that fea­tures sexy lo­cal women swing­ing from the roof on west­ern sad­dles. Next door to that an old build­ing is be­ing de­mol­ished with a wreck­ing ball.

The ru­moured site of Canggu’s first McDon­alds.


It’s an in­no­cent look­ing place. Un­til you look closer.

In Canggu, the ur­ban, ho­tel, busi­ness, pri­vate and rice field drainage, a mini Ro­man aque­duct, is an­cient and open and pun­gent and pol­luted and it runs par­al­lel to most of the nar­row roads here. There are no kerbs. These ditches run any­where from three to six feet deep and wreak havoc with the end­less flow of scoot­ers, cus­tom mo­tor­cy­cles, taxis, Ubers and tinted win­dowed SUVs that snake around what’s left of the rice pad­dies. Get beered up and get loose in some gravel as a first time rental scooter pilot and it’s over. A trip to the sketchy hos­pi­tal and then home. If you’re lucky.

Ger­hard En­gel­brecht wasn’t. A friend of mine. A good na­tured South African pho­tog­ra­pher and full time philoso­pher. He was not a tall man, but he looked it. Long sun­burnt hair, un­kempt goa­tee, star­tling clear, blue eyes. And that strong ac­cent. A good surfer and an even bet­ter pho­tog­ra­pher. He was loved here. He seemed to em­body what Canggu was all about for the less wealthy live-in ex­pats. Fit, cool look­ing, con­nected to the place. Good com­pany. The kind of guy that no mat­ter how tough you think you were, you could not help but smile when you saw him. The lo­cals called him friend. Not boss, like the rest of us. Right down to his amulets and cut­backs, Ger­hard was part of Canggu. And like most here, he was not afraid of late, late night beers at any of the late, late night clubs. Come to think of it, like most South Africans, I don’t think he was afraid of any­thing. Ex­cept maybe love.

He seemed to have been hav­ing a lot of trou­ble in that depart­ment. God knows why. He looked like a scruffy su­per­model, just shorter. But on the twelfth of Fe­bru­ary, 2016, like a warn­ing shot across Canggu’s bow, the dread­ful news spread. In the very early hours, Ger­hard En­gle­brecht had been found dead. Un­der his mo­tor­cy­cle, in the ditch that runs smack dab through the main drag. A cat­a­strophic crash. It was easy to see how it could hap­pen, con­sid­er­ing the chaos of the nightlife here and to­tal lack of road rules or signs. Part of the charm of the place. The thing is, no­body thought it could hap­pen like this. Not in a place like this. Not to him. Not to them. Not to any­one. But it can. And it did. There was a brief flurry of dark ru­mours, of a love tri­an­gle gone bad, a prom­ise un­ful­filled, money is­sues with the wrong peo­ple, the booze, the sun, the weather, the lan­guage, the rules, the heat, the sweat, any num­ber of things that can get any ex­pat into real trou­ble here. The things that can drain you. The things that do drain you. From mos­qui­tos to neck shat­ter­ing mo­tor­cy­cle crashes. The things that can drain you, tire you, if you choose to set­tle far from your blood home and come to the equa­tor. One has to re­mem­ber that in Bali. Al­ways. You don’t live here. You sur­vive here. You don’t have any rights, just priv­i­leges. And any bro­ken lo­cal trusts can send you reel­ing for the air­port. Or worse.

None of these darker ru­mours stuck for long on Ger­hard En­gel­brecht. Mem­o­ries of his smile di­luted them within a week. Prob­a­bly just an­other great night, full of laugh­ter, sorrow and beer. And a drainage ditch on the way home. This ditch. Wait­ing like fate in the pink glow of an­other drunken Bali dawn.

So here I was, a year and a half later, just out­side the Deus Tem­ple of En­thu­si­asm. Sur­rounded by the traf­fic and the con­struc­tion and the growth of Canggu go­ing about its mighty busi­ness of chic com­merce. I was look­ing down into an an­cient ditch that has run through this patch of land for hun­dreds of years. The place where my friend died. That warn­ing shot I men­tioned? It slowed things way down for about a week. Peo­ple went home ear­lier, drank less for a while. Oh, it was a warn­ing al­right. To ev­ery­body. Out here it’s not go big or go home. It’s go big and get home.

At about six feet deep, I sup­pose that ditch did re­sem­ble a grave.

I dropped a sin­gle flower into it. A hand­ful of dirt.

Get­ting on my mo­tor­cy­cle, I kept to the mid­dle of the road. An­other law of the jun­gle.


Un­like the “Hell Zone” of neigh­bour­ing Kuta, over­seen by the 2002 bomb­ing me­mo­rial, you won’t find many “work­ing girls” cruis­ing the streets of Canggu. For the darker, danker ex­pe­ri­ences of pro­fes­sional sex, one must make the jour­ney to Bali’s ground zero down in Kuta. Cheaper too. Out in Canggu the pick up scene is much more Euro­pean. Still, men don’t save any money seek­ing the end re­sult. Canggu is an ex­pen­sive date. Far more west­ern cou­ples out in Canggu as well. Surf­ing side by side on al­ter­na­tive surf­boards, mak­ing a go of it. But Gary “Gazza” Kil­patrick, a vis­i­tor I ran into, had this to say:

“Yeah mate, plenty of one nighters out here in Canggu, mate. The party cir­cuit. Eu­ros look­ing to sleep with dif­fer­ent ac­cents and Aussies just scroung­ing a root. Still cost the same though, when you look at it. To scrounge a root here, drinks, the chit chat, the hours you gotta put in. Kuta is the re­lease valve for that bull­shit. At least there you pay up front and it’s all over in less than an hour. Hit the surf early, mate”. I ran into an old friend, Rod Robert­son, a Qan­tas pilot out of Bris­bane. A con­cerned fa­ther, he was pay­ing his daugh­ter a sur­prise visit for her birth­day. He had this to say: “I show up and some long haired, gi­ant Rus­sian surfer with Moscow Mafia Tat­toos is plough­ing my daugh­ter silly? What is this place?”

The sheer num­ber of surf camps in Canggu can be dizzy­ing. Most of them cater­ing to a sep­a­rate na­tion­al­ity. On any day it seems ev­ery flag on earth is rep­re­sented out in the wa­ter. Flotil­las of women on soft-tops, em­pow­er­ing them­selves. There is a Korean women’s camp, a Ja­panese, a Ger­man, a Rus­sian and even one that caters to les­bians. This in­flux of women ac­tive in the surf and clubs adds to the sex­ual op­por­tu­nity. At a Korean BBQ joint, an­other el­e­ment was ex­plained to me by Mieni Khim, the foxy owner, bra-less, su­per-lite tee shirt, her breasts a star­tling chal­lenge to any­one brave enough to take the shot.

“The women get the best of it out here in Canggu. Surfers are the best look­ing crowd in the world right now. And they are sim­ple minded and sin­gle minded and to­tally ac­ces­si­ble. We just show up and look like prey. But we are not the prey. They are.”


As an ex­am­ple of the bo­hemian life­style here, con­sider this con­ver­sa­tion I wit­nessed out­side of the pop­u­lar new beach side open-air night­club. A woman who ap­peared to be a Rus­sian su­per­model was locked in an ar­gu­ment with what ap­peared to be a French fash­ion pho­tog­ra­pher. His hair was done up in a man bun. You will have to imag­ine the ac­cents. The pho­tog­ra­pher was on a scooter with two boards in the rack. A seven-foot sin­gle fin snout nose and a lit­tle choco­late coloured fish de­sign with half moon fins. They were both this side of drunk. Woman: “I’m a cre­ative! I need vi­su­als to un­der­stand love! What is love? You want to sleep with me? Sleep? You go to sleep, I’m not tired! You wanna fuck? Give me a vis­ual of it, I need the vis­ual” Man: “Merde”. Woman: “What? What? Are you glupyy?” Man: “Non”. Just then two Aussies surfers swerve up on scoot­ers. Prob­a­bly there to take ad­van­tage of the three for one ladies drinks spe­cial that the cou­ple had ob­vi­ously been en­joy­ing. Prime time for a hunter. The two Aussies, half drunk as well, are star­ing at the su­per­model. It’s im­pos­si­ble not to. Her macramé out­fit is way bet­ter than nude, her love beads hang­ing to her knees. She has small shiny stars glued to her face, in­creas­ing her ce­les­tial looks. It goes quiet for few sec­onds. The Aussies mouths were open. Then the woman ad­dressed the Aussies.

Woman: “You like to fuck me? Give me vis­ual. Vis­ual. I am a cre­ative”. To the Aussies it was like a shot of buck­shot into a tree full of black­birds. The short one re­cov­ered first.

Aussie surfer: “Out­doors? … in warm mud?… un­der tonight’s full moon?”. The woman looks at the pho­tog­ra­pher. Shows her teeth. Grabs her choco­late fish de­sign from the pho­tog­ra­pher’s scooter and hops on the back of the Aussie’s scooter, sling­ing one slen­der arm around his waist.

Woman: “We go”. And they did.


You gotta see it to be­lieve it. Damea Dorsey has chis­elled out one of the coolest places on earth. An au­then­tic, old time bar­ber shop and tat­too par­lour. Com­plete with straight ra­zor shaves and an­tique sailor tat­toos. The go-to place if you are go­ing to keep up with the lat­est ton­so­rial crazes that sweep through Canggu like wild­fire. On the walls of the shop hang pho­tos of fa­mous movie stars, Mar­i­lyn, Bo­gey, Pa­cino. But each Photo Shopped with the tat­toos.


“What is the draw for all the pros? Ju­lian, Parko, you know, ev­ery­body? The va­ri­ety of waves and the easy airs all within the area of a foot­ball field. I can shoot here ev­ery day. And you never know who’s go­ing to pad­dle out. But it has been an avalanche these past few years. It used to be the place to get away from it all and get a few guar­an­teed shots. But now its so crowded … I mean, ob­vi­ously when you work with great surfers, they know how to get the job done, but it’s work now. But so what? You know some­thing is go­ing right in a com­mu­nity when you see hun­dreds of beau­ti­ful girls from all over the world cruis­ing around with surf­boards on their scoot­ers and flow­ers in their hair.”

Graf­fiti seen brush-painted on the ply­wood fence block­ing the beach and a gi­ant sec­tion of Canggu water­front in an­tic­i­pa­tion of yet an­other su­per re­sort. Ru­mours are that a 25-foot sheer wall will sur­round the com­plex all the way to the wa­ter. Sand from Hawaii is be­ing shipped in so that the beach won’t be a hot­plate of black sand. Enor­mous fans are ru­moured to be in place to em­u­late a sea breeze. All this to make a more com­fort­able beach for the re­sort’s strict, head-to-toe ji­hab wear­ing Sharia Mus­lim fe­male clients and their fam­i­lies.

The graf­fiti reads: “Par­don the in­con­ve­nience but Bali is un­der con­struc­tion.”


Half Maori, half British, all Bali, Tai is the hottest ex-pat surfer on the is­land and has been for some time. Frontside, back­side, fear­less in big waves. But it is the fact that Bali has fig­ured so deeply in his life since his mother moved here when he was seven-years-old that gets most. Flu­ent in lo­cal lan­guages and slangs, he has man­aged to carve out a realm like no other here. A part owner of two of the hottest clubs on the is­land, through his friend­ships he main­tains his cred­i­bil­ity by be­ing the real deal when he hits the wa­ter. The main im­pres­sion you get from Tai? This is a guy that knows ex­actly what he’s do­ing here and ex­actly who he is.


“Things change and peo­ple change with them. That’s the way of the world, mate. Canggu used to be jun­gle and peo­ple had to eat. So it was carved into rice pad­dies and peo­ple still had to eat. Now, it’s evolved into a great place to live and surf, and peo­ple still need to eat. It’s easy to sit there and com­plain about all that is go­ing on here, but it’s just an evo­lu­tion. And in many ways the best kind. Lo­cal kids are go­ing to bet­ter schools, bet­ter hospi­tals, health­ier, stronger, wealth­ier. A bet­ter fu­ture than back break­ing work un­der the sun up to your knees in the mud for pen­nies? You wouldn’t want a bet­ter world for your kids? And their kids? Bull­shit.”

“The Pol­lu­tion is a big prob­lem for sure. For all of us. I don’t think we’ll ever stop the devel­op­ment here. We live a great life­style. The pol­lu­tion is some­thing we can all deal with and stop. It will be dealt with. It’s just a mat­ter of time.”

“My beach club, The Lawn, when de­sign­ing it I wanted you to be able to look in from the surf and feel like it was meant to be there, like a nice Warung. I wanted it to feel like Bali. Not Syd­ney, not Mykonos, not Mi­ami. I can pad­dle out in the wa­ter and look back at it and be proud. It blends in. At least some of us are pay­ing at­ten­tion”.

Photo: Dorsey

Main: Hard-par­ty­ing he­do­nists, hip­sters, hip­pys and pro surf­ing heavy­weights – the black sands of Canggu play host to them all.

In­set Left: Full house at The Tem­ple of En­thu­si­asm. In­set Right: Brand in­flu­ence – Is it Canggu or Deus beach?

Pho­tos: Harry Marks

Pho­tos: Harry Mark

Above: Ayok is com­fort­able dip­ping his toes on any kind of craft. In­set: Like other lo­cals, Ayok, must claim his place amongst a menagerie of Canggu in­ter­lop­ers.

Photo: Damea Dorsey

Be­low: Girl on the grind.

Pho­tos: Dorsey

Top: The chair of rein­ven­tion awaits at Damea Dorsey’s bar­ber shop/tat­too par­lour.Op­po­site: Mar­lon Ger­ber with a del­i­cate blade shave of the up­per lip.

Photo: Quin­ten Jacobs

Main: Dy­namic op­er­a­tor, Tai Gra­ham, out the front of his bar, The Lawn. Photo: Damea Dorsey In­set: Tai drift­ing off the bot­tom at his lo­cal – the sand­bar lefts.

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