Tourism makes up 80 percent of the economy in Bali, but since mid-March, the island has been on complete lockdown. No tourist visas. No surfing. Nobody spending money. From 300-plus planes arriving everyday, with surfers and visitors swarming every beach and warung (local restaurant) all across the island to near-complete silence almost overnight, the island chain has been hit especially hard during this crisis. It’s been a rough couple of months, and there’s still a long road ahead for the local people who depend on tourism to survive.
To help out, photographer Nate Lawrence — who calls Bali home — is selling a selection of his images from lockdown online, with 100 percent of the proceeds going to the local people who need it most. For every dollar he makes selling the below images of empty Uluwatu, he’ll donate to the Uluwatu community. Similarly, the proceeds from photos taken at Padang Padang, will go to the community there. The same goes for Sanur, Canggu and Keramas.
“What I saw when I made it down past the barricades above Uluwatu was a ghost town, the few remaining locals still in shock at the disappearance of their way of life,” Lawrence says. “The warungs have all shut since most of the tourists have left the island. There is a whole community of mothers and fathers and children and grandparents who rely on selling a cold coconut or sarong on the beach to survive. And the one thing they all asked me was, ‘When will the surfers come back?’”
While the answer to that question is far from knowable at this juncture, Lawrence has figured out a way to use his talents to help those in need until surfers do return to the island.
“These folks were happy to see a familiar face from before the pandemic,” Lawrence continues. “They were the smiles of people who have become like extended family for so many of us foreign surfers. The smiles of the people who cook your plate of nasi goreng, fix your snapped board in under 48 hours for the next swell, photograph the best wave of your life, and trade perfect waves and an after-surf Bintang with you at sunset. These were the same smiles I was first greeted with when I fell in love with Uluwatu so many years ago.”
Scroll below to check out some of Lawrence’s images, and then Scroll below to check out some of Lawrence’s images, and thenclick here to purchase one to hang on your wallto purchase one to hang on your wall. To sweeten the deal, shaper Jon Pyzel has offered to donate a brand-new custom surfboard to one lucky winner. Anyone who buys a print will automatically be entered in the drawing to win a new stick. Not only are you buying a reminder of the good times ahead, but you’re also helping the local people survive the most challenging time of their lives.
We’re not sure how this guy evaded lockdown or what happened to him afterwards, but this session — alone at perfect Ulu’s — was almost certainly worth it.
When was the last time Uluwatu was completely empty (aside from on Nyepi, Bali’s yearly day of silence) on a perfect swell? 50 years ago? more?
“There are so many kind-hearted people behind the smiles who, without fail, will always remember your face and your name, even if you haven’t seen them in years,” says Lawrence
Pandemic or not, when Ulu’s outside bombie gets over 10-feet, only a brave few dare enter anyway
Mental paradise only (for now)
Hands down Bali is home to the most welcoming people on earth
“When I look back on all the magic times spent at these amazing waves, it’s the people as much as the waves themselves that I remember,” says Lawrence
An empty Uluwatu runner, on the rocks
“In almost 20 years of living in Indonesia, I’ve never seen Bali’s famous surf spots empty the way I have in the past month,” says Lawrence. “Uluwatu, Keramas, Canggu – entirely deserted, with perfect empty waves breaking without a surfer in sight.”
Perfect Uluwatu without a soul around. This is an image that will (hopefully) never be replicated.
“Order a print to keep your dreams of surf travel alive until you can return to Bali to ride the waves of your life,” says Lawrence. “And help the locals survive this challenging time and ensure they will once again be there to welcome you back.”