The family that surfs together stays together. Luiz Sanchez meets Hugo and Indra from In Da Surf Camp Canggu, where a sense of community and family reigns supreme. Images: Nikola Kostic.
Bali is full of great surf schools. Over the past decade surf camps have sprung up across the island offering surf safaris and accommodation for backpackers and budding surfers, and this has proven to be a wildly popular venture.
Six years ago, Hugo – a Russian lady from Vladivostok – and her Balinese partner Indra sought to start their own surf camp in Canggu when they realized that surf camps by and large were lacking in something they saw as essential: a sense of family and community. The result – In Da Surf Camp & School – became unique in this regard . . . because it’s designed to be more like a home than a business.
“We didn’t consider it a business at all,” said Hugo, “we just wanted to share our vision, knowledge and lifestyle with our friends and other travelers. I know it isn’t typical to start a business without a concrete business plan, a budget or experience, but our desire to try was strong. When people asked us what the plan was, we were like, well, we have no plan, we are just going to try it out and see how we go. We basically expanded our home and welcomed people there.”
“Seven years ago I was living in Russia working for a Korean government organization,” Hugo recalls. “Life was hectic and I was unhappy, so I decided to travel around and found myself in Bali.” Hugo met her partner Indra at the airport on her arrival. He was assigned to pick her up and the two quickly formed a deep connection. What was meant to be a holiday ended as a permanent stay when the two rented their first home and Indra considered opening his own surf camp.
Indra has been a surfer his entire life. His passion for the island, his culture, and the sea had a definitive impact on the vision they had for their business. This would be a surf camp that would espouse core tenets of Balinese philosophy: family, community and the environment.
“We don’t want to just make money,” Indra explains. “We wanted to create a community. We have many guests that have been coming back often for the past six years because they feel at home here. We cook together, surf together and teach them about Balinese culture and customs.” The couple have two children who have been raised at the surf camp. Their kids were a welcome addition as guests and staff quickly became surrogate family to the children.
Guests staying at In Da Surf can expect to be welcomed warmly by both Hugo and Indra, but they will also find that everyone there is keen to showcase local Bali culture. “We don’t run official events very often,” Indra explains. “But we cook a lot and host movie nights, or if there are special celebrations like Galungan or Nyepi we make sure to include our guests in them. Often after a big surf our instructors will go to the market and buy fresh ingredients to cook their meals, and the guests are curious about it and want to try the food. It’s not uncommon for our guests to end up in the kitchen with us learning how to make different kinds of sambal, or to sit with our staff to learn about the canang sari offerings we put out every day.”
To Hugo it is vitally important to impart this knowledge on the tourists visiting the island. “Bali has so much culture, and such a rich history that many people coming here don’t get to experience properly,” Indra says. “I love this island and we really want our guests to see the real Bali, and to appreciate the culture that is so welcoming to outsiders.”
Hugo and Indra’s approach to life is quite different. Hugo’s dedicated work ethic makes her perfectly suited to running a business, whereas Indra’s more laid back and carefree demeanor, coupled with his passion for surf and love of Balinese culture, allowed for the creation of an environment that was really warm and welcoming to guests. In their personal lives these approaches have also helped both of them learn a great deal about how to tackle life. “I would say Indra has taught me how to relax and not stress so much, while he has become a really hard worker that really steps up for the family,” Hugo says.
All of their surf instructors have first aid certifications, as well as several International Surfing Association certifications. “We are very curious people and love to learn,” she says. “We have grown a lot over the past six years both professionally and personally, and we expect the same from our team. We want to be surrounded by strong, professional people that are hungry for knowledge and growth.”
Hugo and Indra support their staff by giving them constant training and education. “I want people who work for us to feel good here,” Indra says. “If we have a cohesive team and a good atmosphere then our guests will feel it and enjoy their stay even more.”
In Da Surf is not your typical surf camp. This isn’t an instagrammeable place with smoothie bowls and avocado toast. It’s a home, a community, a place you stay at to learn how to surf, yes, but one which you leave with a deeper respect for the culture of Bali, and a new place to call home.