Bali Traveler Tobias Weymar

Every year, thousands of college students travel the globe to study abroad and expand their horizons. This unique experience is one that I sadly never got to enjoy myself. I can remember this one conversation I had with my friend, Tobias, about the topic towards the end of sophomore year.  He was lamenting over the decision we both had made not to go abroad the following semester.

Later that summer, stuck with the regret of not seizing the opportunity to travel the world, Tobias decided to take matters into his own hands. He started doing some research and found out that he actually had some extended family living in Bali. This news was just the opportunity that he was looking for, a perfect second-chance to travel the world and step out of the norm. Instead of harping on all the repercussions that taking time off from school might bring, he went with his gut and decided to take a gap year living and working (and surfing) in Bali.

He didn’t know exactly what was in store, but it turned out to be the journey of a lifetime. I recently sat down with Tobias to find out more about this unconventional trip abroad:

What were your initial thoughts during those first few days in Bali?

"It took a while for it to all sink in. You're not going to find another place in the Indonesian archipelago quite like Bali - there's a reason it's called 'The Island of the Gods'. The sights, sounds, and especially smells are completely different from anything in the Western world. If you've been to Bali then you know that the way to get around is by motor bike. Weaving through swarms of traffic at high speeds took the most getting used to."

What was your living and working situation like?

"Luckily, I was fortunate enough to have family in Bali. My dad's cousin (originally French) was married to an Indonesian chef. After spending 20 years in some of the most celebrated kitchens in New York City, he decided to move back to Indonesia to open his own restaurants. Chandi restaurant in Seminyak is their flagship location. It was inspiring to be around people who were driven to succeed in such a competitive industry. Local knowledge and connections go a long way in Bali."

Why did you decide to start surfing when you were out there?

"Before I got to Indo, I watched GoPro's 'Masters of Indo' featuring Marlon Gerber, Varun Tanjung, Mikala Jones, Lakey Peterson and Alana Blanchard (check it out on Youtube if you have the chance). Watching the sunset from inside a crystal clear tube blew me away. Basically from that moment I wanted to learn to surf as well as I possibly could."

Could you tell us about your experience surfing in Bali? 

"I wanted to quit surfing after the first two weeks. No other sport was as challenging. Teaching yourself as an adult didn't help either. Even getting out to the lineup can be a serious challenge. If you don't nail the take off, it's all over. At best you have to wait for another wave, at worst you're stuck inside at the mercy of the rest of the waves in the set. The ocean teaches a lot of patience and humility, an hour can make the difference between perfect waves or getting slammed on dry reef.

Whenever I wasn't working I'd be looking at surf cams and swell reports. With such a variety of waves, it's important to find the right break and conditions for your skill set. At my level, I wouldn't dream of paddling out at maxing Uluwatu or Padang Padang. The unwritten hierarchy in the line up is whole other beast in itself. Cutting off the wrong person can have serious consequences."

Did you meet any interesting people during your travels?

"After showing the 'Masters of Indo' video to my aunt and uncle, they told me that they knew the Tanjungs - Varun actually went to school with my cousin. With my uncle's help, I found a time to meet Marlon at his restaurant in Kuta, called 'Balcony'. He was with a few other surfers and film makers, one of whom was tatted from head to toe - I later gathered this was surf royalty Christian Fletcher. I decided to tag along with them when they went to Keramas, but lost them in all the traffic. Maybe it was intentional, I'm sure he could tell I was new to surfing.

I also befriended a few Dutch guys and some Australians but they were only in Bali for a couple weeks or so. Most of my time was spent hanging out with local surfers and beach workers on Kuta beach or with my futsal team. Because of the lack of money and the rainy season, futsal or indoor soccer played with a smaller, less bouncy ball was a big deal. After playing one night, a local guy about my age told me I should come play with him the following week. I was by far the worst on the team but the guys were incredibly patient and friendly with me. When we weren't playing futsal, we would shoot pool or check out different markets in Denpasar."

What did this experience leave you with? Are you still surfing today?

"The experience made me appreciate traveling for the sake of traveling. Getting out of your comfort zone and being surrounded by different environments changes your perspective. On top of learning about other people and cultures, I learned a lot about myself. Surfing still plays a large role in my life and was a deciding factor in my choice to move to California after college."

Sea's the Day!
Interviewed by: David Rabinowitz

caroline danehy