The Gili Islands, consisting of Gili Trawangan, Gili Air, and Gili Meno, are a group of small islands located off the northwest coast of Lombok, Indonesia. Renowned for their pristine beaches, crystal-clear waters, and laid-back island living, these islands attract both backpackers and luxury travelers alike.

The three small islands offer an authentic remote Southeast Asian island experience along with some nice surfing for those willing to make Surfing Gili Islands has not yet taken off like in some other Indonesian locations such as Bali and Lombok, so crowds are smaller.  The locals are also very laid back, friendly and welcoming towards visiting surfers. As more and more surfers and travellers discover these three beautiful desert islands, expect word to spread and numbers to grow. Although there are efforts in place to keep the islands rustic — there are no motorbikes present — now is the time to take advantage of the Gili Islands’ status before it becomes “the next big thing”.

Surfing Gili Islands in a nutshell

Though we often refer to the Gili islands collectively, each has its own unique character. While Trawangan or “Gili T” is the most developed, Gili Air offers the most local character and is closest to the large island of Lombok. For those wishing to simply get away from it all, there is Gili Meno, which is where to head for the most authentic desert island experience. The main advantages to surfing the Gilis are the quality of their breaks, the absence of crowds and an desert island experience in a tropical paradise.

surfing gili islands
Gili Trawangan wave. Pic from

Surfing Gili Islands: when and where

Gili Trawangan

Gili T can be a secret blessing when the surf is good. Surfers that can drop fast waves will be rewarded with long rides and big swells with steep barrels in some parts. The spot is a fast right-hand reef-break about 300 meters off the southern end of the island. Surfing can be tricky here and large south-southwest swells are necessary in order to clear the coral, which is also a popular site with snorkelers. The wet season (January – June) can provide 1-2 meter (3-6 foot) swells.

surfing gili islands
Surfing Gili Air pic by Lalu Zul Helmi

Gili Air

Another reef break, which like Gili T, is also off the southern tip of the island. A great although somewhat infrequent right-hander, the break here is fast, short hollow and fun. Gili Air is the closest of the islands to Lombok and the break is accessible via a long paddle or you can head there on a boat. Be careful of strong currents and a somewhat treacherous reef.

Surf is best when winds are blowing from the west and northwest, coupled with a large south-southwest swell to create some nice short barrels. The left break also provides some swift close outs or straight-handers. While the surf can be good during all tides, low tide can be treacherous.

Gili Meno

The break here is known as Secrets and is located 100m off the beach at the island’s southeast corner. When conditions are good, Secrets can provide an impressive swell resulting in a fast, long, hollow right, which can provide some nice walls and barrels at parts. Beware the shallow reef, however, and do not be shy to ask locals for help. The somewhat inconsistent nature of Gili Meno’s surf helps keep the crowds down at Secrets, which can really pay off for those with a bit of patience.

surfing gili islands
Sea turtle, Gili Meno. Pic by Francesco

In summary

While Gili T is the most developed and most popular place for surfing Gili Islands, Gili Air and Gili Meno are worth checking out, especially for something new. For those in search of “hidden” and “secret” spots, ask around, do a bit of exploration and on-site research. Experienced surfers shouldn’t be afraid to break new ground. Just use your head and respect the locals and the environment of these fantastic island treasures!

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