From Da Hui to holy man, Made Kasim was one of the first Balinese to master surfing then travel abroad, as well as enforce some of the insights he picked up along the way. Now he’s a part of the Balinese priesthood. Here he reflects on what brought him to the spiritual life and how karma really works.
M: Ok let’s start with your early life, your father was a priest, right? How did that affect your role in the community and your upbringing?
MK: I didn’t grow up as a priest, my ancestors have been working in the temple, so it has come generation to generation. Right now it has come to me. So at the moment I am just studying. I been doing that for five years, and yeah I like it. Because from the beginning you born, you live on the beach, you becoming a surfer. I had a sponsor, traveled and had fun all my surfing career, then I came back here and had my business. And then after that my father got really ill and I think it’s already the God giving me this time to be a priest now. It’s ok I enjoy it, now I am meeting with all the older people, all the priests. I believe all things are coming from the God. It’s time for me to go back to my roots, because not many people have the chance to do this.
M: So your father was a priest, was he a big influence in your life? Did you look up to him when you were younger?
MK: Actually I left home early, when I was 13. Escape from the house. I don’t think he liked that. But he is very happy now because I’ve gone back. I have two other brothers and when it came time to take over his job the village come to my father and my two brothers. But my brothers didn’t want to, they refused to do that. They come to my house and they say I need to take over the job. So I don’t have a choice. Ok I think this is the time.
M: You grew up near the ocean. And your father was a fisherman?
MK: Yes he was a fisherman, in Legian at that time, only you make a living in the sea fishing or in the rice fields. There’s no other job to be done at that time. Which is good for me, I get to see where it’s from. Now the new generation doesn’t see that. I remember when there was nothing in Legian and there were no tourists. I get to see when it’s from the beginning. I get to see when it’s from nothing.
M: Was your father different from the other parents?
MK: Yeah I’m pretty sure. Where the parents really want to hold their children, they want them to do this they want them to do that. I just, more like my father he never really stop me, he just let me go.
M: Bobby Radiasa was a few years older than you. Did you hang out with him?
MK: Yeah Bobby was the first generation. I always look up to him. He did a lot for surfing on Bali.
M: What was it like when you guys were younger?
MK: I saw Bobby when I was selling drinks on the beach. At that time he was with Mike Boyum, he was with all the guys from Hawaii, older guys. At that time he already have his board. One day I wanted to be like him. One day I want to be a surfer. This was all in my mind. Bobby was the first one to surf around, the first one to pioneer. He had already been to Australia. He’s the legend. He’s cool. Then we became good friends. I go to G-land and we traveled. And since I take over my job as a priest we spending a lot of time together at the temple, and traveling to Java. The last few years I’ve spent a lot of time with Bobby. We do a spiritual trip. We just go and go to the very holy temple right in the middle of jungle. Like before we go surf together and now we go praying together.
M: Who introduced you to surfing?
MK: Because I was selling drinks on the beach, it’s the only thing to do there at the time. At that time Seminyak and Legian beach break was like a secret spot, only one or two tourist went there.
M: Did it feel like something new?
MK: Hard to tell you about all the feeling, just really proud. Surfing was like, like that time we becoming a part of these guys that go around. It was good.
M: So Peter McCabe, Mike Boyum and Gerry Lopez? How did they influence you?
MK: It’s just all to me about surfing. Only about surfing. Not trying to copy them but yeah copy their surfing!!! But yeah they are really attract me to becoming a surfer. They give me all the influences. Also helping me traveling to Hawaii and Japan.
M: What was it like surfing G-land back then?
MK: I was in the second trip there. Bobby and a few other guys was in the first trip, with Boyum too I think. When I got the first time to G-land, I feel really great. I feel like part of the jungle already. I wasn’t scared of tigers. I just go there and have fun. Enjoy. I was spending a lot of time at G-land.
M: Did you ever have spiritual feelings back then?
MK: No it was just all about surfing… it was just about having fun, just pure enjoy.
M: Jack McCoy was saying that on one of these early mission someone cut their head open. How did you treat it?
MK: At the time they were doing a surf movie. A group of Hawaiians and Jack McCoy were there. An American from California, Michael Whitman, he was like a pro at that time. It was happen one afternoon, really big day. A really big day. I was with a few other guys, then they go in. And then because it’s like really mid-tide, not high and doesn’t go low. It’s a new swell at the time, that’s why it was really strong. The guy was lucky I was on the next wave when he hit his head on the bottom, then he broke his leg-rope. I hear something and I kick out from the wave and I see he went down already. So I have time to pull him up from the water. He was a big guy. I don’t know how I put him on my board. He was just lying there and another wave came and hit me. A big wave come and he was lucky he was still on top of my board. I break my leash. So he was on the board, then I start to swim for him and start pushing him toward the shore. I knew it was so bad. At that time I was start asking the Gods because what can I do. No one can do anything at that time. We were so far away from the doctor. And there is no transport like today from G-Land. We were 30 km from the first village. The boys were there and tried to help him. All I can do is pray to him to stay alive. We sent a guy to the jungle to send for a boat but it’s impossible that he makes it the waves were just getting bigger. The boat coming the next day so they give him a painkiller and some drink so he cannot when we clean up the hole. We needed to keep this guy awake. Maybe if he’s going to sleep maybe not wake up again. Because pain killer and some alcohol. The boat come the next day and they push him out. Yeah he was made it. They brought him to Denpasar hospital. I was still in G-land at the time. But we save him. Because it’s just like when they put the cotton bud, it’s going in, so must be crack in his skull. And then since that, I was like after the accident, every time I go to G-land I bring offering. I just want to thanks the God for the help.
M: So you believe in ocean gods?
MK: Of course! I believe yeah! I believe in the queen, the south sea ocean it’s control by her. Because many people say, too. I been to where she’s coming from, in Jogya she has a temple there on the beach. I follow her too you know. We grew up that way. In Bali, we do a ceremony almost daily. We thank the God to keep us safe.
M: So you have these experiences in Indonesia, you made friends, then how did you leave Indonesia for the first time?
MK: When I was 16 years old, I left I have a family in Australia invite me. I go to Australia and stay with them. I been plan to go to a competition. But after I stay there 4 or 5 months my surfing got better. Then after Australia, I come back and then I go to Hawaii and Japan.
M: What was it like in Australia for the first time?
MK: I don’t mind. I like it, I been hang with the Australians for many year when I was selling on the beach, many of the tourists ask me to go. Of course we have scary feeling, something going to happen to me there, who is going to help us. My father and mother not really want to me go but they see it’s a good chance. Maybe the situation in Bali really hard too at that time, not much to do. Mum and dad just working in the rice fields. I know its something different. Anything.
M: So you went to Australia first and then Hawaii.
MK: Hawaii was cool. Hawaii is more like island, more like where we are coming from. The people’s minds were the same. Really laid back. Like I don’t know I haven’t been there to Hawaii since 1987. But at that time I was going there every year. I see some problem in the water but to me sometimes problem coming when people not respect each other. Some people deserve to receive that. Because when you go to a place and you not from Hawaii and you go and don’t respect the local and you try to do you know, its no good. I think that’s the only reason.
M: What do you think is the best way to deal with someone when they become disrespectful?
MK: For me it’s talk to them, talk, and maybe sometime you lose your control when you young whatever. Sometimes you want to take the challenge. I think that’s everybody have a past, you know when you young you have a lot energy you try to be a cool man.
M: You hung out with Eddie Rothman?
MK: He adopt me, he help me. Because at the time I was going there with Ketut Menda and Kim Bradley and David Rawley. At that time we don’t have much money. Can you imagine, at the time we from Bali and going to Hawaii. He let me stay in his house and yeah of course when I was down there, my job is to if you get free house to stay, get food, you have to clean up the garden, clean up the house. And it’s you know, he like, I come from Bali, he been to Bali many times. He’s happy to have a Balinese come and stay there.
M: Was he upset, because in Bali more people, was he happy about people coming to Hawaii?
MK: Maybe it’s got to do... I don’t think so because sometime Hawaii get too crowded. For example we in the surfing world, in surfing life. Of course when you go and you a local there you surf the best wave. Nobody come, you surf alone all your life. Then now so many people coming of course you get frustrated sometimes.
M: After seeing what was going on in Hawaii did you think that might happen in Bali?
MK: For me it’s much different. Bali is not like Hawaii. In Bali we grow up believing in karma. We grow up like that naturally. So to me everybody welcome, for example we are Balinese, many people come from other island to look for jobs. Maybe if someone else go to another island looking for work. We Balinese people we welcome. But then again we have that thing with people who is coming here. We respect them, they respect us. Maybe people from other island come to work here it’s comfortable, it’s like a paradise. It’s fine unless you start problem first.
M: What was your black shorts family like in Bali?
MK: Just group of friends. We try to make like how we from surf spot to surf spot. We try to connect together. We try surfing to be one big family. It’s all about that concept to me. Because Uluwatu I give all those guys. And I give to Medewi I give all the guys the short. The kid look up to them, so that they can learn something. The surfing community is one big family in Bali, even if we come from Legian or Sanur we are brothers.
K: That’s what it’s about for me. We make new friends. Where ever we surf when we in the water we are so friendly. That’s what its about for me, bringing people together. Like the boys have some good clips before, we can help, we can find them a sponsor. Today I see surfing in Indonesia is very good, improving so much, very good quality surf and good quality sponsor. All the big brands make events like Billabong, Quiksilver they help which is good. They all get to see from traveling. And they can learn something from traveling. I think its good surfing is only getting better in Bali. People can make a living from surfing. I think it’s good, because it’s not just a good surfer can make a living from surfer. Many work as surfing guide a lot of new tourist come and they need somebody to guide them, take them to a place where to go surfing at the right time. Everybody can make a living from that. In my time we never think about guiding for surfing. Changing is good!
M: Do you feel the Balinese people have been taken advantage of by tourist that come here?
MK: Maybe some people, not all the people. Because to me what I see since last few years. Like awakening, I see so many people like you say go back to the temple, during the full moon new moon. Before not so many like that because maybe the transportation is not good. But now the economy is good, people want to go back to their root, to pray and give thanks to the gods. People last few years I see so many changing.
M: Do you see any other changes in Bali?
MK: For me I just hope people more understand coming to Balinese is not about party place. They go to the mountains to see everything. So we are not really change, never. The lifestyle of Bali I think its only getting better.
M: Spiritual is great on Bali, many people are open…
MK: Reality is everybody when something bad happens, they say “oh God help me,” that’s when the god come. Because I think it’s about the life you can do whatever you want, then the gods wake you one day, you get sick or have an accident. But to me it’s because of the environment. I think it’s all about that.
M: Yeah, people would want to be part of something else.
MK: It’s more like that, in Bali people, karma will get them. It’s true yeah, when we plan something, that’s what we’re going to receive. If we plant a mango, you get that, we get a mango fruit, mango fruit coming out. Balinese people like that. You know what, honestly when Jed came to me I think why, I have nothing to say anymore. Of course I love surfing I grew up on surfing. Maybe it’s already bored, see my face, what this guy doing. Understand what I mean? What is special about me, I’m nobody, understand. This is my thinking. I have to meet this guy? Better we meet as a friend and talk. Like here, don’t need to put this down, more like I met you today, you were my friend, that’s all.
M: Some people never understand, they hear but don't seem to want to understand.
MK: For me I am proud to Balinese. I have been traveling. I am in this position now. I have this mind. Maybe, could be worse. I don’t know. Since I grown, my ancestors always been living with this direction to be the way I am today with this thinking. Even though I am not a millionaire or a billionaire but I am happy with who I am. I can go to the jungle and pray to the deepest jungle and cave. I can come back here and job and go 5 star hotel and enjoy. To me I can eat anything. Even to me, 5 star meal and nasi campur are the same. I am not really, aw, wow, big guys. Some people look at the rich people, wow, big star. We are all the same, we just play different part of the drama. We all have our own part. I have been lucky, I know I have been lucky. Because maybe I not becoming a surfer, I would be in a different place. Maybe I have good guidance, be there, come back, business. I haven’t surfed already for three years now. I been now five year. I surf after the second year for a few times. You know, I enjoy watching people surfing. Maybe I go back surfing when I am 50. Or maybe this year. I just want to get really, ‘oh I want to go surf.’ Today I have new canoe. You know Toro Toro, airport right? I have my canoe there. I just start on the seaweed bed, glassy ocean there is no wave, I just doing paddle. I don’t have to catch waves. Just be on the ocean. Just paddling myself, going cruising, I go paddling all along the Four Season, Jimbaran, and back. It’s cool. I have good canoe, you wanna go there and try, I have three canoe there. Season is changing now and the view of the ocean is so beautiful. So you know, I know I can have fun in the water. I always have fun, even when I’m not surfing. I was like that for a long time when I was working doing my surfing, every day cannot go one day without surfing. Now I can enjoy all my life.