Crooked Journey: From Bondi to Bali


This post originally started off as a lesson in surf etiquette, because I have a beef that when learning to surf, an instructor’s typical M.O. is to get you up on the board (definitely key) but not always to teach you the manners you’ll need to be welcomed on the waves. When I found out that Maree Suteja, owner of the crazy popular Bali breakfast hangout, Crate Café, and de facto mother hen for everyone who enters her stratosphere, was also a former pro surfer, I thought she’d be the perfect person to ask about the ins and outs of surf manners. But when I heard a little bit more about Maree’s background and the crooked journey that brought her here today, I realized she has so much more wisdom to offer than just rules of the waves, so I decided to expand this post and ask her to share her thoughts on big moves, big ideas, and big waves. Surf’s up.

How long have you lived in Bali?
I arrived in Bali 1978 for a 3-week vacation and ended up staying for 3 months. I kept coming back and eventually moved here in 1989.

Where are you originally from?
Bondi, Sydney, Australia.

What brought you here in the first place?

What’s your favourite place on the island?
My village Mengwitani – it’s like walking back in time – nothing has changed and the smiles are unconditional.

How has Bali changed since you’ve been here?
Bali hasn’t changed we’ve changed. Of course Kuta, Legian, and Seminyak have experienced the overdevelopment that started in 1987 when the island was opened up to foreign investment, but a 20-minute drive from Canggu still leads you to small winding roads with endless rice fields, ceremonies in the street, and warungs oozing in tradition.

Has Bali changed you as a person?
The culture taught me to think about life in a very different way than the West. Here, what’s really important hits you in the face every day. You can be riding your motorbike alongside a cremation ceremony bringing the body to its final destination, and on the opposite side of the road you’ll see children flying their kites.

When you live on a tropical island, where do you go to vacation?
Nusa Lembongan.

What did you want to be when you were a kid?
I wanted to act on stage. I was involved in a lot of theatrical productions.

And how did acting ultimately lead to where you are today?
I studied acting, which eventually led to a teaching. I worked in the corporate world, managing gyms. I was in the rag trade. Now my focus is on Crate and our newly opened bar/skate bowl, Pretty Poison. Variety is the spice of life.

What were your biggest fears starting your businesses?
Being accepted in the community.

What does your typical day look like?
Wake up at 5am. Go for a swim. Instagram. Organize. Get to Crate around 8am. Brainstorm with the staff. Leave around 1pm to go and purchase supplies. I hit the treadmill for an hour of zone-out time. Then back to Crate at 3pm. Another swim. Dinner around 6pm with my family. In bed by 9pm. A little internet research. A little more Instagram. Sleep.

Do you still surf?
Haha, no but I have plans to do so.

What are 3 rules people need to keep in mind when riding the waves?
Learn your left from your right.
Be grateful.

Is there a lesson in surfing that you think also applies to life in general?

Name three things you’re proud of.
My get-up-and-go attitude.
Always finding a solution to any problem.
My kids, Yasmin and Kai.

Do you have any regrets?

What’s the next step on your journey?
We just opened Pretty Poison, a new bar/skate bowl in Canggu last month and that’s keeping me pretty busy.

What’s your personal life philosophy?
Find something to do.
Find something to love.
Find something to look forward to.

If you could give a piece of advice to your 20-year old self, what would it be?
Don’t sweat the small stuff. Surround yourself with like-minded people.

Words to live by.
Decide what to be and go be it.

Lead photo Tom Ross, sourced here. All others from Instagram.

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