Boxing is in Raju's blood. His father, Bala, was a professional fighter. Bala's hometown in Timor has a long history of producing boxers, and many of his relatives and friends took up the sport. Bala had a decent pro career in Bali and was sponsored by Da Hui during his prime. At night he worked as a bouncer at the Peanuts Club in Kuta, one of Legian's hottest clubs during the eighties. He manned the back door and was in charge of kicking out and roughing up drunks who got out of hand. When Bala retired from boxing, instead of taking a job as a trainer or mopping up the gym at night like many over-the-hill fighters, he got a job as a surf instructor working at the Da Hui Surf School at Kuta Beach. That decision meant Raju grew up on the beach at Padma surfing every day, instead of inside the Mirah Boxing Gym in Kuta pounding the heavy bag for hours on end. Raju gave pugilism a try. A few years ago he laced up the gloves and sparred with some older kids at his dad's gym. He wound up on the canvas. That's when Raju decided whipping rodeo flips at Padma is a lot more fun than dodging jabs and uppercuts in a sweaty gym all day. Raju knows he's skinnier than Kate Moss on a hunger strike, and there aren't many successful fighters built like Rob Machado. “With surfing there's no brain damage,” says Raju. “And I'm too handsome to be a boxer.” Raju's mom couldn't agree more.
Raju loves the limelight. In fact, he's already had a career in television. Raju was cast for a reality TV show called “Homestay” on Trans 7. His job was to teach the stars of the show how to surf in Bali. The cast members were all from Jakarta. The boys were sallow and clumsy and spent every second between shoots on their phones. The girls were pale and delicate and brought umbrellas to the beach. Teaching the Jakarta kids to surf was a challenge, says Raju, but he managed to get a couple of them to stand up a few times for the camera. Like any gentlemanly surf instructor, Raju focused most of his attention on the ladies and let the boys flounder in the shore break.
ROUND 4 Raju isn't afraid to match up against heavyweights in the water. When Kelly Slater was in Bali last year, Raju paddled out at Keramas with him and Rizal and snagged more than his share of stand-up pits. Out at Padma, Raju won't back down to anyone. The other day Marlon Gerber paddled out in front of Raju's umbrella and landed the hugest air anyone had seen in a long time. Not to be outdone at his home break, Raju dropped in on Marlon's next wave and they both launched at the same time. Raju says he went higher.
ROUND 5 ROUND 2 Raju comes from royalty. His grandfather on his father's side was a rajah in Atambua Selatan, Timor (hence Raju's other nickname, “Rajah Raju”). Bala left Timor as a young man and hasn't returned home since meeting Raju's mom and starting a family in Bali. Raju and his siblings have never been to their father's homeland. It's a sore subject for Bala's relatives, who want the family to move back to Timor. These days there are no more rajah in Timor – it's the bupati who calls the shots now – but Bala's relatives still own a lot of land, and claim more cows, buffalo, goats and chickens than anyone else in town. If they returned, his relatives say, Bala and his family would have plenty of land and they wouldn't have to pay rent like they do in Bali. They would have their own staff on hand and could live a life free of worry and struggle. But for Bala and his family, Padma is home. When asked whether he'd rather be a rajah in Timor or a surfer in Bali, Raju just laughed: “I'm a surfer.”
Raju is an A student. Many sponsored groms in Bali give up on school as soon as they start earning a little pocket money from their sponsors. Raju goes to school six days a week. Last year he finished second in his class of 45 students at high school in Kerobokan. Raju's mom, Ibu Erna, teaches math to kids who have fallen behind in their coursework. You won't catch Raju in any of her classes. She wouldn't have it. Occasionally, though, you will catch Raju on Facebook in the school's computer lab.
ROUND 6 Raju is the only kid at his school who surfs. Many of Raju's classmates think surfing is cool, but they're afraid to try it because they don't want their skin to get dark in the sun. Not Raju. He's smart. He knows that girls like surfers, and western girls in particular love a good tan. That's why Raju's ranked second in his class.