Rules of Road addition: Surfboards racked up on top of cars

Many years ago, my friend S was driving along the Ketewel road (then just newly built) with his surfboard racked up on top of his car, when a policeman pulled him over. License and registration were in order, but the cop shook his head in stern dismay and pointed at the board. Not allowed, he said, but fifty thousand would take care of the matter.

Now S (he’s a modest bloke, hence the initial) is an expat who’s lived in Bali since the day of the monofinausarus (the single fin dinosaur), with a Balinese wife and family. S hasn’t so much become a Balinese has he’s become Balinified, which is a process that combines elements of petrifaction, patination, rustification, and crustification. S told the cop, “That’s not true. There’s no law against having boards safely racked on top of your car.”

This irritated the cop, who then proceeded to have S turn on headlights, brake lights, signal lights, even honk his horn. Nothing was wrong with the car. Then the cop pointed at one tire and said, “You’re missing the inner tube cap. That’s a fine.”

S, being Balinified, politely told the cop to take a hike.

I was reminded of this the other day when I was driving behind a tourist rental with boards on top. Ahead, traffic cops were pulling over motorbikes for a check but letting cars though. I told myself, I bet the rental car gets stopped. Sure enough, it was. What happened next, I’m not sure.

Now, traffic cops have the responsibility to make sure vehicles are road safe. But there is presently a police PR tourist campaign with banners everywhere in English telling drivers “Please do not make or give recompense to any police officer. Traffic fines are easily and officially paid.” In that spirit, may I say that as far as I know (a necessary disclaimer since I am not a lawyer), it is not illegal to have surfboards racked up on top of cars, and it would be good for visiting surfers to know this. If you are pulled over, and the cop points at the boards, demonstrate that the boards are safely racked. And help the police do their good job by not paying such recompense, as the police themselves have urged.

And of course, if you find yourself in such a situation, by all means, don’t be intimidated but do be ultra polite. Politeness and respect goes a very long way in resolving these things.

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