Gong Xi Fa Cai! Happy Lunar New Year! The Chinese Are Coming!

The best cure for insomnia is a good surf.

After church, and a valiant attempt to not catch up on sleep during the service, I headed to the only spot that would be working in these east (WEST, sheesh) winds and small swell. The Word of the Warung Woman was sedang dan ramai, or head high and packed, but still I went to Serangan, reasonably close to home, figuring on at least paddle. Rather surprised to see some soft but overhead wind swell peaks, I thought maybe it might be possible to get one or two. But I waited and waited and nothing came. The pack was all over the smaller ones. So I resorted to my karmic trick. My karmic trick is simple: find a plastic bag or two floating in the water and stuff them down my board short pocket for proper disposal. A wave inevitably comes. But I couldn’t even find a plastic bag. The stiff monsoon winds had blown them all to Lembongan.

So I started to wax philosophical. I surveyed my fifty fellow surfers of various nationalities, pondering the fact that ten years ago at Serangan at this time in the afternoon I would have been out on my own. Now, for most of those surfers in the water, ten years would have been half their remembered lives. Ten years ago they would have been groms. They wouldn’t even have known Serangan existed. But for a fifty-five year old man with bodily aches and pains, ten years is a mere wisp of time, on par with “you should have been here yesterday.”

I had the great good fortune to grow up in Bali and go surfing just for the fun of it, with no idea of how fortunate I really was. I wasn’t a ripper, I didn’t froth for monster swells, I was just your basic lucky average surfer having fun. Still am, with increasingly bad eye sight and failing body, but fun is harder to find these day.

Another philosophical observation came to me: Any surfer who declares “Nobody owns the ocean” is guaranteed to be surfing somebody else’s backyard.

Now, nostalgia is an ailment of the middle-aged. Kids don’t want to know about how it was in the good old days. This is their world. This is reality.

That’s true. Bali is the microcosm of the entire surfing world, all nationalities and abilities and watercraft and all varieties of surf commercialism and packed into this tiny island, with most surfers in the water at any given spot being here on holiday, or shooting their new video. Other surf destinations do get crowded too, but not so thoroughly, constantly, and internationally. Bali is Bali. This is the reality. Deal with it.

Yes but. While nothing remains the same and all things change, too rapid and uncontrolled a change is called a malignancy.

Bali has turned cancerous.

I don’t think that’s just nostalgia speaking either.

And the reality of Bali is about to become even more real.

I refer to the recent ISA pro surf contest contest in Hainan, China.

“Even in my dreams I couldn’t have foreseen an event of this magnitude,” said Fernando Aguerre, the President of the ISA, who sat side-by-side with a high-ranking official from the Communist Party of China at the ceremony. “Surfing has captured the hearts of so many people around the world. We hope it will capture the hearts of the Chinese people and continue to grow in this country for years to come.” (quote from the Surfline article linked above)

China is mass producing surfboards. Now they are going to surf on them, too?

But cool—may a hundred flowers bloom, may ten thousand Chinese surfers go surfing. There’s thousands and thousands of coastline there for them.

The trouble is, they’re soon going to be surfing in Bali. I guarantee that anybody who’s been living and surfing in Bali for, oh ten years, was groaning a little after reading about that ISA contest. And no, we’re not being selfish and piggish and paranoid. Experience tells us that soon we’re soon going to be sharing our already packed line-ups with the Chinese masses.

Anyway, I finally caught a wave and did the standard Serangan Slalom Course. Waited for a second wave and nearly scalped a young Aussie who wasn’t too happy with this old fart on his tanker.

Sorry, mate. Happy holidays.

(grabbed from Neal Miyake — Hawaii but could be here)


Correction to last week’s post, “Jim Allison…”. I should have made it more clear that Roger Kincaid and Fuge Hickman were already pioneering legends when Jim arrived in 1983.

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2 Responses to Gong Xi Fa Cai! Happy Lunar New Year! The Chinese Are Coming!

  1. Bukit Bear says:

    I was worried before…. now I’m terrified…

  2. peterponkin says:

    I remember when the Brazilians and other South American hotheads started coming to Bali on mass. That was the start of my Bali dream dieing. Lets hope that the Chinese stick to what they know best – making money and leave the beach alone. What about passing laws to stop these contest directors from doing their dirty work – just a thought!

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