Auctioning the Surf


(photo image by afsart through creative commons)

A few week ago, two of the items up for auction at a charity fund raiser for Eco Surf Rescue Uluwatu were a session each at Uluwatu and Padang, the winner awarded a guaranteed one hour of his or her choice, with the line-ups emptied by the lifeguards. The Ulu session sold for around USD 1200 and the Padang session earning around USD 1600.

As far as I know, this is the first time that a surf session at a premier world class wave has been auctioned to the highest bidder. If so, this has to be a historical moment in surfing. I’m surprised this hasn’t gotten wider attention (or perhaps this is coming).

Several years ago, a professional expat photographer and a team of mostly foreign surfers for foreign international brands paid off Keramas villagers to have a day’s exclusive surf of the famous right-hander. Now this was blatant commercial exploitation, of questionable ethics involving strong arm tactics reminiscent of Indonesia’s New Order, when might and money ruled. The word was that afterwards a number of local Bali surfing elders were not at all pleased.

In comparison, the ESRU auction was for a genuinely good and pressing cause. At least somebody is stepping up to the plate. But I reckon it does raise some pretty significant things to ponder on.

For one thing, it points out that surfable swells at top breaks are an increasingly limited natural resource, thanks to exploding crowds and demand. And history shows that the more a natural resource becomes limited, the more greed globs onto it. Brokers, speculators, monopolies, confrontations, and outright power grabs. (Check this video that’s going viral: confrontation at Macaronis — make sure you read the comments to help get a balanced view)

Like I said, the auction was for a good cause. No problems there. But is this the best way to raise awareness and funds for keeping Uluwatu green and clean? Do we really have to resort to auctions? It’s on all our shoulders, from stakeholders who have businesses there to visiting surfers, to take care of the place on a daily basis. I reckon I’d rather see some sort of surf pass ticket/entry system than regular fundraising auctions.

But that idea raises problems, too, of good governance, accountability and transparency. I mean, whenever I pay my 150000 rupiah airport tax, I always wonder how much of that is siphoned off into pockets.

Has this set a precedent? Will sessions at other spots be “auctioned” off for causes that may or may not be legitimately charitable (listen, buying me a cold beer on a hot day is most definitely a charitable cause)

Any rate, your blog correspondent is still pre-rich, but if I’d had the money, I would have won both bids with outlandish chunks of cash. I would have selected the primo hour of the best swell of the season—and I would have let the lineup be completely empty, out of respect of what those places have given us.

(To be honest, though, it’d be really really tempting…)

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4 Responses to Auctioning the Surf

  1. Bukit Bear says:

    An hour of empty perfection on the Bukit – a 1970’s flashback – great notion. Did you hear what the MR single fin replica went for in the auction?

  2. No, I don’t know. One of my friends surfed pretty much empty Honolua in the 70s, solid 6 to 8 foot day, when MR was out. On a twin fin, though. My buddy’d been around a bit, but MR’s surfing blew him away.

  3. steve says:

    We all would rather see nominal surf pass entry fee , yes we all thought of that as the first option as well. But like the airport we would all wonder where that would end up as the site of Uluwatu where you pay for parking is actually somebodies property , and it is they that get the income. Although they like the idea of a functioning sanitation system they do not like the idea of adding to the admission price nor giving any of it to the project. This is the problem all over Bali , no real ability to see the problem for what it is , or sufficient resolve or desire to create a solution. The idea of auctioning off an hour here or there to get funds to implement this sanitation system is a very small tax for all. Those that complain that they cannot surf for that hour might learn something about give and take . Their giving is sitting it out so in a way they are also contributing .. They can watch the surf and feel good to be somehow involved with a bunch of people with no financial interest in the project that are doing this just because it needs to be done. If there is no other way to get the remaining funds then another session or two would be a very small loss for a very large gain. I like your suggestion of winning the bid and having the lineup empty for that hour as a sign of respect to a location that has given so much ..
    Nothing looks better than a bitchin set going off with nobody on them , my favorite wave shots are always the empty ones 🙂

  4. Pingback: Auctioning the Surf, Part the Second | Bali and Indo Surf Stories

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