Statistics, surf, and Indonesia’s undiscovered surf spots…

Years ago in math class, the professor was lecturing on statistics (you know, “there are lies, damn lies, and statistics”). He showed us a newspaper clipping stating that 60 percent of driving fatalities occurred within 30 miles of home*. The article analyzed why — people know the roads, they get careless, they don’t drive safe. “But what’s wrong with this analysis?” the professor asked. “Well, what about the possibility that 60 percent of all driving is done within 30 miles of home?”

Whenever I read that Indonesia has 17,508 islands and therefore a super-abundance of surf, I think about that lecture. What’s wrong with that statistical correlation between the number of islands and the surf? Take a look at the map below — forgive me if I belaboring the obvious with my highlighting:

Indo surf zone exposure

I briefly Google Earthed the Sumatra zone and counted about 100 islands and islets on the western side. So lets say there’s 1000 islands exposed to Indian Ocean swell. Another 1000 for the Pacific Exposure. And for those who really want to take a punting chance, another 1000 (very generous figure) exposed to the South China Sea (although your blog correspondent was working in that region for two years in the early 80s, and I wouldn’t call it a real hot surf zone. More in next week’s post on this).

The rest of those 17,508 islands dot the inland seas, folks. But hey, if a young gun and his or her video crew, or a mass media surf photographer, want to go find new surf spots at the Riau Islands (excluding river tidal bores) or Buru Island, by all means, let me be the first to encourage such exploration.

As for the exposed surf zones, 3000 islands (if that) seems a lot. But for forty years, those islands have been scoured for surf. If you are fortunate enough to pull up to an empty surf break that you haven’t been told about, or seen a map marked with an “x” and truly found it on a hunch, then it’s perfectly understandable to get that “first time surfed” stoke. Sure, why not? But almost guaranteed not to be true. As the zine itself says, at those “secret spots” resident expat surfers were keen to keep the places unknown.

I don’t know how many times the surf media has touted a “new discovery” only for friends (or an email chain) bemoan “there goes another place.”

* I can’t remember the exact figures in the article, but something like that

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One Response to Statistics, surf, and Indonesia’s undiscovered surf spots…

  1. Aρpreciate tɦe recommendation. Let me try іt out.

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