An article in the 12 Feb edition of The Jakarta Post has snagged attention in the surfing world. Here is a screen-grab of the online edition’s article headline, with the rest of the article as the italicized text (with my brief comments following):
Under the bylaw, all foreign and local surfers visiting Mentawai are required to pay Rp 1 million (US$75) and Rp 250,000, respectively, for a 15-day period.
Payments are to be made online, while identification wristbands are to be collected at the provincial capital of Padang or Mentawai. The new regulation is scheduled to take effect in August after the regional administration completes supporting regulations that detail fee collection procedures.
Local authorities, meanwhile, believe that the new fees are relatively low compared with the facilities they are offering to surfers.
Such fees, for example, would give surfers a fair chance to ride the most sought-after waves in the region, said Mentawai Islands Tourism Agency head Desti Seminora.
“Currently, many surfers must compete against each other to secure surf spots on particular beaches,” she said.
“By paying certain fees, surfers will be guaranteed spots on the beach as our officers will allow a maximum of 20 surfers to surf in a particular spot every morning and afternoon.”
Desti also said the local administration would use the additional income from the fees to develop supporting facilities, including guard posts and medical emergency facilities, to improve safety and comfort.
West Sumatra Surfing and Tourist Ship Association (AKSSB) head Aim Zen said it was time for the regional administration to enjoy revenue from its natural and marine tourism potential.
Aim also considered the fees “very reasonable”.
He, however, urged the local administration to pay serious attention to several matters if it wished to implement the regulation, such as ensuring that the surf spots were free from illegal levies collected by thugs and the local community.
“The Mentawai Islands regency administration must also immediately provide basic supporting facilities in the surf spots, such as security, or police posts, lifeguards, health posts for emergencies and communications equipment at the posts for better coordination,” said Zen.
AKSSB members currently operate 34 yachts and 11 boats to accommodate surfers’ trips to Mentawai.
Each boat or yacht can transport at least a dozen tourists per trip, costing each passenger around $2,500.
The director of Kandui Resort on Siberut Island, Anom Suheri, also welcomes the implementation of the surfing fees.
“However, for the sake of business certainty, the regulation must be implemented consistently,” he said.
I read this and thought, “what else is new?” This sort of thing has been going for decades in the Mentawais, and the thing of the thing is, nobody knows what the thing actually is except that it’s there in one form or another like a giant blob in the bottom of Padang harbor. Little transparency and a lot of murk. Much is driven by greed on both sides. One of my characters in a my novel Rotten Stinking Place to Die (see the sidebar) says “Greed’s more subtle than you think. He’s greedy, you want more than your share, but I’m only asking for what I deserve.” (You really should buy and download the novel, my plug piece for the day).
The implementation of the plan, if it is indeed close to the thing that will be (which I have my doubts about), is mind boggling. This is Indonesia. On-line registration? Wrist bands? A maximum of twenty surfers per spot per morning and afternoon session? Valid only for 15 days? Charging locals for surfing their ocean (I’m pretty sure that’s unconstitutional)?