Pay $75 fee and surf in crowds of 20 surfers or less…
Let’s ask: who wants to go the Mentawai?
All of you?
Maybe you want to go on one of those dazzling boats like the Ratu Motu where the monied surfer radios in his aprés gin-and-tonics as he sails back in his tender to a mother vessel skippered by a worldly cap who shows off his quiver of Rollies and tells stories of being kidnapped by pirates in the Amazon?
Or maybe you’re thrilled to be on a trad Indo sailer that’s slow but eschews modern comforts for a more cosmic experience.
However you swing, the Mentawai islands, with its perfectly foiled reef waves popularised by the Australian boat captain Martin Daly in the nineties with movies for Rip Curl (The Search, Tripping the Planet) and Quiksilver (No Destination, The Hole, Young Guns), is as much a rite of passage for surfers, maybe even more so, than the North Shore.
So you sling your three thousand (minimum) at a good boat, add a grand-and-a-half for any airfare and you wait for your turn in the boat charter cycle. And maybe you’ve got a good skipper and surf guide and you cut off your own slice of paradise, accumulating memories you’ll still be talking about in a decade.
Or maybe you wind up surfing Lances Right, Macaronis and every other name spot and you’re astonished to discover y’ain’t in paradise but’ve arrived to some kind of overcrowded, surf capitalist dystopia.
Sixty surfers… here?
But all that might be changing in August 2106, or so says the English-language daily The Jakarta Post.
In a story headed, Surfers Charged a Little More for Extra Fun in Mentawai, it reveals that the Mentawai Islands regional administration issued a bylaw last year on the “management of surfing excursions that stipulates, among other things, the imposition of ‘surfing fees’ for both domestic and foreign tourists… 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.”
Seventy-five bucks ain’t nothing when you sling it onto the five gees or whatever it is the trip costs. So what’s it get you?
“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.’
How’s it work? Wrist bands!
“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.”
Wrist bands and some kinda policing to keep numbers down?
You really think that’s going to happen?
You really think it’s going to work?
Will the levy still be charged?
Let’s do a little math: 7000 visitors multiplied by $75 gives the Mentawai Islands regional administration an ongoing yearly injection of $US525,000.
I think, yes!
* (And what do you think of referring to the Mentawai Islands as Mentawai, as is the custom in those parts, and not Mentawais? Does it sound odd to you?)