Colonial Surfer - STNC is a project about the contemporary globalized world and power structures within the surf industry and its realm. Surfing is not just a sport but also culture (producer and distributer). In current discussions you hear about the post colonial – but the situation today is better described as neo colonial. Surfers do travel a lot and somtimes to places unknown to other tourists. The way surfers behave and represent themselves in the adventures search of perfect waves has a lot in common with ancient colonizers and their roles. To surf maintain and conserve already existing structures. History.

STNC Editor: Kristoffer Svenberg

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

"Surfers: eco-tourists" ?

Surfing Indonesia, A search for the world's most perfect waves has for several years been a recurrent guidebook for large amounts of surf tourists in Indonesia. This type of book (there are several different and new editions but still very much the same kind of guide) have great influence over how ”surf” tourists look to their surroundings while traveling. This particular book, Surfing Indonesia, certainly contains a lot of generalizations about Indonesia. For example a woefully superficially reflected text by Rusty Miller on surfers as the world's first Eco Tourists:

Twenty-five years ago (or more than 300 full moons past) the Australian cinematographer Albie Falzon filmed two surfers riding large, perfectly breaking waves at a spot near the sacred Bali-Hindu temple known as Uluwatu.
 This 1972 icon film, ”Morning of the Earth”, included images of surfing and Bali’s animated culture that soon attracted many surfers to this magical island. During the next two decades increasing numbers of waveriders visited Bali, opened its doors to people back home, and introduced the island to the international world of surfing.
The first surfers to visit Bali – and later other parts of Indonesia – were among the world’s first eco-tourists, a unique group of travelers who came to Bali in search of its most sought-after natural resource, namely high-quality surfing waves.
These surfers also found, however, that they soon became involved in ongoing interpersonal relationships that developed over the years in this rare and unique part of Indonesia. No government program has yet surpassed this group in building direct “people-to-people” communications, in fostering cultural exchanges and personal friendships, and even in helping to develop small businesses/ economic opportunities. The direct result of these contrasting cultures opening up and learning to respect each other has served for a long time as a great example of what people can do for each other and – by living example and extension – world peace.   

The text continues, but the basis for why those surfers should be called Eco Tourists is not present or clear at all. This is rather an example of unreflective romanticizing that gets a bit dangerous when it by the context claims to be informative. It does not require a particularly deep research in Bali and Indonesia's surf tourism to find out that there are a lot of injustice relations. What Rusty Miller is correct about is the connection with the demand and supply of natural resources. The natural resources are not in this case oil or various precious metals, but instead waves. Reefs that generate those surfing waves and its nearby coastal areas have become something very sought after. In these areas there are ongoing battles (the global tourism industry) over interpretive precedence and land.