Who could possibly have foreseen the power a wristband would one day yield?

Worn in the right settings (hello 2016 Quiksilver Pro!) a little over a tablespoon of vulcanised rubber moulded in the correct colour can mean the difference between rubbing shoulders with Kelly Slater or a grassy seat amongst 50 million other minions in Plebsville.

The Mentawai Islands Regional Administration (MRIA) has had in mind a bylaw, which could see tourists charged an additional $75 US “surfing fee” that could be implemented this August.

It’s hoped the fee will go some way to curbing the issue of overcrowding at known breaks and in some way, go back to the local communities

The whole “pay to play” system has been tried before to varying degrees of success and excitement, most notably at Macaroni’s, but this time local authorities have hit upon the idea of surfers wearing, you guessed it, wristbands as a way of keeping things under control.

A recent report in the Jakarta Post quotes Mentawai Island tourism agency head, Desti Seminora as saying;

“Currently, many surfers must compete against each other to secure surf spots on particular beaches,” Seminora says.

“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.”

While head of West Sumatra Surfing and Tourist Ship Association, Aim Zen, reckoned implementing such a fee could create an opening for “illegal levies collected by thugs and the local community.”

Zen was also quoted in another Jakarta Post article last April questioning where such funds would end up, but this time around urged the MRIA to funnel the royalties back towards the infrastructure needed to police such a system.

“The Mentawai Islands Regency Administration must also immediately provide basic supporting facilities in the surf spots, such as security, police posts, lifeguards, health posts for emergencies and the communication equipment.”

Considering the average Mentawai boat trip sets you back the better part of $2,500, how does the notion of an additional $75 US “fee” sit with you and do you think it will end up where it’s most needed?

Tracks surveyed a group of Mentawai veterans for their thoughts.

Think $75 US and a wristband as a way of policing numbers and possibly improving local facilities has any merit?

Ian Lyon, managing director of Atoll Travel (15 seasons): In principal, managing a region’s surfing resource to promote sustainable surfing tourism is worthwhile concept if meant the issues of overcrowding were addressed. At $75 US, the fee itself wouldn’t curb numbers but presumably would go towards the administration of a scheme that regulates the numbers of surfers accessing the Mentawai breaks.

However, while the burecrats may think a wristband is a simple method, the establishment of the oversight procedures and personnel required…is not likely to be effective or established anytime soon. So the principal might be fine, but back to the drawing board for implementation.

Eugene Tan, Aquabumps (16 seasons): I don’t believe the fee will curb the crowds; it’ll just cause fights. Look at Macaroni’s- they did the pay to play system and it’s a mess. I don’t go there anymore because it ends up in arguments and heated discussions with locals and not because of the fee. Also, the money just gets into the wrong hands and makes them hungrier for more handouts. I’d prefer to help them in other ways. I don’t believe it’s crowded in the Mentawai’s anyway

Dr Phillip Chapman, surfingdoctors.com:

The fee being asked is pretty minor, if you consider the Third World burden, so it has merit for sure but who is going to control it? I noted that at Maccas it was extremely difficult to police the two boats in the bay issue and this is another quite complicated issue where the First World meets the Third face to face.

But if the funds were to be used in the correct manner, the priorities should be that of the ongoing health and health education of the local islanders and medical back up and on site care for surfers travelling to the area.