Will bringing events to Indonesia’s remote waves be a good thing for surfing?
Providing the WSL with a bucket list of changes has become sport for surf journalists and armchair critics alike. The obvious elephant in the room has always been why isn’t there a CT event in Indonesia? We still romanticise about G-Land, have seen what the pros can do at Keramas and at the Rip Curl Padang Padang Cup. And this year the WSL are bringing a QS1000 to Pacitan, a remote region in Java that surfers have been traveling to for years.
The area boasts a barreling lefthander on the east side of the bay and a spectacular right hand slab on the west side. Each break works on different swells, tides and winds making it an ideal location given the variables required to pull off a successful event. Plus, the event will be held in August, plum in peak season.
But unlike previous forays from the professional surfing body to bring an event to Indonesia this time it’ll be at a location off the beaten track. Pacitan requires a bit more leg work to get there compared to a scramble down the cliff at Ulus or a fast boat to G-Land. So, are some spots more predisposed to exposure than others or is surf exploration fair game for the WSL and punters alike?
17-year-old Indonesian Rio Waida believes an event in Pacitan is a good thing. “I'm so excited to have this event at Watu Karung this year is just amazing,” Waida told the WSL. “I think everyone wants to join, for sure. And the waves are amazing too, tubes both right and left. The judges will score on who gets deepest in the barrel, so look for everybody to be going super big.” Waido is currently number 2 on the WSL Asia QS Rankings.
Decode the press release and it appears tourism is the biggest winner for an event at Pacitan.
“Mr Sartono, Member of Parliament in Indonesia’s House of Representatives was born and raised in Pacitan, and spends a lot of time in Bali so understands the value of surfing for tourism.”
“After the success of last year’s ASC sanctioned Hello Pacitan 2016, we wanted to increase the level of the event this year so we invited the WSL to join us for Hello Pacitan 2017,” adds Mr Sartono. “We hope this will help spread the name of Pacitan as a beautiful tourism destination nationally and internationally, and to focus the eyes of the surfing world on this wave rich area as a favourite surfing destination.”
Tracks reached out to local businesses to see if they had been contacted by the WSL or the Indonesian tourism body ahead of the event. Their feedback was mixed.
Made Sukarya, from Homestay Pacitan, a local guest house in Watu Karung, welcomes the trade surfers will bring to the area but believes the environmental impact of more tourists to the area needs be tackled by the government through education to avoid Pacitan resembling another Uluwatu.
“Before you do a big surf comp... please lets [sic] we do more educated and give some support the local people how to take care plastic rubbish in the place, because government no really focus about this matter especially all warung in the front beach and village.”
“Might be we can make the program keep the beach clean and green, and also save coral reef...”
“Watu Karung now same like place Uluwatu or Padang Padang 35 years ago and I love the local people more understand and care about clean and safety their place.”
Meanwhile, Java Surf Land, a website that provides information on Pacitan for surfers believes there are pros and cons that an event with a global reach will bring to the area.
In a blog post titled ‘Surf Contest: Pros Count Hello Pacitan Pro 2017 at Watu Karung Beach’ in reference to the WSL’s announcement of an event at Pacitan the unnamed author highlights the surprise some surfers will have hearing an event is coming to an area formerly under the radar.
“…But behind it all, after this news published by WSL through its official website and began to spread among the surfer, there are many pros and cons of this, because this will be the first time held a surf contest in Watu [Karung] even though many pro surfers of the world that has been come to Watu [Karung]. There are still many surfers who think this spot is a secret spot, a spot that becomes a dream and hidden from the crowd. So with this competition in Watu will make Watu increasingly crowded and known to many people later.”
However, the site’s owner reiterated to Tracks that the WSL event in Pacitan was a good thing and proud it was putting the area on the map. He is optimistic that the local surfing community can play some role in the event.
“Absolutely we are very happy, it's really a great honour a big event is coming to our area,” he said. “Especially if the local surfer community (Pacitan Surf Club) can be empowered to the event.”
“It will be a really good for tourism and for our government. We are very welcome [sic] to visitor or tourist...”
The WSL admits it is looking to bring pro surfing to more remote locations and cites events at places like Nias, G-Land, HTs, Papua New Guinea and the Philippines as past examples.
“We are always looking for new locations to take professional surfing,” says WSL’s Australia / Oceania Media & Communications Manager, Tom Bennett. “It’s not always easy as we need to find sponsors to help fund the event and we need accommodation for athletes close by, internet access and risk management plans etc. to make sure we look after our surfers and staff.”
“The Pacitan event will be an exciting QS1,000. The WSL Australia / Oceania and Asia regions are always looking at the prospects of new events as the busier the calendar the more opportunities there are for our surfers to compete.”
So, with successful QS events in the can in and a former CT event at Keramas what’s stopping the WSL from making an Indo stop a regular fixture on the CT?
“One of the hardest things about running events in Indonesia is finding sponsorship and Government support, which has traditionally been tough,” says Bennett who could only comment about QS and Junior events in the region. “Over the last few years we have only had the Komune Bali Pro QS1,000 and the Rip Curl Cup Specialty events as WSL events, but this year we have added the Krui Pro and the Pacitan Pro QS1,000s with one or more potentially to be added later in the year. So, things are changing and there could possibly be bigger events in Indonesia in the near future.
A QS1000 is unlikely to bring the biggest names in professional surfing to a remote corner of Java. However, providing a further glimpse of what is possible in Indonesia might edge the WSL closer to securing a CT event on the calendar in years to come. Where it will be and whether it’s a good thing for surfing, tourism and the sport depends who you ask.