THROUGHOUT the world sport is a commercial activity bringing in huge profits for organising agencies; surfing is no exception.
In fact surfing is perhaps the one largest sport that penetrates remote parts of third world countries bringing sport enthusiasts and tourists in close proximity to local communities.
After all, part of the attraction of surfing, is the beautiful tropical, sunny destinations the sport can be hosted in.
This has allowed for the creation of a type of sport capitalism where big tourism industries can boom with the use of local resources while communities at surf sites may as well not even exist.
The first international surf comp in PNG was also the first on a global scale that fully integrated the local community.
This is all because of the passion of one man, Andrew Abel, and the community effort and foresight of land owners in surf spots around the country.
The Kumul Longboard World Championships at the Tupira Surf Club in Madang was hosted by the local community.
This is significant on a global scale and reason for countrymen to be proud no matter what sport they’re into.
Perhaps the best thing about being a Papua New Guinean there was to hear the excitement and praise from world class champion surfers; any ethnic separation falls away – there is only national pride.
For the Bogia and Sumkar Districts of Madang, and for Papua New Guinea as a whole, the main achievement is the redefining of sports tourism in the country.
SAPNG President Andy Abel said the event was beyond expectations.
“This crowd that we saw today, just redefines sports tourism in the country, especially in the rural setting”, Abel said.
This event will raise the bar for sports tourism in the country and Andy says it can only get bigger and better from here.
Tupira Surf Club and other clubs around the country are prime examples of direct community benefit through sport tourism; an aim set by Abel and the SAPNG from the very beginning through the Surf Management Plan (SMP).
The policies that come under the SMP ensure that the host communities, the resource custodians are at the centre of the incoming benefits.
PNG boys Alois (Rubio Plantation Resort) and Titima (Nusa Island Retreat) posing infront of the surf in Tupira, Madang.
“This is confirmation of the success of this model which has become the focus of academics and universities now. As for WSL, they’re seeing that the foundations, policies and model that I’ve created has ensured that the host communities participate in the negotiations, planning and the implementation and management”, Abel said.
“As far as spectators go, on site, for WSL they’ve never seen anything like it. We’ve actually also just elevated the profile and benchmark of an event like this”.
“To have these kinds of crowds turn out just reinforces that PNG is mature and ready to take on the world, and get even bigger!”
“These crowds here are just amping up the surfers. The athletes get excited when they hear people cheering for them; when we were in China in December ’16 there was no-one, no crowds”, Andy said, with the sounds from our local crowd literally reaching a roar in the background.
To the sporting organisations of PNG, Andy says, the respectful executives need to be mindful that sport is just a vehicle. Surfing PNG has now become more than just a sport organisation; it is now a conduit through which donor agencies can deliver services through.
“We’re just a bunch of surfers who have taken our place to contribute to the socioeconomic development of this country. I’m just the bus driver, and everyone’s hopped on board the bus”.
The most integrated niche event was the Expression Session where young local surfers from surrounding villages got out on the waves with the internationals for some fun competition.
Surfboard master shaper Tom Wegener remarked on the fact that the world’s best Longboarders were surfing alongside local surfers and best yet, they were riding the waves on locally crafted palang boards made from Balsa wood.
23 PNG surfers as young as
8 years from Tupira, Suaru
and Tavulte joined up with
the international surfer
for what they called the
Diwai Team Challenge.
Students from surrounding schools took time off to watch the event, turning up in numbers,
lining the beaches with evident wonder and excitement.
For a POM based local, it was amazing to see kids from a community 2 hours out of Madang Town witnessing such an historical event for the first time.
Most such spectacles take place in Port Moresby or at least in main townships – this is a story that these kids can take forward as their own and be empowered to do more in their communities with such an experience.
Surfers were out on dawn patrol every morning; the rest of us woke drearily, stiff and cold to their excited laughter.
The days also ended with them in the water till dark, and those who were knocked out of the comp early got into trucks and cruisers and went looking for surf at Tavulte and Suaru, or off Toto.
Former 2 time world champ, 38 year old Brazilian, Phil Razjman who was in his 20th year of competition in the World Tour said it was amazing in Tupira.
“The locals are receiving us so good; giving us support and watching us surf – I can feel the good energy, the good vibration. I’m feeling great”.
Phil has been in the water since he was 3, holding onto his father’s neck as he paddled on his surfboard; he started competing in shortboard at 8 and longboard at 14.
THE love of surfing is evident as he got straight back in the water with a few bandages after having a mishap on the reef.
“I do what I love, this can happen. I came here all the way from Brazil; it’s on the opposite side of the globe so nothing can stop me”.
Phil said the surf in his home city of Rio de Janeiro is not as good as the Tupira surf.
“We have a lot of sand, not rocks so I hope to come back here soon. I know next year won’t be here but if I have the opportunity I will come back here to surf this wave again”, Razjman said.
“When I was a kid, being in the ocean, I found a lot of answers to my questions. It’s great to see these kids here, they are naturals”.
“I’ve been to 26 countries, I bring a bit of my culture and I take a bit of those cultures back with me. But it doesn’t matter who we are or where we come from because in the water, we are all the same and I see the ocean as a mother”.
Surfing 101: Basics & Slang
The longboard comp brought a lot of style.
From the line-up (where surfers wait for waves) surfers rode in on the wave faces and through tubes on the days with pumping swell (good waves).
The crowds cheered especially at the kickflips (360 turns), hang fives and tens and awesome kickouts where the board noses kicked up a white foamy spray as they turned out off the top of the waves.
Hang fives and tens, where the surfer sticks their toes out off the edge of the board, are done mainly at the top of the wave, after that they walk backwards to the middle and take the drop or ride down the face (front) of the wave.
From here they take a bottom turn (turn up from the bottom of the wave) and carve (go up and down the wave) and finally kick out, if they don’t wipe out first – I’m sure we all know what wipe out means!
If you’re a surf enthusiast or always thought it was cool, you can find videos of the Kumul World Longboard Championships on the World Surf League YouTube channel or on their official website.
And catch the real thing in Vanimo next year!