Simeulue on the contest calendar
Later this month the Aceh International Surfing Championship will be run on Simeulue off the north Sumatran mainland. It's the third time the Asian Surfing Championships (ASC) have held the event - past events were run in 2013 and 2015 - however this year will be the first time it's held at Dylan's, a dependable right at the southern end of the island.
The 2017 contest is interesting for two reasons.
The first point is that, for those unaware, the WSL is making gentle inroads into Indonesia. The WSL recently rebadged three ASC assets as Qualifying Series contests. It did this, not because of a push from local surfers - it'll be a long time before local surfers have that much clout in Indonesia - but rather because Indonesia has an abundance of waves and local governments are discovering how to exploit them.
Which leads to the second point.
Like other Indonesian contests such as the Krui Pro, the Rote Open, and Hello Pacitan, the Aceh Championship is following a tourism-driven model. All are sponsored by their respective regional governments. The blueprint for that model is in place here in Australia where the various state governments sponsor the three CT events at Snapper Rocks, Bells Beach, and Margaret River. It's an ideal setup for the WSL who are looking to cut costs: the surf industry is in retreat so the tourist industry can step into the breech. The main difference is that here it's aimed at domestic tourists while in Indonesia it's international.
“Through running events like this on the island, we are increasing the worldwide awareness of Simeulue as a surfing tourism destination," said Tipi Jabrik of the ASC.
That's not the sort of quote many travelling surfers want to read. Using surf contests as promotional tools will increase crowds on Indonesia's distant shores, and increasing attention from the WSL will only compound the problem.
Dylan's, the site of the forthcoming Aceh International Surfing Championship
Fortunately for travelling surfers, Indonesia's national government - the only government agency with the resources to fund a CT - doesn't agree with the regional government's budget spend. Tim Hain is the Media and Tour manager of the ASC and he says the central Indonesian government won't pay the WSL to hold a surfing contest. In fact they "expect the WSL to bring sponsors and money and pay them for the privilege of having the event in Indo,” explains Hain.
This lack of co-operation means that while government funded events are mutiplying in Indonesia they're limited in size; dependent upon whatever the regional government can spare from its marketing budget. This year the Aceh International Surfing Championship will offer a total of IDR 75,000,000 for the Men’s Division prizemoney. That's approximately $7,250 AUD.
It also means, or at least strongly hints at, a long wait until Indonesia again has a Championship Tour event. With the surf industry yet to settle on a level of sustainable involvement in pro surfing and the central Indonesian government unwilling to stump up any funding, a top tier event appears unlikely.
There'll be differing opinions on whether that constitutes a good or bad thing.
The Aceh International Surfing Championship is sponsored by the Government Regency of Simelue and the Aceh Department of Tourism. It'll run on the 26th-28th of October 2017.