By the end of the day on February 8th , 1968 the town of Ben Tre which lies 45 minutes Southwest of Saigon , Vietnam , was no more than a scattering of burning buildings and broken bodies. The population of 35,000 was alleged to have been infiltrated by thousands of the Viet Cong irregular soldiers who were furiously defending their homeland . The US military decided the only option they had to rout the enemy was the wholesale destruction of the town. They achieved this objective with a vigorous campaign of aerial bombing and artillery attack.
An unknown US army major was quoted as saying...” We had to destroy the town in order to save it. “
There’s a small town coastal nestled somewhere in the Southern Hemisphere which hosts a coterie of surfers who have been borne into a similar- though much less onerous- situation. Their little hamlet once contained what was possibly one of the world’s perfect waves. I say possibly , because no surfer ever laid eyes on this wave due to its destruction at the hands of man decades before surfboard riding had ever graced their shores. Sadly, the wave was never ridden before the government of the day decided that engineering a safe harbour for transiting sea traffic was a higher priority than the fluid joy the break may provide for the surfers who would stride the Earth generations later.
A marquee wave destroyed. Surely the worst blow that local surfers could endure ?
I’m here to posit that the destruction of the break is the best thing that could have happened to the town. Conveniently enough , there are many other towns which provide a handy example of how the future of the town might have looked in a parallel universe where the break remained.
The situation plays out thusly : Travelling surfers locate a new wave. Word gets out there is good surf to be found at Town X. Surfers flock to town X en masse. Service industries pop up to facilitate for and profit off the surf boom. Population swells massively. Property prices are pushed beyond reach of those locals who were not lucky / smart / well positioned enough to take advantage of the rapidly changing demographics of their town.
Young people find work in the low paying tourism sector . Competition for jobs from itinerant surfers pushes wages down. Locals are priced out of their neighbourhoods. Lineups become disfunctionally crowded. Many leave to try and rediscover the small town vibe they have lost. The town becomes just another generic surf location with the same thin veneer of diversity masking the fact that the true identity of the place has been diluted into almost nothing. The surfing parasite has overwhelmed the community which has become its host.
Canggu. Byron Bay. Uluwatu. Margaret River......we’ve heard this story many times.
And the little town at the start of our story ?
It’s surfers are faced with lesser quality waves than if the iconic break hadn’t been destroyed, but the waves are theirs to ride. Crowds aren’t much of a problem. The community remains tight knit. The surrounding area remains an uncommercialised wonderland for locals to enjoy. Anyone is free to move to the area but growth proceeds at an organic rate.
Young people reach an age post- school and usually find themselves forced to leave the town for study / work / excitement . This is not a bad thing. They broaden their horizons and find an opportunity to define themselves through new experiences and places. Often they’ll return to their hometowns to start a family and give their children the chance to grow in an untrammelled region and a familiar community. These returning surfers invariably express gratitude that there is still a place where the dominance of tourism greed hasn’t subjugated the lives of those who live there.
So whilst it might be nice to have a world class wave for the locals to enjoy , they’ve instead managed to retain a holistic relationship with their town. The fact that this is inherently valuable is proven by the consistent return of the locals who’ve left town to explore the wider world.
And who knows , sometimes Huey can have a perverse sense of irony. Huey taketh away .....and sometimes Huey sneakily giveth back tenfold.
I've got my eye on an island with nothing but b grade waves.
good enough to surf every day but not good enough to draw the hordes looking to fulfil the perfect wave fantasy.
An insightful piece of writing Blowin. Personally I farken hate hanging out at places that have perfect waves and lots of people. I lived in Margs for a while back in the 90s. It’s an awesome spot, but unless you’re happy surfing with frenzied hungry crowds you just end up surfing the B and C grade waves. So what’s the point?
Where I live our waves are mostly B-Grade, but there’s hardly any crowds. A much better scenario I reckon.
Australian territory, Freeride ?
I'd rather not divulge any more info.
Bribie Island got surf?
it's got goannas
Yep but only B-grade waves though :)
Offer them $300K
Great place as a writer . Plenty of locals to help you workshop ideas.....they say that two heads are better than one when it comes to problem solving.*
Old news but still interesting.
"Man wins an entire resort on Micronesian island with $65 raffle ticket"
Looks like the old owners made a killing with the raffle.
Wonder how Josh is going attracting visitors to his resort?
FSM were one of the first countries to close their borders in response to CV. That was back in late February and at the time it seemd overly dramatic. Anyone wanting to travel to Kosrae or Pohnpei or the other federated states had to spend 14 days quarantined in Hawaii or Guam.
For a few weeks there were no travelling surfers in Pohnpei, but Allois at PSC recently reported that one guy suffered the quarantine and made his way onwards to Pohnpei. P'Pass is currently getting hit by a late season NW swell and it looks like the guy's gamble has paid off.
It's the lone good news story from Allois who is struggling with his resort.
Funny thing about the Margaret River region:
No world class waves.
They look lovely on photo/video though.
Would Byron or the Gold Coast or Noosa etc be like they are if they didn't have good waves? (or good set ups)
Hmmm i guess they would be different to some degree as surfers have been a factor in shaping these places, but i still think they would be popular spots, i think some of these spots are a mix of geography and then history and certain groups surfers, hippies, artist etc that make them more popular along with just being popular holiday locations because of their relative closeness to cities.
For instance i think there is many other places that would be much more popular if they were closer to cities (will probably upset people if start dropping names)
I think with places like Bali, for sure surfing has shaped and made these places popular but i think there is many other factors too, even before surfers hit Bali in numbers, Bali had a history of tourism or being this magic spot, that book on Bali by Phil Jarret describes this in some detail.
If Bali and Lombok swapped their cultures and history outside of surfing and Lombok was all Hindu and Bali was all muslim, even if the waves remained the same which one would become a bigger tourist destination???
I honestly think Lombok would, but i think Bali would be bigger/more popular than what Lombok is now from that surfing factor..
But yeah when you look at places like Ullus or Canggu 100% driven by surfers.
I think all these places we're talking about - Noosa, Byron, Lennox, South West Rocks etc initially had villages there because they're in the lee of headlands and out of the prevailing winds, and early on they gave a place to launch fishing boats,
With that in mind, you can see why Byron grew and Lennox stayed small.
How they developed from there was a product of a few things including proximity to large cities and amongst other factors, surf.
I dare say SW Rocks would be a different story if it was situated a few hours north or south and if it had a classic wave.
Noosa would probably always have developed regardless of surf due to proximity to Brisbane but surf helped.
I've always thought that Point Lookout on Stradbroke Island (just off the coast of Brisbane) would be quite a different place if it had a wave that worked in the predominant south swell and south wind, and the place would have been much more of a scene a lot earlier despite it being an island.
Thanks for the words blowin. A lot of food for thought there. Surfing a blessing or a curse?
@ Eugene Green: what is your definition of world class?
Having lived on a few different coasts that sport only B-grade or below waves I can attest to the continued enjoyment of utterly fulfilling and regular quiet surfs. Grass can seem greener at times, however it only takes a session at somewhere more premier, to return home and realise my patchy and slightly off-green grass is just fine.
to be honest, I'd much prefer surf on b and c grade days at A grade spots than a diet of unremarkable close-out beachies.
thats still an unexploited niche.
also those rare little sessions when you get the a grade spot uncrowded, or on the days of days.
but things change.
If you move , you might not miss the crowds but you will miss that point.
There’s times around here when the swell is a relatively lined-up 4-6 ft , offshore winds and it should be pumping but it’s still....bleehhhh.
theres a couple fickle waves north and south of here.
I've spent years trying to score them.
On each occasion I end up driving away from here when its pumping to end up either at a: vastly inferior waves.
or b: waves inferior and equally or more crowded.
I don't do that now. I just paddle out here.
I hate crowds but one A grade wave can also be worth ten surfs in B grade surf, some waves especially barrels can burn into your mind for years.
Or i dont mind surfing B or C grade waves a lot of the time as long as there is either a B or C grade spot that once in a blue moon goes A grade or a spot that is fickle but is A grade.
But what really sucks is when you live somewhere that is B-C grade but has A grade crowds.
Same deal in Indo
Also nothing better than also going to an A grade spot and just surfing it when its not on and empty and then suddenly the tide, wind, swell changes and it switches on and you get a few good ones before the crowd hits it, i even paddle out at spots reefs or banks when they are too low etc just to be there when they do switch on.
That’s the thing isn’t it, those B and C grade spots get really good sometimes. Most of those who live for or live at A-grade spots aren’t around on those days, which is just fine.
Everyone’s out there for different reasons
Waiting for your C grade local to turn on....
I have to agree on that Indo. The best sesh I had at Tamarin Bay was when I was first out on sneaker swell. One wave in particular is still burnt burnt into my mind more than 15yrs later, and will be for some time yet.
B grade days at A grade spots are often better than good days at B grade spots - it's just those bottom contours and refraction or whatever doing their thing.
I've had so many really fun surfs on sub-par days with just a handful of other people at the local you-beaut spot, you just wouldn't credit it.
Side-shore, tide too high, a bit too small, a bit bigger and woolly, if it ain't pretty the crowds just aren't there.
If the A grade spot is clean and firing and there's 80 guys out and the silverbacks are growling, I'm surfing somewhere else, one or two waves with the mindfuck and the shoulder hoppers that go with it aren't worth it for me.
although on those days I like a quick dawn patrol before it gets too mad.
couple of set waves, then done. rinse and repeat.
As I get older, I enjoy good waves more, and bad waves less.
I feel I can surf a 6-8ft wave as good as or better than ever. I've got better boards, more experience, more fitness.
But I know my surfing in standard 2-3ft east coast beach break is going backwards, and there ain't a damn thing I can do about it.
So I can ride as much uncrowded beach break as I can stomach, but it doesn't satisfy.
I was thinking the same thing yesterday. I didn’t start surfing till late and then I went overseas for 10 years and didn’t surf, now after a few years of being on it every day I think I’m surfing 4ft + waves better than ever.
Fast closing in on 50 years old is neither here nor there, the boards, the fitness and the desire is there and those bigger faces on those 4-8ft days provide the canvas.
Definitely. So much of the desire is linked to performance and sub par waves don’t allow me to perform at the top range of my personal ability anymore.
It’s tempting to think this desire to maintain performance of such an inconsequential and unnecessary activity as surfing is related to vanity or self esteem, but I think it’s more that our use of surfing as proxy for the hunt in the modern world lends a natural inclination to want to perpetuate the skill set.
Every old hunter still wants to feel the flawless throw of the spear as it leaves the hand and watch the perfect arc of trajectory reach the heart of the prey.
That’s why I’ll be out surfing alone , hundreds of metres offshore , no witnesses and still just start bursting out of my skin when I go close to personal best on a standard top turn .
Crap waves don’t allow me to experience that as much anymore.
It’s always good to be out there and I always feel better for having done so but I find that the return between good and bad surf is getting way more distinct with every year.
Fun surf brings me to life, great waves make me feel ten years younger.
surfing/'s such a cunt of a thing.
Absence does not make the heart grow fonder, well it does, but the skills grow so much weaker.
I can take a 6 month break from rockfishing and the day I come back I can cast just as far, choose the correct lure, identify the same Bommies that were there the day I left, hook a fish, etc etc.
In short, I pick up exactly where I left off.
I don't surf for six months and the first day back it'll be like a baby giraffe born from a drunk mum. All over the place, weak, wobbly, timing all gone. No confidence.
Best case it takes a few days to get back and the soreness will be immense. My ribs ma'am, they hurt so much.
You gotta keep the blade sharp, and thats the role shit surf now plays in my life. It's a workout, to keep the blade sharp for real waves.
I go out and get the job done. Sometimes it's more fun than it looks, sometimes its not. Don't matter, I got the go out in.
Stu put me onto that actually. He said he surfs out of habit and that rocked me.
I'd never thought of surfing like that.
But I tried surfing out of habit and although that first summer I did it was quite often a chore, when the waves did come back around and plenty of people around me were in poor surf shape, I could slot back in.
So now, in summer or when those shit surf episodes seem to stretch for weeks, I'm out there, surfing out of habit, keeping the blade sharp.
3 wave minimum session, ride whatever, however.
Haha .....Stu got me onto that idea as well !
Didn’t take hold too well.
Totally true about the dulling of the blade. It can be simultaneously cruel and embarrassing.
Though I get it with fishing too. I’ll always go through a couple of average sessions before I get my mojo back when I return to a fishing zone after an absence. Strange thing is that I’m never any wiser as to what I was doing wrong at the start , I just start catching fish again . It’s as though Huey feels I’ve got to earn it.
Back on the program tomorrow.....you’ve reinspired me.
I'm with you, FR. Though for me it's not a chore, but a good habit. I'll go out in total shite, and always feel better for it.
Living in a place that gets bonafide 2-week flat spells (not a ripple!), you really come to realise how good it is to keep surfing - both in terms of keeping your skills honed and staying sane and connected.
During this insidious lockdown, I have been checking my spots, checking the forecast, and I know what the tide is doing. Keeps me connected, if not surfing.
Small shitty waves can be fun in their own right, especially with the right board, but it's that seamless transition into good surf, that's the big payoff.
You're fit, you're hungry and importantly you're confident.
And you're paddling rings around people who are more casual or choosey about their surfs.
I remember surfing all sorts of slop then paddling out on a 6-8ft sideshore day and feeling very comfortable. Then when the swell dropped to a clean punchy 5ft and other people are shaking the cobwebs off and dealing with their confidence, I'm like a dog with two tails.
For a mediocre surfer like myself, it's a worthwhile approach.
Fuck....I really enjoy my Elvis @ Vegas periods though.
Not so much when take my shirt off at the beach but.
I sort of enjoy the process of getting fit again. Love the struggle.
I remember watching the Occumentary with Occy describing how he’d go down the shops each day and get his quarter chicken and chips with a six pack and thinking .....quarter chicken ? Have a go cunt. Bring me the whole bird.
4 kilos in the 2 months since Indo.....
Dunno, In the past ,I've had 3 weeks off and then kooked the first couple of sessions back. But once had a year and half off and my first session back was an absolute cracker, If your muscles and cardio are still up to it , you just need to rely on that little part of the brain that records all muscle memory, and not over think it. Age does play a small factor but I stopped getting fun out of crap waves decades ago.
As far as quiet banks here go ,, with many 4wd spots closed people have to make more of an effort to get to them , and the guys who are hiking long distances to get there aren't saying anything , haha. And no ones bragging in the pub about the A frames they surfed with just 2 other guys either, sort of helps.
bring me another fried peanut butter sandwich baby.
Whatever keeps you sharp Tubeshooter.
After I've been spending a lot of time rolling around on a mat with sweaty guys, the way that translates to the surf is bloody good.
I went 3 weeks without surfing towards the end of last year and then went on an impromptu surf trip with a fella I’ve never surfed with before.
From full blown , piss-sucking , house cow to paddling out to an offshore peak at dawn after 36 hours of travel . First wave .....no coffee , no breakfast , tired as fuck .....I couldn’t even match the wave speed with my paddling effort and tried to stand up as the wave passed me by. Second wave was no better....snapped board, swim to shore.
That was some grim shit .
Three weeks later and I was carved from ( buttery ) granite.
After nearly 10 years of virtually no surf between 2004 and 2014, getting back in the water was horrifying.
I was fit enough generally but the muscle memory was gone, the reflexes were laughable and the quite surfing-specific muscles like triceps and lats were shit.
Was really demoralising but you just gotta give your ego a stern talking to and keep paddling back out.
2 weeks is when I notice the roll off.
Couple of springs ago, I pretty much gave up surfing slop and went flathead fishing.
Boom, out of season 6-8ft S swell.
fcuk being out of shape for that. the initial paddle-out pretty much wrecked me.
No doubt surfing requires certain muscles to be kept in tune , and also require a level of 'match fitness'. My time away was largely spent at sea , and I came back much fitter than I left..the old sea legs adapted perfectly. Consistency on a daily basis for me though is much harder to achieve, I expect more out my surfing everytime , and hitting 50 myself I realise that probably aint gonna happen. Sometimes a break can help, sometimes not so much,
I know that walking through these dunes lately the old calves are taking on some sorely needed definition , cramps aside.
Sand walking is the go.
Worst part I find about staying out of the brine too long , is the softening of the board bumps on my ribs, For those of us who suffer the condition it can be extremely painful just trying to lay on a board after your 3rd surf back after some time off.
Fuck 10 years out of the water..that's a long time.
Ive done 3 to 6 months a couple of times.
Made the mistake last year of not surfing for a few months before Indo just busy and so cold, i thought id be right and get my mojo back in a surf or two, but my fitness was so bad and wobbly boots, didnt really get my mojo back until i got back on my forehand.
Also lost my mojo from surfing too perfect waves once, did a six month stint in the Mentawai's, when i got home i seriously couldn't surf the waves, just so hard to read and ride uneven and bump and changing shape and the cold.
Yeah it's funny Indo, spent 10 years or so working on boats but the more time I spent on the water the less surfing I did.
No regrets though, travelled the world and did a decent amount of skiing.
Indo I reckon I got that feeling after one Mentawai boat trip let alone a 6 month stint.
10 days of groomed 16sec perfection you see coming scores of metres away a few feeble strokes and away you go and then back into shifty 9 second beachies on the sunny coast and you feel like a newbie again for a session or two at least
10 years is a long time AndyM but credit to you for getting back out , and sucking it up re pride and attitude.
Worst part of working on boats is watching swell roll under the hull and wondering what lucky bastard is going to get that one , as you imagine it it peel off on your favourite point break ,,, while your stuck and surrounded by a cluster fuck of seagulls.
Oh wow Tubie, you so conjured up a memory.
Years ago doing a lot of sailing offshore and feeling the big open ocean swells and daydreaming to myself how soon these swells were eventually going to be waves and hoping someone was going to catch them.