Construction work at Nias
Just over a month ago, news broke about construction occurring on the rock platform at Sorake, Nias. Surfers were understandably aghast at the work and the prospect it could destroy the famed wave. That the project didn't seem to serve any purpose only added to the sense of lax regulations and environmental oversight.
Since then the proverbial battle lines have been drawn with visiting surfers rallying the online troops, creating a petition, and making noise. However, they've had to tread carefully as foreigners telling locals what to do in their own land risk accusations of imperialism.
There's a scene in 'The Lost Jewel of the Atlantic' - a documentary about the battle to save Jardim do Mar from foreshore development - where an indignant local from Madeira chides the visiting surfers for meddling in local affairs. It makes for uncomfortable viewing. White man's burden shown up for the paternalism it is.
Then again, the breakwall the visiting surfers were trying to halt has interfered with Jardim. Not as bad as was first thought, the wave isn't ruined, but on small swells and high tides backwash runs through the lineup. Maybe the meddling surfers were right after all?
The above doesn't make for a clean overlay to what's happening in Nias, though it provides some context. To get some more information about the Nias construction project, and also a quick historical lesson, Swellnet reached out to longtime visitor Mark Flint. What follows are his thoughts taken from a conversation with Craig Brokensha:
The construction work at Lagundri isn't a road, it's a flagstone paved-path intended to provide better pedestrian access from the inland road to the point.
The construction work hasn't risen out of a vacuum, there's a long history around land use on the point at Lagundri, with the land owners caring little for government regulation.
Back in the 80s and 90s the reef was in worse shape than it is now. Hash's losmen - the most easterly losmen on the point - used to extend right out onto the tip of the point. Waves would wash around it.
Also, back in 1995 a study was done on the state of the reef finding that fertilisers from run off were creating algae that was killing the coral.
In 2005, the Nias earthquake lifted the reef by one metre exposing more of the rock platform. Already in bad shape from the fertiser run off, much of the coral reef died from exposure.
Later, the Governor of North Sumatra recommended a 30 metres green zone - a buffer between the land and the edge of the reef. However, Hash's new place reclaimed the land out to about 25-30 metres from the edge of the reef. Other land owners also started pushing outward, sparking tit for tat land claims.
The new path will be 1.2 metres high off the rock platform and have a side that slopes towards the reef. It'll be topped with 1 metre rocks.
The losman owners weren't included in discussions about the path - as per normal in Indonesia. However, in the absence of enforcement, the new path will set a good boundary for the losmens to stick to.
Under average conditions the wall will have no effect regarding backwash or interference.
As it already stands, Nias gets a bit of wobble and backwash during very big swells and high tides, caused by water pushing down the reef from Indicators and emptying into the lineup. The path may exagerrate that.
During those same swells there's potential for the new path to be scoured by the energy of the waves.
If the path adversely effects the wave it can easily be changed as it's just placed on top of the rock platform.
Lagundri Bay is feeling other pressures with sand being removed from the bay for construction of tourist hotels - not the losmen surfers stay in but hotels catering to the general boom in tourism. The sand mining is noticeable at the end of the point where sand used to flow onto the reef. That area is now denuded.