Surfers stay away after Nias quake

Saturday, April 9, 2005
By nias

Saturday, April 09, 2005 Evi Mariani, The Jakarta Post/Teluk Dalam, Nias

Sorake beach in Southern Nias is like heaven for surfers due to its waves that characteristically break from right to left, creating a long tube.

However, since the March 28 earthquake, nobody but a few local boys has ridden the waves.

Most of the shacks dotted along the beach were wrecked by the quake.

Amid the destruction, Jafet Laia, 60, the owner of Yuni Losmen at Sorake, combed through the debris of his shake, finding only a mat and a pillow.

In the unforgiving heat of the day he unrolled the mat under a coconut tree, put the pillow on it and rested his head, staring at the white sand as it was swept up by the wind.

"There were about 20 foreign surfers staying here at the time of the quake. We all ran in time, so we were saved. We took refugee in a village uphill," Laia recalled.

He said the surfers abandoned the beach the following day.

"They won't come back here I guess. I think they must be afraid there will be more quakes," he added.

C.H.J. Gultom, the owner of Boraspati Express, a tours and travel agent specializing in extreme sports like surfing, said foreign surfers had been turned off by predictions of a string of quakes on the island.

"Of course the tourism sector will slow down. Cancellations up until the end of this month have reached 100 percent," he told The Jakarta Post.

However, he believes the surfers will come back. The temptation of perfect waves is not easy to turn down, he added.

"Moreover, surfers are different from other tourists. They are more adventurous," he said.

Gultom said that a T-shirt for surfers that reads "I've been surfing at tsunami point" has sold well.

"Besides, they love discovery. It's a glorious treasure for them if they can find a secret spot for surfing alone without having to take turns," he said.

Gultom said surfers were willing to travel far to remote places for "secret" spots.

His agency has taken many surfers to small islands around Nias to find surfing spots other than the 11 well-known points.

"I still have some reservations for May this year. They have not canceled them yet," he said.

Thomas Lafon, 25, a surfer from France, who was at Sorake when the quake hit the beach, said he would like to come back to Nias some day.

"But in the meantime, my family told me to go far away from Sumatra. I will probably continue surfing in the eastern part of Indonesia," he told the Post at Binaka Airport, where he was about to depart for Medan, 10 days after the quake.

Nias' famous surfing spots are scattered and not always easy to reach.

Some surfers set up camp on islands like Bawa and Asu. Surfers tend to stay for months in a surfing area, living modestly in shacks or even residents' houses.

They spend more money on necessities, like boats and boards.

"I get any job I can in France to save money to travel for months to surf," Lafon said.

"I've been to the Mentawai Islands and I loved it. I want to go back. Probably later," he said.

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April 2005