Colonial Surfer - The ReSearch is a project about the contemporary globalized world and power structures within the surf industry and its realm. Surfing is not just a sport but also culture, producer and distributor. In current discussions you hear about the post-colonial but the situation today is better described as neo-colonial. Surfers do travel a lot and sometimes to places unknown to other tourists. The way surfers behave and represent themselves in the adventures search of perfect waves has a lot in common with ancient colonizers and their roles. To surf maintain and conserve already existing structures. History.

Editor: Kristoffer Svenberg

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

"Surfers: eco-tourists" ?

Surfing Indonesia, A search for the world's most perfect waves has for several years been a recurrent guidebook for large amounts of surf tourists in Indonesia. This type of book (there are several different and new editions but still very much the same kind of guide) have great influence over how ”surf” tourists look to their surroundings while traveling. This particular book, Surfing Indonesia, certainly contains a lot of generalizations about Indonesia. For example a woefully superficially reflected text by Rusty Miller on surfers as the world's first Eco Tourists:

Twenty-five years ago (or more than 300 full moons past) the Australian cinematographer Albie Falzon filmed two surfers riding large, perfectly breaking waves at a spot near the sacred Bali-Hindu temple known as Uluwatu.
 This 1972 icon film, ”Morning of the Earth”, included images of surfing and Bali’s animated culture that soon attracted many surfers to this magical island. During the next two decades increasing numbers of waveriders visited Bali, opened its doors to people back home, and introduced the island to the international world of surfing.
The first surfers to visit Bali – and later other parts of Indonesia – were among the world’s first eco-tourists, a unique group of travelers who came to Bali in search of its most sought-after natural resource, namely high-quality surfing waves.
These surfers also found, however, that they soon became involved in ongoing interpersonal relationships that developed over the years in this rare and unique part of Indonesia. No government program has yet surpassed this group in building direct “people-to-people” communications, in fostering cultural exchanges and personal friendships, and even in helping to develop small businesses/ economic opportunities. The direct result of these contrasting cultures opening up and learning to respect each other has served for a long time as a great example of what people can do for each other and – by living example and extension – world peace.   

The text continues, but the basis for why those surfers should be called Eco Tourists is not present or clear at all. This is rather an example of unreflective romanticizing that gets a bit dangerous when it by the context claims to be informative. It does not require a particularly deep research in Bali and Indonesia's surf tourism to find out that there are a lot of injustice relations. What Rusty Miller is correct about is the connection with the demand and supply of natural resources. The natural resources are not in this case oil or various precious metals, but instead waves. Reefs that generate those surfing waves and its nearby coastal areas have become something very sought after. In these areas there are ongoing battles (the global tourism industry) over interpretive precedence and land.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Brief Notes

  • Privilege is when you think something is not a problem because its not a problem to you personally.

  • A prerequisite to fight for a group / minority you do not belong to is understanding how your own privileges works.

  • The attractive parts of surfing is not wrong. Problems are present in dominance by naturalization, thinking about yourself as pure & neutral.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Drive by shooting – It’s a matter of a power relation.

From a discussion on STNC Facebook page:

Drive-by shooting - It's a matter of a power relation.

EP: Hmm... I'd like to understand that thought. Does it parallel with the aboriginal thought that photographs steal your soul?

STNC: It's about the position and role. Who is mobile and free and who is getting frozen solid. Anyone who can move more freely, such as a surfer who travels the world, has the advantage in matters of representation when holding the camera. From such a free-floating position, it is easier to control the representation of the 'other', the influence of photography and the performative power. It is also very much about his/her own identity by consuming the environment as an "aesthetic surface." The power lies in the ability for geographical movement but manifests itself through pictures and stories. Whose stories are told through these images and why? What is the purpose of the image photographed from this tuktuk ride? In general it is very often photographs that manifest the photographer's role and identity.

EP: Yes, agreed. Just as in quantum physics the presence of the observer alters the outcome of the atom's movement.

STNC: Yes, that’s a way of putting it. But somehow that is also problematic. Since we need to find ways of getting everyone able to be observers alike. Not just the free traveling surfer. In Surfers are The New Colonialists I am observing the surfer and the surfers gaze. I do this to find ways of challenging very unequal perspectives.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Bali (The Morning of The Earth - and The new colonialists)

Sometime in 1936, an American named Bob Koke took a break from building his hotel on the deserted shore of Kuta and strolled down to the breakers for a surf on his home-made Honolulu style surfboard. He’d learned to surf when he was in Hawaii, a sport he took with him to Bali, and that afternoon, he was the only surfer in the water...

The surf tourism and then the wider tourism to Bali is said to have begun by the movie The Morning of The Earth that was released in 1972. A film by Alby Falzon which includes footage of the first waves surfed at the now world famous surfspot Ulu Watu. (Evil Water / The Devils Water). In 1970 they were climbing down the rocks into the significant and spectacular cave by the shore. The one you either have to paddle, or walk through depending on tide, to reach the break. Nowadays there are stairs built here for an easy walk down. And on the cliffs right above, there are hotels, swimming pools and parking lots.

Hard Rock CafĂ© is today located on Kuta beach exactly where Bob Koke were building his hotel in 1936. This picture that is photographed by Kuta beach are from the project: “All we do is surf". The text on the poster that says: XXXPlosive is a pretty provocative expression, especially after the terrorist attack in Bali 2001. Two famous night clubs populated with young tourists and surfers were targets for bombs that killed hundreds of people. The people who got killed were in average around 25 years old. The night club and bar Sari Club were completely blown out. The other one, Paddy's bar, opened soon again under a new name. The new name of the night club became Paddy's Reloaded.

I myself visited Bali for the first time in 2001. Since I have returned on several occasions over more than a decade I have begun to see structures in how Bali has changed and evolved. And there is no doubt about that surf culture has a very strong dominance here. To understand how such a global sport tourism movement and its offshoots do impact on a small and in economy less wealthy place, Bali is a really great island to study. Bali has in many ways now become financially richer through its role as a tourist paradise. But who is in charge? Who are in power and influence the most about the Island’s development and life? Who pays the price?

Derek Rielly a surfer, writer and entrepreneur from Australia has written a spot on text about the situation in Bali and the title is very much the same as this STNC blog: The new colonialists. Click on the link below to read it in The Sidney Morning Herald, National Times: 

READ IT HERE: Derek Rielly, The New Colonialists, The Sidney Morning Herald

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Wednesday, May 29, 2013




Surfers who are staying and living on beaches with their neighboring regions are in some ways akin to The Occupy Movement. Yes, I mean the one that started in New York - Occupy Wallstreet, which then spread around the world. Surf culture has an even more further and wider dissemination. And I can aesthetically from a rather romantic perspective compare it with the world's global occupy protest movement. However, there is a substantial difference. The surf culture is occupying in favor of capitalism and globalization. It doesn’t protest or work against unequal structures. The movement is rather about surfing on these unequal structures. 

In comparison, if we take a basis of a tourism industry in a fairly unexploited tourist site, but still populated by surfers. Surfers often live in tents and bungalows when there aren’t any hotels near the break. In these “camp” sites there are no protest banners or political placards like at the Occupy movements spots. Rather there are surfboards lined up in different ways. You can see advertisements for various small eateries and restaurants. And the area is flagged, here and there, with global surf company commercials. It is advertisement that often tends to be very stereotypical, sexist and American, European "normative". 

The restaurants and places to stay are in the early stages mostly local owned. But when the tourism exploitation by poor areas increases, it begins to attract international rich companies. Hotels and restaurants from USA, Japan, European areas and Australia are then dominating a lot of the popular spots for surfers. And it goes as far as that places are getting fenced and proclaimed: Private.

It’s not rare that people express dissatisfaction with this kind off exploitation. But at the same time it is almost seen as natural and inevitable. To get the best access to the surf then at these sites, surfers do pay to stay at the expensive hotels. I'm not at all opposed or against that those areas develop and become richer. I am critical on how the power relation are between tourists, wealthy businesses and the local citizens. These areas get colonized by the tourism and surf industry. It is a massive and dominant cultural imperialism that finds its way through a traveling surf, “backpacker” culture to "remote" parts of the earth. 

Surf culture is today at no means a subculture with challenging perspectives on the world order. It is rather part of the norm, an ideal and a standard culture in the market economy. It is used in advertising for just about everything possible. Such as fast food, soda, beer, communication, training, sweets and whatever. It reaches a wide audience and it is no more norm breaker alternate-radical than IKEA. 

When we travel as surfers, we must ask ourselves about who we are, how we are privileged and how we impact the places we go to. And it's not about that we are supposed to spread stories in those areas about how we as great good tourists are helping, or giving something back. The root in the problem is about how we are dominantly speaking, spreading our stories and culture. Thereby we get other voices and perspectives silenced and shut. This wave of dominance needs to be broken to create a better more equal world. And it has to be done through challenging and breaking free from colonial power structures and chains that extends far back into history. 

Monday, May 13, 2013

Charlie Don´t Surf - The Clash

Charlie don't surf and we think he should
Charlie don't surf and you know that it ain't no good
Charlie don't surf for his hamburger Momma
Charlie's gonna be a napalm star

Everybody wants to rule the world
Must be something we get from birth
One truth is we never learn
Satellites will make space burn

We've been told to keep the strangers out
We don't like them starting to hang around
We don't like them all over town
Across the world we are going to blow them down


The reign of the super powers must be over
So many armies can't free the earth
Soon the rock will roll over
Africa is choking on their Coca Cola

It's a one a way street in a one horse town
One way people starting to brag around
You can laugh, put them down
These one way people gonna blow us down


Charlie don't surf he'll never learn
Charlie don't surf though he's got a gun
Charlie don't surf think that he should
Charlie don't surf we really think he should
Charlie don't surf

Charlie don't surf and we think he should
Charlie don't surf and you know that it ain't no good
Charlie don't surf for his hamburger Momma
Charlie don't surf 

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

HEROES "All we do is surf"

video 24 min

There are a large number of bars situated on the island of Bali. They are more or less fancy but it’s common in almost every one of them that they are screening surf movies. Not full feature films but flicks that are about waves and cool maneuvers while portraying sponsored surfers to sell the sport, the culture, and the products. As a kid, I grew up with those kinds of films, but then mostly on skateboarding and snowboarding as sports (or lifestyles). When being in Indonesia in a different economic situation and culture, than where I grew up in northern Europe, it got more obvious to me. I began to question the content in those films more direct. What are they really about?

When we do photograph the world we are also part of creating reality. And it is not as simple as that we are just mirroring our surroundings. The perspectives in those surf films I talk about are very unequal and the different roles people play in them are very fixed. Surfers are being portrayed as heroes more or less. Pictures shot from below that give them similar perspectives as strong conquerors in political propaganda. As well portrayed in the most playful manner in life, active and as beings without any problems or worries. On the contrary, the locals in the countries those surfers visit and exploit are being used as a kind of exotic spice. Sceneries and people are passing by in the films and the most important part they play seems to be about contrast. It is about creating the “other” in the exotic faraway country very "different" from our own reality.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

...and what about surf tourism

“Tourism is the most colonial of colonial economies, not because of its sheer physical difficulty or the pain or humiliation intrinsic in its labor [of the colonized] but because of its physic and social impact on people and their places. Tourist workers quickly learn that one of the most essential traits of their service is to mirror onto the guests what that visitor wants from them and from their place in a way that affirms that visitor’s self-image.”

- Hal Rothman

Tourism as the New Colonialism–and what about Surf Tourism? Written by a man born and raised in Bali that are the editor in Bali and Indo Surfstories.