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

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.