MAN­AG­ING MAC­A­RO­NIS

WHAT'S GO­ING ON AT THE WORLD'S MOST ADORED LEFT?

Tracks - - Buzz - BY BEN BUG­DEN

Mac­a­ro­nis – it's the wave that makes you a bet­ter surf­ing ver­sion of your­self. It's so per­fect you can't help but surf out of your skin. Run­ning at fault­less speed, Mac­cas dishes up its trade­mark per­fect round tube on take­off, fol­lowed by a sec­ond course of the tasti­est skate-ramp curves you've ever had the good for­tune of tran­si­tion­ing. Bog rail on the first turn? Don't worry you'll get an­other four at­tempts on replica sec­tions down the line. It's surf­ing heroin, and when the wave be­came ac­ces­si­ble to the gen­eral public through boat char­ters many years ago, ev­ery­one wanted a taste.

But has the dream turned into some­thing of a night­mare? That's the ques­tion I've been ask­ing my­self since I found my­self sit­ting in the bay that houses the wave ear­lier this year.

2010 saw the in­tro­duc­tion of the "two-moor­ing" sys­tem at Mac­a­ro­nis, an at­tempt at lim­it­ing the crowds in which only two boats are sup­posed to moor at the wave each day, the money paid to do so go­ing to the lo­cal vil­lage in re­turn for man­ag­ing the book­ings and the boats. It is also em­ployed in an ef­fort to keep an equal bal­ance of surfers in the lineup from char­ter boats and those stay­ing at the land camp.

You can imag­ine that since its in­tro­duc­tion, ten­sions have typ­i­cally run high between char­ter boats [es­pe­cially those who miss out on a moor­ing when it's good], the land camp and the lo­cal vil­lagers who run the moor­ings.

It was on the sec­ond last day of our trip, our choices limited by strong winds and swell di­rec­tion, we thought we'd sail in and check it out. We didn't have a moor­ing booked but ap­par­ently nei­ther did nu­mer­ous other boats an­chored with­out moor­ings in the chan­nel.

Surfers from the camp and surfers from the moored boats ob­vi­ously, and prob­a­bly right­fully, felt that the ses­sion was theirs, while the par­ties from the other "il­le­gally" an­chored ves­sels just wanted a taste of Mac­cas having shelled just as much for their Mentawai ex­pe­ri­ence as those from the camp and the moored boats. It was a recipe for dis­as­ter.

One of the cor­rectly moored boats, ob­vi­ously a Brazil­ian char­ter, given away by the mul­ti­ple Brazil­ian flags fly­ing promi­nently from dif­fer­ent parts of the boat, didn't seem to take kindly to the in­ter­lop­ers, who I have to ad­mit con­tained a few from our own boat, and pro­ceeded to drop-in on those they felt had no right to be there, their boat erupt­ing in ap­plause and whis­tles with each toast­ing. This was not what I came to the Mentawai for. Isn't this trou­ble and strife what we're all at­tempt­ing to escape out here?

At ei­ther end of the sea­son I can see how the sys­tem could work, but un­der the strain of peak sea­son crowds and good con­di­tions at the wave it seemed the sys­tem had gone to pot, and po­ten­tially cre­ated more tension than the gen­tle­man's rules that gov­erned the break pre-moor­ings.

Find­ing a so­lu­tion to the prob­lem it seems is not go­ing to be easy. Com­mon ground will have to be found between the Boat Char­ter As­so­ci­a­tion, the lo­cal vil­lage, gov­ern­ment and the land camp – a del­i­cate dance in­deed.

We have heard on the co­conut wire­less that meet­ings to work on a so­lu­tion are un­der way; let's just hope the end re­sult is the best for all in­volved.

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