After church on Sunday mornings, many of the local children cycle their bikes down to the beach, their pristine adventure playground, to hang out for the afternoon. Nasti and Ersina, aged 10 and 11 had their first go at surfing, lying on a board and seeing what it felt like. They tell me waves are fun, just not big ones!
Local girls often don’t get the chance to have a go at surfing for many reasons including, perhaps most significantly, the role of women in society here and the fact that most visiting surfers are male. Yet most girls and younger women are keen to go in the water and when given the opportunity to see what surfing is like jump at it. The benefits to their physical health, self-esteem and confidence are wonderful to see. It also brings them together as a group.
Fear of the water among the older strata of society is evident, especially after the terrible tsunami of October 2010 that hit the Mentawais and, in some places, devastated villages. However, like younger generations all around the world, the youth remain undaunted. Getting more girls in the water, understanding and caring for the ocean environment, improving their overall general well-being, learning about the surf tourism industry and feeling the stoke of surfing is something I see as key to the success of sustainable surf tourism in this region. Girls and women are a conduit for society passing on skills they have learnt.