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Explanation of surfing etiquette in Mentawai.

Explanation of surfing etiquette in Mentawai.

What is Surfing Etiquette in Mentawai?

The customary code of polite behavior in society or among members of a particular profession or group.  How does this relate to surfing etiquette in the Mentawai Islands?

“Polite behavior in society” assumes that people have morals and ethics and believe that they are not any better or worse than anybody else.  Furthermore, by entering into this discussion we make the assumption that you’d like everybody to have a fair shot, regardless of age, skill, skin color or nationality.  If you don’t have these qualities as a surfer, then stop reading and please don’t come to Mentawai.

The author not to impressed with the placement of these new speedbumps in the neighborhood.

If you feel like you’re a reasonably kind, empathetic and fair sort of guy or girl, then read on.

A group maintaining etiquette while surfing in Mentawai has primarily one function: to reduce the chances of injury to each member of the group.  There’s no other purpose.  Following this etiquette is not going to advantage one type of surfer over another.  There’s really no other reason for a bunch of friends or strangers who are sharing waves to be following any kind of etiquette. 

Surfing is an inherently selfish sport.  My wave, my session, my board.  If you come to Mentawai and DON’T follow the local etiquette, eventually somebody will ask you, “what makes you so special?” 

Why is the money that you worked hard to save worth more than anybody else’s money?  Why is your time spent paddling around and waiting for the next set so much more important than anybody else out there?  Do you think that you are a better surfer than everybody else, and that by sitting deeper on the peak you should have the right to catch whatever wave you like?

Speedbump surfing
The author and the speedbump having a chat.

There are a lot of idiots out there who, behind their glowing screen will answer those questions like, well, idiots.  To make my point, I suggest you fix a nice hot cup of coffee and read the comments section of the above video on YouTube for some entertainment. 


People ask me about altercations in the lineup out here.  My response:

95 out of 100 people were never told that Mentawai etiquette is different than where they came from (Gold Coast/Sao Paulo/San Diego etc.), and when it is pointed out, they apologize and happily follow the etiquette like the rest of us.  The other 4 out of 100 know what they’re doing is wrong, but they were hoping that nobody would notice, or nobody would have the balls to call them on it.  When they are confronted, they might grumble a little, but realize that they’re in the wrong and take their turn or maybe even (be human!) call somebody else into a wave or two. 

The author enjoying one of the reasons Mentawai is special.

1 in 100 know what they are doing is wrong, and just don’t care.  They’re the idiots I’m talking about, and there’s really no helping them.   If you’re reading this and say, “who the hell is this guy, thinks he can tell me what to do?”, then you’re in danger of being an idiot.

The author checking out the “pineapple patch”. Another reason for good etiquette.

The thing about idiots is that karma will sort them out.  Every single time I’ve encountered idiots, they end up going over the falls, getting scratched up, breaking a board, or end up on the wave of the day only to be dropped in on by somebody during a make-or-break bottom turn. 

Karma and Mentawai go hand in hand. 

So the next time you think you’re being cool when you screw everybody else in the lineup, remember: there’s a natural law that you’re messing with, and the universe doesn’t care who you are.