Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Recreation Capacity for Surfers

Siberut Island in the Mentawai chain near West Sumatra, Indonesia has a problem with overcrowding with surfers. Many of the islands surf breaks can only handle a few surfers at once due to the shape of the reef. The villagers that inhabit the island are subjected to log, and create plantation agriculture for income. Tourism seems to be the only politically realistic economic alternative. By constructing surf lodges that would be runned by different boat based surf tour operators, hence calling for a recreation capacity limit to be determined.

The recreational capacity of the Mentawai for surfing is therefore determined by the minimum number of surfable breaks under the the least favorable common weather conditions. These conditions are most limiting during the northerly winds, when only a few breaks are functioning. Based on this analysis the recreational capacity for the Mentawai islands chain is about 100 surfers.

Surf tourism is by no means the only form of tourism on most of these islands, but in many cases it is a leading componet since it can bring relatively high paying tourists to areas with little or no infrastructure. This income can in turn start financing other infrastructure development of a broader nature, adventure and cultural tourism sector in these islands.


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