LACK OF WARM WELCOME FOR SURFERS ONE REASON WHY MAURITIUS UNDERPERFORMS
(Posted 21st January 2014)
‘Mauritius It’s a pleasure’ goes the slogan but reality on the ground appears to be rather different, especially when it comes to surfers wanting to test their skills and running foul of locals, as the following blog story tells.
Mauritius Tourism is underperforming according to a number of sources from Port Louis for a number of reasons, a key one being the MTPA running out of ideas and vision of how to return to promoting the core values which saw Mauritius once upon a time as the undisputed tourism leader among the islands. The island therefore could do with a boost to climb up the ranking ladder among Indian Ocean competitors, where the Maldives over the past two years have overtaken the once mighty Mauritius in terms of tourism arrivals, while Sri Lanka has been coming up fast in the race for the runners up spot, which would, should Mauritius lose more ground, relegate them to third spot.
The story narrated by one Graham Taylor who writes the Bomb Surf Blog, makes for stark reading and should perhaps serve as a reminder that tourism needs to be embraced by all segments of the local community, as one single hostile act, and here is the talk of several with the threat of physical violence, can truly damage the destination’s reputation beyond repair. I am reproducing this blog because it highlights the otherwise well known fact that tourism and the behaviour of locals apparently violently opposed to ‘foreigners’, aka tourists, surfing their favourite spots are declared enemies of each other. Unless tourism promoters get the backing of their local people and bring them on board, there is likely to be a precast fault line emerging sooner or later, as is shown here, to the detriment of the reputation of the destination, ready to kill the goose which lays those golden eggs. Food for thought as the saying goes, at least for those with eyes to read the writing on the wall.
|Trouble in Paradise – Bad Experience With Mauritian Localism
By Graham Taylor – the Bomb Surf Blog
We are reproducing this blog because it highlights tourism and local needs. This is often forgotten when the Tourism Authorities cannot involve the people and see only the business community. This blog speaks for itself and is food for thought.
The blog writes:
I am relaxing on a lounger under a thatch umbrella at a luxury resort on a tropical island watching perfect waves peeling along the coral reef about 500 metres off shore. The wind is offshore and everything is perfect to want to go surfing yet I have an uneasy feeling in my stomach and I for once do not want to venture into the water. I cannot recall ever having had such a feeling before in my 48 years of surfing life. During this time I have surfed in many different locations on this planet. What is going on here? I decide to follow my intuition on this one, here is why.
On a beautiful sunny offshore day at One-Eye in Mauritius I disembark from my boat at the same time as two other surfers do from theirs. We paddle towards an empty line up with good three to five foot lefts running down the reef into the deep water of the reef pass. The two guys appeared to me to be in their mid 20’s. I smile at them not being sure what nationality theywere and what reception I was going to get from them. The response I got from the one was a question, what language do I speak. I replied English and he said I was not from the island, was not a local and was not welcome at their break. They were locals. I was told by them that I had to sit at the end of the reef away from them and the correct take off point. When I asked why I was told that I was a foreigner and that as such I was not allowed to sit in the line up with them and that I had to sit at the end the wave. When I responded by saying that I would respect them as locals but was not prepared to sit at the end of the wave and would stay where I was they became aggressive, told me that I was arrogant and disrespectful and that I must obey them or else. At this point the one individual (who I later came to find out was a local XavierLachkar started to become aggressive and threaten me. I did not back down and after a confrontation he and his friend paddled away shouting abuse at me. During this altercation I heard theCréole boatman who had dropped me at the reef shouting to these two in French, I could not understand what was being said in the exchanges which took place between them.(Tamarin Bay)
What then ensued was an hour of being subjected to verbal abuse and the two of them hustling me to ensure that they got all the set waves and that I got all the left overs. At no stage did I try and hustle them or take any waves off them. I gave them cart blanche to have whatever waves they wanted. This was not enough for them in that one of then dropped in on me when I was taking a wave that neither of them had wanted. When my hour of surfing time was up the boat skipper returned to call me in and I left them to their waves.
When I returned to the boat I was told by my wife that the skipper, a Créole Mauritian, had seen the altercation and had told the two guys in French not to hassled or insult me. He was apparently told by them to leave me there and mind his own business but refused to do so knowing that for my safety he should keep an eye on me, which he did.
The irony of the situation is that the Creol skipper is only too happy to ferry travelling surfers to the breaks as he needs the money which the tourist supply. The “white Mauritians” do not give a damn. They don’t want tourists to surf their waves but are fine for the tourists to visit their island, spend money supporting their economy and ultimately them indirectly. Further irony is that I later discovered that Xavier Lachkar the main loudmouth and aggressor runs a business called Fun Adventure Mauritius, which relies on the tourist industry.
With a rise in the swell forecast for the following Monday and on the advice of the Créole boatman I did not surf on the Saturday and Sunday because the locals would have been in the water in their numbers. I watched from my resort over the Saturday and Sunday when there were very few occasions that there were not surfers in the line up at One-Eye.
Sunday afternoon saw a dramatic rise in the swell so I contacted my local contact Rodger Theveneau at the Tamarin Bay Surf School to get a heads up on surf there for the swell. He told me that it would be good at Tamarin on Monday and Tuesday and that I should get to him as early as possible on Monday, preferably by no later than 08h00 a.m. He said that he had some other South Africans who were going to be hiring boards from him and he would take us all surfing so I was really stoked to hear that.
When I arrived at the Tamarin Bay Surf School Rodger greeted me with smiles and a promise of really good waves for the day. I could see from his spot that the Left at Tamarin Bay was really good but it was crowded. He introduced me to the other South Africans who were hiring boards from him. They were from Durban and Cape Town and they were on the Island shooting a commercial for a travel company. Rodger said that there were to many locals at the left so he would take us all to a spot in the middle of the bay called “Black Stone” where there were no locals and we would be able to surf without any problems. Well true to his prediction we had cooking four to six foot rights to ourselves at Black Stone all morning. The only competition were a few people riding SUP’s but they were cool.
When we were surfed out we came in for lunch which Rodger very kindly arranged for us at the Tamarin Bay hotel. The other South Africans decided to go back to their resort and arranged to return later in the afternoon. Whilst we were having lunch we could see that the Left was really good at 4 to 6 foot and that there were not too many people in the water.
(Trouble in paradise escalating)
After lunch and at around 14h00 Rodger said that he could take me and one other of the South Africans to the Tamarin Left . He said that the locals would not be happy with him if he took more than two foreigners into the line up and that if he did so there would be problems for him and ultimately us. Myself and Ace accompanied Rodger into the line up at the World Famous Tamarin Bay left.
In the line up were a bunch of Groms on the inside section and two Créole locals at the main peak. There were lots of waves, we all had great waves. The vibe was great and everyone was stoked. In fact Ace and I both agree that we had been truly blessed to get Tamarin Bay working and so uncrowded. Rodge told us that the break only works around 20 to 30 times a year.
Rodger then told us that he had to go in for a surf lesson and that it was fine for us to stay out and continue surfing. He warned us that the “white locals” will flock out at around 16h00 after work and that when they did arrive they would be aggressive and he could not be held responsible for them. He told us not to sit near them in the line up and to let them have control of the line up. I was fine with that suggestion as Ace and I had already had tons of great waves and were super stoked. However what was about to unfold was nothing remotely like he had explained.
After Ace and Rodger had gone in I was in the line up on my own with the locals and the Groms and everything was fine. At around 16h00 I noticed a number of surfers on the beach starting to enter the break. Low and behold who was the first local I see paddling towards me but Xavier, the loud mouth trouble maker from One-Eye. He proceeded to abuse me verbally and told me to go in as I was not allowed in the line up. The other locals who came out gave me the same treatment. I kept my position in the line up which was about 20 to 30 metres down from the take off point which is were all the locals were sitting. They were taking all the best waves and I got the left overs.
A short while later the next group of locals came into the line up one by one. One of them paddled up to me and asked me what I was doing in the water . I then told him that I was a friend of Rodger’s and he said that I could stay in the surf but I had to go and sit at the end of the Reef were all the Groms were sitting. I told him that I was not prepared to do that but that I would not interfere with him or any other of the locals as I respect their right to the break. I said that I was going to stay were I was and that I would not interfere with any of them. He was not happy with this and regarded my attitude as arrogant and disrespectful. An argument ensued and I told him that I was not disrespectful nor arrogant but I was not going to be told by him or anyone else where I could sit as long as I was respecting their right to have whatever waves they wanted.
The results of an encouter with the locals.
Each time one of the locals had a wave and paddled passed me they would verbally abuse me and tell me to get out of the water. When I refused to obey them and essentially started to ignore them they got more aggravated. Eventually I noticed an older guy with grey hair paddle out to the pack . He and the other locals had a discussion, they were talking about me as I could see them looking and pointing in my direction. I then noticed the older guy and a couple of the others in a group of four paddle down the line to where I was sitting. The older guy confronted me in a very aggressive manner and told me to get out of the water or else. When I argued with him and told him that I was not prepared to be abused by them he threatened me with physical violence and pushed his board into my ribs and said that if I did not leave there would be trouble. I realised that this situation was getting out of control and that it was not worth endangering my safety so I decided to leave the break and I paddled in.
During one of the arguments I said that I could not understand how the locals could treat me in such an abusive way when I had done nothing. I was respecting them, had in no way interfered with their surfing. I was supporting their economy as a tourist I could not understand how they could treat tourists in this way. Their response was that tourist were welcome on the Island but if they are surfers they are not allowed to surf there. This I said was ridiculous and that angered them even more.
I have, over the past 48 years, travelled the world surfing and no- where have I ever been treated in this disgusting and disrespectful manner. As a result I did not surf again during the remaining seven days of my stay as I did not want to face this kind of abuse again.
The white Mauritians need to learn the meaning of localism and respect for fellow surfers because if they travel anywhere and behave the way they did towards me I shudder to think how they will be treated. Needless to say that if I ever see any of them in South African waters they will not get any waves at all but they will not be treated in the disrespectful and abusive manner which I was.
Suffice it to say I will not be going back to Mauritius any time soon.
http://www.thebombsurf.com/blog/7/2978/trouble-in-paradise also shows a wide range of comments, most of them siding with the author and a few not siding with him. As always it is for readers to make up their mind and use their initiative to find out more about this and other incidents, how wide- or not so widespread they are, or to write to the owner of the BombSurfBlog and make additional enquiries.