LONG READ: THE RISE AND RISE OF INDONESIAN SURFING

Rio Waida’s World Tour qualification broke a long-standing hoodoo for Indonesian surfing. Despite arguably having the best, most consistent waves on the planet, the surfing mecca has never produced a WCT surfer. We tracked down the godfather of Indonesian competitive surfing and former pro surfer Tipi Jabrik, now President of the Asian Surf Cooperative, to understand what this means for Indonesian surfing and to find out a little more about their new star, Rio Waida.

Tracks: What does Rio’s qualification mean for Indonesian surfing?

Tipi: It’s monumental. We’ve been hoping for someone to tour since the days of Made Kasim and Ketut Menda in the ’80s, but Indonesian surfers have only ever made it to events as wildcards for an event or two. That Rio is finally there shows that Indonesia has the talent to ride the waves. It shows that we can have more Rios in the future and open more doors. Hopefully this will create some momentum that will permanently bring Indonesian surfing onto the world stage.

As President of the ASC, you must have watched Rio develop over the years. How satisfying is it to see the structure you’ve built produce a World Tour surfer?

ASC’s mission has always been to bring Indonesian surfers to the world map. We have hosted many WQSs and co-hosted some World Tour events with the WSL in Indonesia, so at least we had a wildcard at the CT level. Now with a qualified surfer on the CT, it proves what the structure we’ve built – from Grom events to our Boardrider Championship and select WSL events – works.

The tour you put together is probably the best in the world for wave quality.

I did the WQS in the late 90’s and early 2000’s. I was surfing Margaret River in 1999 and had to howl at 12 feet onto land. I find that ridiculous! I have never surfed 12ft onshore Nusa Dua! Then I went to Japan and the waves were so small. I was in California and all the locals shred there. we have no hope you know We get there and only have two days until the competitions start, the day before the competition we hang around in the parking lot trying to get used to the waves. That’s why the ASC exists. Since 2004 we offer great events for surfers; Events in Keramas, Ulus, Canggu, HTs, Cimaja, Yoyos, Lakey Peak and Nias. We got a lot of good places and I think that also attracted the WSL. They came up to us and said, “Hey, we want to work with you guys to do WQS.

One of the least understood challenges that really discriminates against Indonesians in their bid for the world tour is the difficulty they have in gaining access to the countries hosting events. Can you explain how the situation is?

When Indonesian surfers travel outside of Indonesia, it is so difficult because they have to apply at least two weeks to 30 days to enter most countries. Imagine they have an event in Japan, they apply two weeks in advance, then the next event is in California and they have to go back to Indonesia and apply for the America visa again. It’s crazy. What happened to Rio since he was at the Olympics, the government helped him by writing letters on his behalf to the embassies of the countries where he had to compete. In the past surfing wasn’t a big part of sport Indonesia so the government didn’t help but since the Olympics we got more help. But still it is difficult to travel around the world with the green (Indonesian) passport.

I understand that the ASC in conjunction with the WSL was also able to circumvent these challenges to some degree?

With all these issues, the ASC has placed a focus on hosting more events in Asia so that we can only qualify with events in Asia. We are looking to work with the Philippines, India, Thailand, Sri Lanka and Taiwan to host more events in our region so we can qualify from there and select a few events to travel outside of Asia in the future.

ASC helps a lot of surfers to travel in Asia right now and that shows with Rio, that’s how Rio qualified. During COVID the WSL came to us and said Indonesian surfers cannot qualify unless they surf in an Asian QS. The only event was in Japan and the government didn’t let people in so we held a QS 1000 and Rio qualified for the Challenger Series by winning that event. No matter what, we always try to find a way for our top surfers – like Rio and Ketut – to shine in the world.

One of Rio’s training grounds. (Photo: ASC)

From what I understand you have played a personal role in nurturing Rio’s talent. Can you give us a little insight into who he is?

I remember Rio when he was about 6-9 years old. He moved to Bali when he was 5 years old. He was born in Japan and surfed a lot in Japan, but the problem is that they live a bit far from the coast there, so they decide to move to Bali because it’s a challenge for them. Since moving to Bali, they’ve become close with the Legian crew, the Padma Boys, and surf there almost every day. They live in Jimbaran so it takes them 15-30 minutes to get to the beach but they surf all day, usually on the beach when mom takes them away. When Rio was 9 or 10, Quiksilver picked him up and I’ve become more and more involved. I was the team leader at the time. I brought Rio to the Gold Coast and said things to him like, ‘This is Kelly Slater, shake his hand and tell him your name.’ I gave Rio a lot of opportunities as a kid to be confident, because if you don’t have a mentor, you’re going to sit on the corner and do nothing. You need someone to guide you.

The godfather himself with Indo’s first CT surfer. (Photo: ASC Media/Hain)

Can you give us an idea of ​​the amount of work that goes into behind the scenes to get an Indonesian surfer on tour?

We are also very involved in the personal sponsoring of athletes. Companies will be asking the ASC what to do in terms of strategies, events and beyond that we are coordinating everything in our power for each athlete’s success. To find a way to tour the world in a country like this, you have to work with a lot of people; local communities across Indonesia, the industry, the surfers, parents. Surfing is such a new thing in the eyes of the mainstream Indonesian that you can’t imagine how much work it is. Having Rio at the Olympics also really helped by showing the nation and government that surfing is a big part of the sport in this country.

Now with your first surfer on the World Tour what are the short and long term goals for the ASC?

We want to consistently provide a good platform for all surfers and get them to follow Rio’s path. We need more surfers for Rio. He can’t be a lone wolf. He needs a few people around to travel with him. Imagine being a Brazilian and traveling alone? It won’t be as strong a result as it is now. A platform for the WSL level is planned. We want to make sure more people qualify for the Challenger Series by completing the QS 5000 in Indonesia. We already have a few of these.

We are also promoting a club event for board riders. We have an Indonesian surfing league. Last week we held the finals with 17 surf clubs, around 1000 members and 215 surfers in five divisions in the finals. We want to push the Indonesian surf league up from the under ten mark. We’ve seen the success of the Australian boardrider culture and Australia plays a big part in how we do our movement here.



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