14 January, 2016 14 January, 2016

The Secret Garden of Papua New Guinea

Situated just North of Australia and virtually slap-bang between the Equator and the Tropic of Capricorn, lies the paradise of Papua New Guinea. Home to warm water, shallow reefs and the world class waves that go with it, it’s any surfer and travellers dream destination. After putting together the below clip about PNG’s Surf Management Plan, Zag caught up with White Horses magazine editor, Gra Murdoch.

Zag: How does PNG’s Surf Management Plan work?
Gra Murdoch: A few areas of PNG have had the bejesus mined and logged out of ’em. Apart from the obvious damage from those practices, there’s diminishing returns when the resources run out. Some smart cookies in PNG have since recognised the parallels with their resource of adventure tourism – if you let the destination degrade or be over-exploited, it’ll devalue. And in turn the reason for visiting vanishes.

So without going into too much detail, PNG’s Surf Management Plan is built on a premise of respect and integrity. Basically, it keeps tally and control of visitor numbers, feeds positive and accountable benefits back into the local areas, and the local communities kind of call the shots. It’s set up in a way that everyone benefits if everyone does the right thing. There’s minimal negative impact on the nature, or the human nature, of the place.

Andrew Mooney, one of the surfers on this trip, was here a decade ago and reckoned the place was exactly the same. No rubbish, the reefs were just as alive and vibrant. That’s a win right there.

With such a wave rich zone, young locals are making their own water crafts from the island’s timber to get in on the action. And as you can see, they’re extremely stoked.

How does it benefit the locals?
There’s a well thought out structure where the visitors’ levies go towards community development programs, education, water etc. But in an equally important way the local communities are given their due respect as the custodians of the area. There’s a sense that you’re actually a guest in someone else’s backyard. This goes a long way to preserving the status quo. It can be argued that in some surf zones around the world, local cultures haven’t really done well when exposed to our western sense of entitlement.

Who were the architects of it?
The Surf Management Plan was conceived back in 1989 by Andy Abel. Look up ‘foresight’ in the dictionary and you’ll probably see a pic of Andy.

Surfers have been going to PNG for over 20 years, is there evidence of their influence on local customs and culture?
Undoubtedly there is influence and effect. I guess that’s why it’s so important to manage it and make it as positive as possible. That said, PNG has a pretty solid sense of identity.

Ozzie surfer Flick Palmateer carving hard on a PNG gem.

Are many locals surfing?
Yes. That’s one of the core values of the Surf Management Plan. Surfing is absolutely encouraged. It’s recognised as the healthy, inclusive and positive pastime it is. With the help of guys like Andy Abel supplying boards, and guys like Tom Wegener doing timber board-making workshops, there’s a very strong local boardriders scene.

How many different waves did the White Horses crew surf? And which region did you visit?
The crew surfed about nine different breaks, and we cruised up north somewhere!

Tell us about making this clip.
Horsies has been looking to jump into the digital sphere for ages but we’ve not wanted to add to the noise out there just for the sake of it. Putting something together on PNG’s Surf Management Plan gave us a chance to move our storytelling values and aesthetic off the page and onto the screen. We were motivated by the idea that the rest of the surfing world could learn something pretty important from this small island nation.

We kept an eye on the North Pacific storms and headed to PNG late November last year when the seasons’ first swell showed. My House Pictures DOP Shane Peel, Drone filmer Glen Glaydon, Surfers Flick Palmateer, Andy Mooney and friends jumped on board Andrew “Undies” Rigby’s PNG EXPLORER and – as the boat’s name implies – did some exploring.

We’ve really only sketched out PNG’s Surf Management Plan with this pilot clip. It’s been a bit of a litmus test, to see how we’d go applying our values to the medium of film. We’ve learnt a shitload from doing this clip, and are stinging to crack on to a larger scale film production! It’s definitely best watched in HD using headphones if you can, as the song (by Rebecca Barnard) is great too.

A submerged circular reef makes this spot one of the most perfect A-frames one can imagine.

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *