Vanimo, Papua New Guinea – Surfers eager to ride Papua New Guinea’s big waves are trying to develop impoverished beach areas to attract tourists and much-needed revenue, but running into cultural obstacles and local resentment.
The surf movement rose up in Papua New Guinea – in the southern reaches of the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Australia – in the 1980s. An Australian pilot landed his plane at Vanimo, a remote village on the northern coast of the country, and spent the weekend riding perfect, endless waves.
Before departing, he gave his surfboard to curious locals who had been riding hand-carved wooden bodyboards for generations, but never fathomed standing up on the waves. The Papuans took to surfing like fish to water and passed their love for the sport to the next generation.
Vanimo had remained off the grid until the 2011 documentary film Splinters was released. Afterwards, though, surfers from as far as Japan and the United States began turning up with surf boards in hand. A few locals rented out beds in their shacks, though it wasn’t until the opening of the Vanimo Surf Lodge by the Surfing Association of Papua New Guinea (SAPNG) that surf tourism took off.
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