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More surfers in the Catlins? No thanks

August 23, 2010

I read today in the Otago Daily TImes about a group of American surfers going surfing in the Catlins, here to do a story for Surfer magazine, one of the main american surfing magazines with a readership of 700,000. All good from the perspective of Venture Southland and other tourism bodies.

But from the perspective of a local surfer? No thanks. We’d rather keep these beaches without the crowds. God, I sound like a staunch local saying this. It was only a decade ago when it was unusual to see another surfer at Curio Bay or Pk Bay, now a dozen on a weekend with good waves would be the norm (saying this sitting in my rocking chair with finger pointing and crackling voice: “I remember in my day…..”)

On the one hand I understand more surfing tourists are good for the economy  (if they are not dirt bagging it and doing it on the cheap) but mostly I think about that what makes the Catlins so unique is it’s remoteness and lack of crowds and commercialism. I doubt the Catlins will ever become the next Bali – the climate ensures that- but I still feel wary about New Zealand becoming a surfing tourism holiday for Americans. And maybe that’s hypocritical for me to say – having gone on a big surfing road trip through Baja and up the west coast of the states.

I guess  it is also pertinent to remind myself – launching into writing about the outdoors and adventuring – the effect that writing about a place can have in putting it on the map of accessibility and how it can change things.

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