On the edge of the jungle at Tupira town 80km from Madang in northern Papua New Guinea is an exchange of cultures that will be remembered by all those involved for the rest of their lives. Nic Jones of Buderim is contending in the Kumul PNG World Longboard Championships run by the WSL in front of the biggest crowd drawn to that division. Also there admiring the course his University of the Sunlight Coast PhD research study into sustainable surf boards has taken him, is shaper Tom Wegener. Tom is supervising competitors amongst Papua New Guinea surfers riding shapes actually hewn from the jungle’s timber frames that make up its towering trees that surround them.
Unfolding is exactly what Tom thinks is the altering paradigm of competitors with the World Surf League, alongside the aspects of culture and travel. Surfing towns from throughout PNG have actually descended on exactly what has been changed from a 12-bed surf camp into a tiny city of 80 camping tents plus bamboo and palm leaf structures. “My work in surfing after an interest in personal weight training through the university has assisted bringing the WSL to this remote location,” Tom said proudly as he prepared to reveal a semi-final heat of a competitors for locals and riding boards he had help them form. Generally residents would lower old canoes to make belly boards and had actually tried to replicate in wood the foam boards donated by visiting surfers.
When he initially went to PNG as part of his PhD Tom was approached by town chiefs wanting to re-invent their culture. “They consider themselves surfers,” he stated. “It’s a highly-valued activity. So when I found that there was a great deal of balsa, we grated it and cut and dried and glued the edges.” Initially the residents wished to copy foam shapes but rapidly discovered that the much heavier product did not equate. Tom focused them on the ancient Hawaiian alaia styles he brought back to the sport in 2005 and which gave him title of 2009’s International Shaper of the Year. He stated, “There are various ways you can develop a board to hold the tail in without fins.”
The WSL pros involved in personal interval training and PT have contended in divisions riding the boards made by locals in front of countless individuals with the action captured by banks of TV video cameras for international circulation. “I asked among the shapers how he felt and he stated ‘Tom I sobbed’ when he saw his boy complete on the world stage. “We took a TV trailed by long electrical cables to where the local kids felt comfortable sitting and revealed to them in slow motion at 80-frames a second the video of them surfing.” Tom stated that the WSL saw how, through the University of the Sunlight Coast, his research study was assisting the development of a wooden surf board market and how he wanted to integrate that into the event. “I’m enjoying exactly what we have actually done,” he stated. “The research study has resulted in a transformation. I cannot believe it.”
Wegener began his research study in 2013, and took a trip to Tupira in 2015 to assist local surfers and board makers upgrade their style and build techniques in an effort to maintain their culture of being surf board constructors. He provided his findings from the journey at a unique discussion entitled “Surf boards of Papua New Guinea: How culture supports regional market” in October, 2015 at USC. “A primary senior from PNG contacted me and revealed his issues about the absence of locals surfing the conventional ways, which is on wooden surf boards made of locally engineered timber products that are crafted in your own area,” Tom stated at the time.
“There’s a genuine concern that the culture is being displaced with the intro of foam surf boards from Australia and visiting surfers, and they’re very mindful of losing their surf board market to imports from abroad.” That’s a worry today that we may be able to put to rest. The expert WSL world title event is in its 3rd round and 4th day of the eight-day competition. Jones is arranged to surf the very first heat of the round Wednesday early morning.