Shots fired at Mentawais surf break Macaronis

The break of Macaronis with boats moored in the channel. Photo by Nathan Smith
The break of Macaronis, with boats moored in the channel. Photo: Nathan Smith
Shots have been fired at the Mentawais surf break of Macaronis. Steve Sewell, the owner and skipper of the boat Huey 1, which was at the center of the altercation, recounted the incident to GrindTV.

“I was at the helm when I heard this horrendously loud bang and raced out to the back deck, where my deckhand and my oldest guest, 67-year-old Freddo [Fred Annesley], were both visibly shaken,” he said. “Freddo told me the guy in the red shirt had just let off a firearm.”

This dramatic altercation occurred this week in the channel at the well-known surf spot located in Indonesia’s Mentawai Islands. It is the latest incident that centers on the issue of exclusivity at surf spots and an example of the building tension between land-based surf camps and boat operators in the island chain, which is known as one of the best surfing destinations in the world.

The Huey had arrived around 11 a.m.,” continues Sewell. “There were two boats anchored on the moorings. However, they both had agreed to not book the moorings and thus give credence to what many boat operators see as a flawed and illegal system.”

Since 2010, the local villagers have implemented a system requiring visiting boats to book one of the two moorings located in the channel next to the wave. Sewell says this system was put in place at the behest of the Macaroni Resort, a land-based camp that is located about 800 yards from the wave, and that it is a means to enforce exclusivity at the break.

Sewell's boat The Huey 1. Photo by Huey Surf Charters
Sewell’s boat, the ‘Huey 1.’ Photo: Courtesy of Huey Surf Charters
“At 11:15 the officers that man the boats to enforce the two-boat rule come out, and as usual I expected to hand over $30 or so to let my guys catch a few waves,” continues Sewell. “They said we can give a donation, but we still have to leave.”

Sewell then refused to give a donation or to leave. He also asked the officers to leave his boat and refused to leave the channel when asked a second time.

“They then raced off in their dinghy to get more heavies, so I tell my guys to go surfing,” said Sewell. Two of his eight guests went surfing; the rest remained onboard. The officers returned and that’s when Sewell heard the loud bang. “After the gunshot, I asked Randi, my deckhand, who the guy in the red shirt is, and he told me he’s the police.”

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Subsequent reports in The Australian newspaper have quoted sources from the Macaronis Resort saying that Sewell had inflamed the situation by being offensive to the local police. It is an allegation Sewell refutes. In either case, after the incident, he quickly made the decision to leave.

“I’m thinking an alleged police officer, not in uniform, is firing guns on behalf of the Macaronis Resort in the direction of my vessel,” he says. “I had a duty to look after the interests of my guests and decided it was best to pull anchor and leave the area.” He reported the incident to police once back in the Sumatran port of Padang.

The surfer who was closest to the gun, Annesley, from Margaret River in Western Australia, told GrindtV, “This wasn’t a small gun; it was a big revolver, like a John Wayne model.” He was also philosophical about the wider issue of enforcing exclusivity at surf breaks.

“It should never come to this; we need to work it out,” he said. “No one owns the ocean. It should be as simple as that.”

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