Friday, August 20, 2010

Malaysia's latest extreme sport: tidal surfing in crocodile-infested waters

(Tidal bore pix courtesy of Drainage and Irrigation Department of Sarawak)

Think surfing in Hawaii, think bikini girls. Think tidal-bore surfing in Sarawak, think crocodiles! A tidal bore, according to Wikipedia, is "a phenomenon in which the leading edge of the incoming tide forms a wave (or waves) that travels up a river against its direction." Brazil's Pororoca and China's Guanchao are well-known among tidal-bore surfers.

The website of the Drainage and Irrigation Department of Sarawak states that in Malaysia, tidal bores (known locally as "benak") occur only at Batang Lupar, Batang Sadong, Batang Samarahan and Batang Saribas in Sarawak. Their waters are home to crocodiles. However, in 2009, Antony Colas, a tidal surfer and author of World Stormrider Guide, surfed at Batang Lupar, outwitting the predators.

Capitalising on the publicity given to him in surfing media, the Pesta Benak (literally means "Tidal Bore Carnival") was inaugurated in the riverine town of Sri Aman in May 2010. As a safety precaution, the organisers spent three days clearing the river of crocodiles prior to the carnival.

I welcome hardcore wave-riders from around the world to display their skills and guts at Sarawak's tidal bores where man-eating reptiles lie waiting. "Selamat Datang."


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