Lending a hand in Bali

The restored McGrigor, auctioned for Project Nasi. Supplied.

Today’s column was going to be all about the World Surf League’s historic and experimental one-day finals series at Lower Trestles, but as a classic California pea-soup fog slowly lifted to reveal that the promised swell hadn’t quite arrived, the big day was kicked back 24 hours, meaning that you’ll have to wait a week for my assessment.

In the meantime, here’s something else you’ve missed out on this week. The online auction for this beautifully restored vintage McGrigor single fin ended last night (16 September). When I looked at the bids on the morning of 14 September, they were painfully low, which is good news for the bidders but bad news for Project Nasi, the charity receiving the proceeds. Hopefully there was a late surge.

Painstakingly restored by Levi Jones and sprayed by Martyn Worthington, the auction board is an early ‘70s McGrigor down-railer, with Uluwatu-inspired airbrush art on the bottom by Martyn. Martyn worked in the McGrigor factory around the time the board was shaped.

Levi and Martyn have formed a formidable team both restoring old boards – such as this one – or creating their own functional art. Many of their boards are sold well before completion, such is the demand for their work.

I first reported on Project Nasi (rice in Bahasa) shortly after the pandemic began last year, when alerted to it by my Bali-based friend Matt George – in Matt’s words, “a not-for-profit operating out of Denpasar who supply food staples and domestic needs to cash-strapped Balinese suffering under the pandemic”.

Founded by Australian expat surfers and businessmen Sam Mahony and James Foley, Project Nasi was originally conceived as a short-term emergency operation in support of the many families subsisting in the villages when tourism ended and so did their small incomes. But 18 months on and with the Delta variant cutting a swathe through Indonesia, the situation has deteriorated and Project Nasi has had to expand its operations to cover the neighbouring island of Nusa Lembongan, as well as large parts of Bali.

“We are determined to stay vital through the entire pandemic here in Bali,” James Foley told Matt George, “and hopefully beyond. It’s just a good way to be a good surfer.”

Over the course of its operation, the two surfers have enlisted the support of a wide range of expat businesses to create an efficient cashflow and delivery service for their food drops. The figures are impressive, to say the least. Project Nasi’s mission statement is, “Supplying the bare essentials to Balinese to help communities survive and recover from the impacts of the pandemic”. So far they have distributed 400,000 rice-based meals plus more than 50 tonnes of bagged rice, and 10,000 food packs, which will feed a family of four for four days.

Matt George reports: “On Lembongan, Project Nasi has partnered with the Lembongan Surf Team who have been supporting families with baby formula, basic medicine, and even medical check-ups for hundreds of children and the elderly. The LST, led by local surfers Wayan Lena, Komo Wilson, and Robot Wayan, are providing the muscle and the community connection while the Project Nasi Team handles the logistics and delivery.”

There’s still a long way to go, but while some expat surfers sit in their hillside retreats sending out Covid denial nonsense on social media while down below them people are dying every day, Project Nasi is keeping people alive in places so dear to so many Australian surfers. Having had so much joy from that island over so many decades, it’s time for us to lend a helping hand.

For more information and funding options, visit projectnasi.org

FOOTNOTE: The Swellnet forecasting and news website last week ran a considered piece by Steve Shearer called Why We Quit, in which he covered a multitude of reasons that surfers walk away from their salty passion, but left out the most obvious – as you get older it bloody hurts!

I just spent the week at Agnes Water surfing much longer sessions than usual in fun conditions on the point, then rubbing Deep Heat into the back and neck while recovering for the rest of the day so I could get out there again the next. This weekend I’ll be belatedly celebrating with friends a significant birthday which officially makes me a geriatric. Drink will be taken, waves will be ridden. Quit, moi? Not yet.

Rather than run a photo of an old bloke trying to pop up and ride a wave, I’m going with a couple of pix from everyone’s favourite surf photographer, Fenna De King, showing the joy of being a grom, just starting out on a journey that will shape their lives.