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Teiki Mathieu Baillan surfing a self-made Alaia surfboard in Lances Left, Mentawaï, Indonesia. Photo by C. Naslain, 2009.
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By Pissed off native
How do you surf? - Dear anonymous I have only one question for you, how do you surf with your head stuck up your butt? You must be a kook or a wanker. Why don't you go to Indo and join all the other butthole surf rats there? We don't need your kind in Samoa!
stop your bithin!! - Guys I don't care about your views on waterways or any Surf Tours. I only got a week to surf and I'm booked with them. I just want to hear about the surf not your crying.
By another palagi surfer
Another view of Samoa - Over the past ten years or so I too have traveled and surfed a bit in Samoa including Salani. I don’t know who this JB guy is but I think he must be a good friend of Murphy to talk him and his resort up like that. Spectacular views? I don’t think so. Not unless you are into river mouth mud flats and can handle all the mosquitoes! Also they charge over twice as much for a beer as does the village store so what’s up with that? As for the resort’s hospitality, waterfalls, etc, what’s the big deal? You can pretty much get that anywhere in Samoa for much less. But I do agree with JB that Salani serves up some great feeds! More importantly though I agree with this amsamsurf guy when he says the resorts are stinking up the place! When the frigging Salani boat crew shows up with a full load of 8-10 or more people whether at the Salani break or Boulders and there are already some independent types out it definitely gets way overcrowded and goes aggro. Another problem, the resort brings in all these kooks who really have no business being out there to begin with especially if the place is cranking (maybe JB is one of those kooks, just a thought). Anyway I really don’t know what is going on behind the scenes politically in Salani village but I doubt it is all as sweet and harmonious as Murphy and JB would have us believe. For one thing the land the resort is located on is owned by only one family while the reefs are all village communal property and that fact alone most likely creates some tension within the village as Samoans like people anywhere tend to get quite jealous of one another in these kinds of situations where money is involved. For another thing Samoans are masters at hiding their true feelings and just love to put on a good show for visitors whom they see as powerful or important people such as Murphy so just because the village chief presented him with some special gift well that probably doesn’t mean all that much either. Also I did run into a couple of Kiwi guys on the road who told me that the Salani boatmen had more or less chased them out of the water a few years back so my guess is that amsamsurf is probably much closer to the truth here than is Murphy. As for bringing in school books and supplies, Xmas gifts for the employees, whatever, the reality is that that is no big deal either as in the end the resort pays for that as well, in other words the resort’s patrons not Murphy personally but it is way cool that he went to all that trouble when he really didn’t have to. While it is true that the resort provides villagers with jobs they are all basically just dead-end shit jobs but in all fairness that is pretty much standard practice for foreign owned luxury resorts in 3rd world countries surfing or otherwise Samoa included. I would feel much better about it though if I saw Salani making some progressive moves towards having the villagers one day take over managing and running the resort themselves but it seems to me that all they get to do is clean up rooms and serve food and do a little song and dance every now and then for fiafia night while the resort brings in all these expats to do the rest. Well I will just end here by saying that if you have the big bucks and can afford to stay at Salani you’re free to do so but you be the judge. Keep your ears and eyes wide open, don’t take anything for granted and don’t be afraid to ask some hard questions of the resort as that is the only way things will ever change! Also please don’t ever think that because you are paying the big bucks to surf you own the waves because you really don’t the ocean does and she can own your ass any time she feels like it!
By South Pacific Drifter
Different day, same BS - Of course, different individuals are going to have different experiences and obviously some are going to think highly of Salani while others are not. The problem with JB's viewpoint is that while it's cool he had a good experience, being with Sean Murphy was an obvious bias. Of course Sean's going to put his best possible foot forward in front of guests (by the way, JB, are you a friend of Sean's, you said you were traveling with him) and is going to be as nice possible at Christmas time. And of course, the village is going to be gracious and hospitable to him in return at that time. That still doesn't change what may (or may not) be going on behind the scenes. Well whether you agree or disagree with some of the opinions expressed on this site, there's a much better, much much cheaper way to travel and surf in Samoa. Check out Green Turtle Tours on the web. There a relatively new tour network of Samoa pparently owned and opertaed entirely by locals. You can travel and surf throughout Samoa and stay at locally owned resorts (some right in front of good breaks!), all of your travel arrangements, food, etc., are handled by Green Turtle Tours and you decide where you want to go, what level of accomodations you want, etc., for as little as $33 (US) per day. You just can't beat that price!
Another Point of View - I've done quite a bit a travelling, have visited Samoa three times in the last ten years, and have stayed at Salani for two of those three times. I have nothing but positive things to say about my experiences at Salani and the interactions with the foreign staff and local villagers. I'm not sure what happened to this guy,who seems to be particularly vindictive and spiteful against WaterWays and his Salani experiences, nor do I really care. I'd say if you haven't been to Samoa yet, give it a try. In particular, Salani is a great destination for surfers and non-surfers alike. The resort offers easy access to multiple surf spots around the island. There's lots of other activities, such as hiking to blowholes, waterfall and cave trips, kayaking on the river and behind the reef, volleyball, etc... The fales (rooms) have spectacular views and are very comfortable. The food is fantastic and the hospitality is as good as it gets.I had the pleasure of travelling with the owner Sean Murphy and his wife on a trip around the Christmas holidays. I thought they went out of their way and showed tremendous generosity by bringing gifts for their staff and for the children of the adjacent Salani village at their own expense. They also had shipped out classroom books and teaching aids from a Los Angeles private school for the local village school. The Salani resort employed a lot of the local villagers. The Matai (chief) presented Sean Murphy with a special gift for all that he has done for the village. So, use your own judgement. Not everyone in the STI are as bad as this guy wants to portray them.
no title - Blah blah blah blah shut the hell up already about it. Sounds like you have to much time on your hands richardhead
Response to Murph the Surf Tour Operator: Part 3 - As for your discussion of the “permitting process to control the number of surf tourists in the country at any one time”, Murph, perhaps the STI did not come up with this idea, but as you yourself admit, it sure as hell supported it and that, my friend, is just as bad. Also, it is extremely doubtful that it would have been supported by local surfers as you claim, because practically every local Samoan surfer I know hates the STI’s guts. (And please tell me, Murph, just exactly what gives you the right to speak for native Samoan surfers when you have done exactly diddly fucking squat to help them out?) As for your claim, Murph, that the Samoan government wants to “make all attempts possible to protect local culture, and not have Samoa and the villages around the island go the way of many villages in Indonesia - becoming surf slums for the traveling independent”, that is so fucking dishonest, hypocritical and manipulative that it is almost not worth commenting upon (but I will anyway). First off, Samoa is not now and never has been in any danger of becoming a “surf slum” like parts of Indo because: 1) the waves in Samoa, although at times world class, are just not consistent enough to attract that many surfers there on a regular long-term basis; 2) Samoa is not that big of a place to hide all those surfers; and 3) the Samoan people and culture are very conservative and very traditional, especially in the outer villages, and any surfers trying to pull off any lame-ass shenanigans would be promptly dealt with and put in their rightful place. (I know that there have been some isolated instances of disrespectful asshole surfers here and there, but these problems have been few and far between, probably no worse nor more numerous than those occurring with western tourists in general who are unfamiliar with the fa’aSamoa.) In addition, in the end it is you, Murph, along with the rest of your scum sucking STI brethren, who should be held responsible for any surf slums that theoretically might take root in Samoa. Why? Because through all your constant over-hyping and advertising of Samoa in mainstream surf media you are the ones responsible for bringing so many surfers there. So like I said, you are being hypocritical, dishonest, and manipulative when you play on the fears of the Samoan government in regard to surf slums and have simply snowed under the national government of Samoa. Also, Waterways’ contribution to the local economy has been vastly overstated by you, Murph. As far as I am aware your little resort at Salani does not work closely with Salani village for food and other supplies (but does, of course, exploit the village as a source of low-cost labor). In fact, in an article written for Samoa Sports Monthly magazine a while back, the Salani resort manager bragged that the resort was a “self-contained operation”, so just exactly how does that square with your claim? And yes, Murph, I am well aware that Salani resort received some type of award from the Samoan government as an “export business of the year” or some other such nonsense, but that is really rather meaningless. Why? Because when it comes to protecting Samoa and the Samoan people from economic exploitation by foreigners, whether they be the STI or some Asian conglomerate raping and cutting down the rainforests of Savai’i (true story), the national government of Samoa has proven itself to be rather lame and powerless. (Hell! Just like politicians everywhere, many of those in Samoa are not above selling out the Samoan people if it suits their own narrow selfish interests!) And Murph, you say that “as far as the economics go, I will not really get into this issue. A business must run as a business”, but then claim that you are not making “huge capital gains” (but considering the outrageously high prices Waterways charges and the fact that your resort has now been there for over 5 years I am sure you must be showing some profit by now). So yes, Murph, I would agree with you that you are doing “something wrong”…you are exploiting Samoa. But whether for money or just so you get to control who surfs her waves in “comfort” and “style” it really doesn’t matter because you are stinking up the place real bad! (But Murph, to help you out here I urge you to reread my earlier posts and if, after that you still do not understand what I am talking about, then I suggest you enroll in some basic economics and/or ethics courses at your local community college.) So do you really pay your Samoan employees better than minimum wage as you claim, Murph? Not according to the Samoans I talked to, so perhaps you might want to check with them before posting any more of your lies and misinformation on this (or any other) website. And so what if “most of your employees never had a job prior to working with Salani” and your staff takes “great pride in the resort”? Just who the fuck do you think you are? The fucking McDonald’s of the surfing world (my apologies to the real Mickey D’s in Apia). And regarding your “endless list…(of) projects to assist the village”, I must say that this is the first time I have ever heard of such projects and, amazingly enough, the Salani villagers were quite unaware of these projects during my last visit there (late 2001). In addition, over a year ago when I first began working on an article about surfing in Samoa (recently published in The Surfer’s Path) that was quite critical of the STI in Samoa, I emailed several international surf tour companies with connections to the Samoan STI, including Waterways, for comments. I was then contacted by the (gay midget) manager of your resort at Salani, who actually admitted that “they could not disagree with some of my many points” (direct quote). He did, however, add that they disagreed with some of my criticisms but did not specify which, so I asked him for some clarification. “Which of my criticisms did they agree with,” I asked him, “and which did they disagree with?”. I also asked him to tell me what the resort was doing to help out the village and/or support/promote surfing amongst indigenous Samoans. He said he would do so but, after three months time and three more emails from me requesting his (promised) answers he produced exactly…nothing! But if you, Murph, are now telling us that yes, Waterways does have projects aimed at assisting Salani villagers in the areas of education and health then I will have to take you at your word on this and admit that not only do I stand corrected in this regard but would also like to highly commend you for your efforts (and a big faamalo to you!). But then, what exactly is your statement “we try not to give money directly, as this typically will only benefit the person who receives the money…” supposed to mean? Correct me if I’m wrong here, but isn’t the whole idea of giving money to someone supposed to be to benefit the person you give it to? Anyway, not having stayed at your resort I really couldn’t say whether or not the “the level of service and amenities (you) supply are a value for the rate charged” and so will leave that for others to decide (apparently not according to some of the postings on this site), but I can say that while those surfing Samoa courtesy the STI route may do so in “comfort, style and convenience” and may get more water time at better breaks, the question is, at what cost to their pocket books, their ethics, the Samoan people, and to the spirit of surfing? Finally Murph, I did not exactly remain anonymous in my postings. Although I did not give out my personal name, I did give my email address so that I could be contacted directly. In fact, I have already had a couple of requests for more info on surfing Samoa independent of the STI (info I supply free of charge, by the way). But Murph, I do apologize to you for the mistake in my first posting when I said Waterways was owned by Peter Murphy (the actor who starred in Robocop). I was well aware that it is Sean, not Peter, Murphy who owns Waterways but unfortunately it slipped by me (I guess I had Robocop on the brain). So my mistake and sorry ‘bout that (however, please note that my second posting has the correct name if that makes you feel any better). Finally, Murph, you might want to invest in a good spell checker and/or maybe hire someone to proofread your writing (I’m sure a big fat surf tycoon such as yourself could afford it), as there were more than a few spelling and/or grammar mistakes in your posting!
Response to Murph the Surf Tour Operator: Part 2 - So Murph, having gotten all that out of the way let’s move on to answering your arguments in defense of your exploitation of Samoa. First off, although I would be the first to admit that there may be “some errors” in my posts, any such errors are relatively minor and I stand 100% behind all my main criticisms of the STI. Why? Because everything I wrote was based on things I was told by Samoans (again, most often unsolicited) and when one hears the same complaints voiced over and over again by different individuals in different parts of Samoa (not just at Salani), well it doesn’t take much of a genius to figure out that there must be some substance to those complaints. So Murph, when you claim that “Salani Surf Resort has NEVER requested an exclusive to any of the waves around Salani village”, I believe you are simply flat-out lying. Either that, or the Samoan family I stayed with and all the other Salani villagers I spoke with are lying. (So who do you choose to believe? I’ll go with the Samoans myself). But even without getting into a battle over who is lying and who is telling the truth here, it is highly doubtful that the Salani village fono ever offered Waterways exclusive access to the waves there or to make it more difficult for independent surfers to access those waves. Why, Murph? Because anyone at all familiar with Samoan culture and/or the situation at Salani would immediately recognize the contradictions inherent in your claims. Granting exclusive rights to Waterways would have to be approved on a nearly unanimous basis by all the matai of Salani village and this would simply just not happen for several reasons: Not only would it be contrary to Samoan culture’s spirit of generous hospitality, but since many Salani villagers are resentful of the Waterways’ resort in Salani for one reason or another (some legitimate, others perhaps less so) while some families in the village still do, on occasion, host independent surfers (so granting Waterways exclusive wave rights there would kill off this source of income for these families), they would never consent to granting Waterways exclusive access to their waves. In addition, I was told by the villagers that the reason why Waterways’ requested exclusive access was that Waterways claimed that without such exclusivity they would be unable to attract enough surfers to make the resort profitable (sound familiar?). And to tell you the truth, Murph, I sincerely doubt that the Samoans would have come up with this idea all on their own, so that’s one more good reason for me to believe the Samoans and not you! But for the sake of the argument, let’s just forget about who first asked for and who offered whom exclusive wave rights, because in the end it is really irrelevant to the situation (or nearly so). Why? Because the mere presence of your expensive elitist resort creates an oppressive atmosphere for non-resort surfers. There’s a strange psychological phenomenon that seems to overcome surf camp/resort surfers and whether they are in Fiji, Samoa, Indo, etc., they often take on an “I own this place” attitude. I’ve seen it happen many times in many places, and it seems like the bigger the bucks they are paying for their surf vacation the worse their attitude becomes. In fact, sometimes the resorts’ expat surfing employees have it the worst of all! (Care for a little ‘stink-eye’, anyone?) And Murph, regarding your “approach to all independants (sic) surfing Salani, we advise them how many guests we have staying at the time, that we will be surfing hear (sic) every day it is good, and suggest other breaks that could be good options with no surfers”, give me a fucking break! Just how stupid and gullible do you think we independent surfers are? Are we now supposed to first check in with the resort like a bunch of wusses? “Uh, sorry to bother you, sir, but will you guys be surfing here today? Is it OK for us to surf here or should we just go surf somewhere else?”. No thank you Murph, as your attitude is so fucking lame that you now qualify as a complete idiot and can go fuck off! STI surfers have no more right to the waves at Salani (or anywhere else for that matter) than independent surfers who at least have the dignity and integrity to show up and paddle out there on their own. In fact, if anything STI surfers have even less rights to those waves since they wouldn’t even be there without some lame-ass STI holding their hand the whole way!
Response to Murph the Surf Tour Operator: Part 1 - So good ol’ Murph the Surf Operator feels it necessary to respond to some of my comments, does he? I guess those comments must have hit pretty close to home to demand his attention, being the busy man he is running his surf tourism empire! So even though I didn’t intend to post any more lengthy diatribes lambasting the STI in Samoa, now that Murph has popped his weasely little head up and entered the fray, a full response to his nonsense is needed lest he mislead any young impressionable surfers. Because what Murph has done is offer up some more pure unadulterated bullshit in an attempt to obfuscate and hide the nefarious dealings of the STI in Samoa. So yes, Murph, I do have some “strong opinions” and I am “informed” about Samoa, but not just to “some extent” as you claim (more on that later). And, as you say, a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing, but the question is, dangerous to whom? For as I see it, the greatest danger is not to those who want to surf Samoa on their own, STI free, but rather to those, such as yourself, who are exploiting Samoa, her waves and her people, for their own personal gain, profit, and/or self aggrandizement. But before we go any further with that debate, allow me to give some background info about myself so that those following this battle of words can judge for themselves the reliability of my information and/or claims. Although I have been back in the US mainland for the past nine months or so, I lived in American Samoa for a number of years, working there first as a teacher and then later as a writer/editor for a newspaper. During that time I made many a trip to Western Samoa, the duration of those trips lasting anywhere from 2 days to over 2 months. While in Samoa I traveled to and surfed both Upolu and Savai’i, I have many Samoan friends and acquaintances and, to top it all off, I am married to a Samoan woman from Upolu (and no, she is not from Salani). In addition, I have traveled throughout the South Pacific and have seen the negative effects the STI has had in places such as Fiji. Therefore not only do I feel qualified to comment on the STI in Samoa, but also believe my comments to be well-informed, valid, and insightful. And sorry to burst your bubble, Murph, but I am not trying to single out Waterways for criticism, but have focused on your resort at Salani simply because I have spent a fair amount of time in Salani village, staying with a village family on all my visits, so I am quite familiar with the situation there. Although I never stayed at your resort itself (so I am not just some pissed off wanker trying to seek revenge), I did visit it on occasion for an overpriced beer or two. And because I stayed in Salani village I heard firsthand the many complaints about the resort voiced by many, many Salani villagers (unsolicited complaints, I might add). And because the head of the family I stayed with was the highest ranking matai of the village, I also learned firsthand what had transpired in the village fono regarding Waterways operations there. In addition, since Samoa is not a very big place (picture two islands both about the size of Oahu) there are really only three main STI operations there: Waterways and Sa’moana (at Salamumu) both on Upolu, and Savai’i Surfaris on Savai’i. So although Waterways happened to end up in my direct line of fire, I could also tell you a sordid tale or two about Savai’i Surfaris (like, for example, the fact that their native Samoan surf guide was paid only about US$17 a week, which was far, far less than what they paid their Aussie and American expat surf guides. Why? Because Surfaris said that the Samoan, being a local, didn’t need as much money to live on as did the Aussie and Americans!), but from what I have heard Sa’moana is pretty much guilty of the same crap as are Waterways and Surfaris. So sorry to disappoint you, Murph, but I am not one of your competitors. In fact, other than writing first a newspaper story and then later a magazine article about surfing in Samoa, I have absolutely no connection whatsoever to any surf business either inside or outside of that country. Anyways, your claim that maybe I am a competitor is pure nonsense on the face of it. Think about it. Why would I blast the STI and tell surfers not to patronize the STI in Samoa if I myself were a member of that gang? That just does not make any sense. So sorry to disappoint you, Murph, but my motivations for criticizing the STI in Samoa have absolutely nothing at all to do with lining my pockets or controlling access to the waves there. What motivates me is my belief the STI is committing a great sin and injustice in Samoa and I would like to see the Samoan people get properly compensated for what is rightfully theirs. I would also like to help keep greedy capitalists such as yourself from strangling the true free spirit and nature of surfing and would like to see more Samoans learn to enjoy surfing for themselves (something the STI seems to be rather indifferent to at best). I also believe that if the STI does not clean up its act then the Samoan government should ban the STI from doing business there (but this is not likely to happen any time soon for a variety of reasons), to be replaced by an indigenously based surf tourism industry in Samoa, one completely owned and operated by and for the benefit of Samoans and not some greedy foreign capitalists interested only in sucking whatever profits they can out of that poor country!
By Sean Murphy (Not Anonymous)
Surf Operators - Salani & WaterWays - Hi All,Sean Murphy hear from WaterWays Travel and Salani Surf Resort. I have never particpated previously in the banter on this site, but feel it is necessary to respond to some of the comments from Mr email@example.com. It is obvious this individual has some strong opinions, and is informed to some extent, however, a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing. It appears this individual is to some extent trying to single out Salani and WaterWays. Who is this individual and what is their true motivation? - Competitor possibley.I would just like to take a moment to correct some errors in the past statements.First, Salani Surf Resort has NEVER requested an exclusive to any of the waves around Salani village. Quite to the contrary. On more then one occasion the village Matai have offered an exclusive, or to make it more difficult for independat surfers to access Salani. On each occasion we have declined the offer as we have not wanted to open up the "can of worms" that would be unleashed in both local world opinion. We take the same approach to all independants surfing Salani, we advise them how many guests we have staying at the time,that we will be surfing hear every day it is good, and suggest other breaks that could be good options with no surfers.Secondly, quite a few years ago there were discussions with the tourist board regarding "sustainable surf tourism". The Samoan Visitors Bureau are looking to promote Eco-tourism, surfing falls under this heading. They highered an independant consultant from New Zealand with much experience around the world in this field. It was his proposal that suggested the government may want to look at instigating some sort of permitting process to control the number of surf tourists in the country at any one time. This proposal was not presented by any one of the surf tour operators. It was supported by the surf tour operators, and I am sure would have been supported by local surfers. The government want to make all attempts possible to protect local culture, and not have Samoa and the villages around the island go the way of many villages in Indonesia - becoming surf slums for the traveling independant. The govenment has actually used Salani as an example to the type of small development that will benifit Samoa in the long run, supporting the way we work closely with the local village for employment and supplies of food and other services. Contrary to the appoach of some of the larger developments. Another point - if somebody would like to address me personally, my name is Sean Murphy, not Peter Murphy.As far as the economics go, I will not really get into this issue. A business must run as a business. If I were in this business for the huge capital gains you suggest, I am definately doing something wrong, no money has yet come out of Samoa, hopefully one day soon. Salani pay employees better then the minimum wage suggested, and better then most other hotel operators. Most of our employees have never had a job prior to working with Salani. Our Staff take great pride in the resort. We are constantly doing projects to assist the village. This list would be endless. We try not to give money directly, as this typically will only benefit the person who receives the money. We have built the school new desks & black boards. Constantly assisting with village transportation issues - not once to the hospital as suggested by mr firstname.lastname@example.org. Use of Salani vehicles for village "emergencies" is almost a daily scenario. Last month I organized a shippment of two pallets of school books in conjuction with Air New Zealand. Next month we are hosting a family to Salani at a greatly reduced rate for one month who are doctors and will be working with Salani staff and villagers in conjuction with the Red Cross to address health issues.The level of service and amenities we supply are a value for the rate charged. I would not argue that one could travel to Samoa to surf and do the trip on a budget. I would suggest that for somebody looking to do a short trip of 7-14 days with comfort, style and convenience that they would get more time in the water at the better breaks on any given day by staying with one of the surf tour operators then by trying to do it as an independant.
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