The Mentawai Surf Tax Just Doubled!

by | Feb 22, 2024 | Mentawai

Back when they introduced the Mentawai Surf tax in 2016, it caused mixed emotions around the surfing world. 

Whether you were on land, on a boat, or had paddled there yourself, you would be tapped for $76 bucks for 15 days of surfing in Mentawai. 

A fee of less than 5 bucks a day for pumping Mentawai waves is hardly something to complain about

We were told the Mentawai Surf Tax would be reinvested back into the islands, to improve and better connect remote communities, or to better maintain initiatives such as waste management, medical facilities, and education. 

Surfers benefit so much from the beautiful Mentawai Islands and the world-class waves, so who could really complain about an additional fee to our trips to help support and improve the Mentawai Islands?

Sadly though, this simply has not been the case and the money generated has not worked its way back into our island communities.

Almost all travelling surfers would happily pay to support local communities, but those in charge of collecting and distributing these funds, have long been known to miss their tax targets. Stab Mag talked a lot about it in their 2016 article when our government originally proposed the Mentawai Surf Tax. 

Everyone knew the Mentawai Surf Tax would be a controversial money maker, and so it should come as no surprise (or should it) that without warning and the mentawai season right around the corner….

That they have just DOUBLED the Mentawai Surf Tax (Regional Retributions).

As of 17th February 2024, Mentawai’s Government officially raised the Surf Tax from Rp 1.000.000/surfer per 15 days to, Rp 2.000.000/surfer. 

Local Regulation of Mentawai Islands District No. 1 Year 2024 on Local Taxes and Regional Retributions – read it here.

It’s not the tax that’s the problem

It’s not the cost that is the problem here. We know that surfers will still flock to Mentawai, pay the tax and would happily do so. 

But if the money generated does not end up in the right hands and people are not transparent about it, is that the point?

We certainly aren’t trying to start arguments, but as an Indonesian and Western-owned business here in Mentawai, we need to start talking about this and having real conversations so that we can start making decisions based on what local communities and businesses actually need here. 

We absolutely know that taxes done right allow everyone to benefit. The growing tourism economy stands to benefit, meaning the whole Mentawai region can also. 

The completion of the new runway at New Mentawai Airport, is going to open the doors to new numbers of foreign visitors, and with this comes more foreign investment which again, done right, allows our island communities to benefit.

But with major increases in operating costs in 2023, fuel shortages, still unreliable phone networks across huge parts of Mentawai and now the further increase in taxes without warning, local businesses that were already feeling the pinch are going to feel very much let down by the people that are supposed to be supporting and looking out for them.