Thu, 19 July 2018

The surfer assaulted in Mauritius last month aims to turn surf rage into the oxymoron it should be. He has launched a crowdfund called Free Tamarin Bay from Violence in the Surf, writes Spike.


CHOC-BOX DREAM: Behind the turquoise splendour, a fist awaits. Photo Unsplash

After he was assaulted a month ago, Kyle Kahn, a financial expert who packed up his family and moved to the Indian Ocean island for a change of pace, founded the campaign (click here) to “fund the legal team that will follow due process to prosecute anyone who inflicts violence, aggression and intimidation in the water at Tamarin Bay in Mauritius”.

The goal was to “make it, and keep it, a safe place for everyone to surf. Lack of support from the authorities requires that we pursue this through the courts, and are ready to swiftly follow up again legally the next time an act of violence occurs. We received over 36,000 views on Youtube and a lot of support internationally. If everyone donates a little bit we can reach our goal quickly.”

For not far off two years, Kahn and his wife Cara, granddaughter of the doyen of SA surfing John Whitmore, and their kids they have been living and surfing along the west coast of Mauritius. At first, Kahn was cautious when he surfed Tamarin Bay, with its reputation for fists that randomly rain down on visitors to the island.

The behaviour is not common to all the locals, however, but only a core few, mostly made up of Frenchmen who have settled on the island, and they don’t like South Africans.


FORKED TONGUE? Mauritius Tourism tells surfers to surf the spots notorious for violence.

Initially, Kahn did what all newcomers to any surf spot should do, and that is “softly softly catchee monkey”, a slow patient buildup to the best waves: "When I first paddled out there, a lot of guys started out tough, but soon they realised I was not a threat. I don't surf like I used to and am happy to be on the shoulder. I often surf with my son Noah down the point. A lot of guys could see that, but there is a small core of guys that are the problem.”

By problem, he means that if they had their way, you would not surf there at all. In fact, forget surfing, you should not BE there ... at all. Increduously, this even pertains to people standing in the shorebreak. “The guys will just tell people to get out. I know a friend, a South African lawyer, who was holding his daughter's hand while jumping over chest-high waves. He was told to move away. My friend even asked me if the guy was being serious?”

Kahn has known about the shenanigans and has ignored it. Don’t engage is usually the best policy in places like this. Wait your turn. Avoid eye contact. He’d heard the stories. Everyone has one, particularly Saffas. Tich Paul has one. So does Graeme Taylor, and many others. Just Google it and you will see.

Then one guy stepped out of line. A fellow called Bruno allegedly smacked Kahn's 13-year-old son.

About a month ago in June, Noah was messing around on a pink foamie surfboard and a Go Pro camera with his mates at the bottom of the point, well away from the takeoff spot. They were filming themselves doing tricks and trying to get into the tube, as made famous by Jamie O'Brien from Hawaii in his Who is JOB? series.

In the eyes of one local blonde fellow called Bruno, this behaviour amounted to a heinous crime, and he aggressively shouted at Kyle’s son for “filming the wave”, and then smacked him in the face. Kahn paddled over to the attacker and told him that hitting children was not on, and he’d crossed the line.

“Bruno and his mates decided they didn't like what I was saying.” Next thing, Kahn was repeatedly punched in the face. He didn't punch back. Luckily, his son got GoPro footage of Bruno paddling towards him, while another tourist got photos of the main assault.

“I laid a charge where I live at Grande Bay (in the north) away from Tamarin Bay. I came in there all beaten and blue and bleeding. That is all they saw. They don't understand surf localism. This is the main tourism town in the north. All they know was that a guy who lives there got beaten up.”


POLICE EVIDENCE: Authorities in the north will hopefully not sweep this under the carpet.

Kahn has hired a lawyer to follow up, and they have escalated it to the tourism authorities, “and are trying to get them to take action. They've ignored it for so long. Everyone is related to everyone here, but if its out there in the open, it becomes a lot more difficult to sweep under the carpet.”

“I am not against policing the lineup and cleaning it up. This type of localism does have a place when people put others in danger, but this is just out of hand. The worst story I heard was about a 10 year old who was aggressively ordered from the water. Crying, he started to paddle down, but they said he must go in straight over the reef, where he was horribly cut up. That is just inhumane.”

Kahn says that it runs a lot deeper than superficial surf localism. “They feel that their island is under threat. I agree, it is absolutely under threat. Over-development and globalisation are encroaching on their way of life. They've had the island to themselves for so long, and now they're losing it.”

South Africans, according to Kahn, are their favourite people to hate. “More and more South Africans are coming to Mauritius. Perhaps it's because South African don't back down in the first instance. It's also got to do with major fights in the Tamarin area a long time ago. There is this bad blood. However of course, South Africans nowadays don't know about these old problems.”


VIOLENCE VIRUS GOES VIRAL: What a way to attract attention to the spot you're protecting.

The situation, as is often the case, is fraught with irony, as a comment on a Cape Talk article pointed out. ‘Pirate Pete’ wrote that many locals are in the "tourism business like the guy who owns the little red jet boats that launch from black river. One is or was a pilot flying for Air Mauritius. Many of this gang surf regularly in South Africa, buy their surf boards in South Africa and study for years in South Africa. They have beaten up many kids and even seriously verbally assaulted ladies in the water. Something has to be done and soon.”

Kahn agrees. “It needs to be dealt with. If Mauritius Tourism asks visitors to come surf beautiful Tamarin Bay, then there's obviously some internal conflicts of interest that need addressing.”

By all the accounts scattered across cyberpsace, the main culprit appears to be Bruno.By all the accounts scattered across cyberpsace, the main culprit appears to be Bruno. “Before he paddles out he is angry. He is always the one with the angry face, the one always shouting. Apparently, he has been like that from a young age. He is now in his 50s, and getting worse.”

Kahn released the video last week on Youtube to add impetus to the legal process on Mauritius, and it has certainly done that, with huge interaction. He won’t let it rest, and wants it to serve as a tipping point. “The problem was that many people leave the island and don’t follow up. But if every time there is a problem, and a charge is laid, you build momentum.”

“On the other hand, many people are scared. They don't want to make it worse for themselves. The problem is that most of the people are visiting and they lose the momentum. They either leave or give up the energy to keep fighting.”

“But I live here now, and I have a lot of support from here. All kinds of support. Often it’s just people whose kids want to learn to surf or bodyboard in the shorebreak.

There is another side to the story, as propounded by a friend who goes on holiday to Mauritius. He believes it to be wrong to attack the white shorts or lump all the surfers there as ‘violent Tamarin surfers’. "The guy doing the apparent beating (Bruno) needs to be singled out. I know most the senior White Shorts, and keeping the line up disciplined, respectful and safe is there primary goal. Very very few are violent, but the guy in question is one of the last of the old guard and known for violence and a short fuse."


silver surfer
0 #2 Mrsilver surfer 2018-09-04 13:39
I have recently bought property in Mauritius with my Mauritian wife and this crap worries me. I have two kids that surf. My first surf in Mauritius in 2000 I wash dropped in on repeatedly and threatened. I stood my ground as I can handle myself but showed lots of respect even tho they didn't deserve it. The fact is they (white shorts) aren't great surfers and they need to be like this to eliminate the competition to get waves. I understand the sentiment that they don't want pushy South Africans and other over zelouse tourists taking over their spots but that's where it should end. Surely there is enough evidence to commit these guys for aggravated assault! The victims have photographic evidence and witnesses. Why isn't this Bruno guy in Jail and the pilot sacked from Air Mauritius? The world is watching
James Ming
+1 #1 Good for you don't back down this guy is a bullyJames Ming 2018-07-23 00:45
2017 I was taking pictures on the beach of my son and hes friends at first light there. This guy comes v up and tells me to stop.next thing the kids are paddling in . They got punched by locals that had just paddled out.im mauritanian but live in Australia. We had brought some friends over from Mauritius and this happened. Very embarrassing.mauritians should not tolerate this as it harms tourism and affects everyone.
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