Darmaputra Tonjo’s ninth-place finish on Tuesday at a world junior surfing competition in Bali was one of the best finishes for an Indonesia surfer in a professional competition.
His performance also signals that native surfers are slowly clawing their way onto the world stage of competition.
Eighteen-year-old Australian Davey Cathels won the event, beating over 30 other participants in the first of three competitions to decide the global junior (under 21) champion.
But along the way, 20-year-old Tonjo from Legian, Bali, defeated the world No. 1 and No. 2 ranked junior surfers.
Tonjo, a wildcard seed in the tournament, beat reining junior champion Jack Freestone from Australia on Friday at the Oakley World Pro Junior after defeating the second-ranked Nat Young in the previous round.
“I’m so happy,” Tonjo said on Friday. “I cannot believe that I beat the No. 1 and No. 2.”
Tonjo lost in the fourth round to Hawaiian Ezekial Lau, but the performance is still a milestone. It follows support from the Indonesian Surfing Championship, an organization that stages events aimed at refining surfers’ skills to help them develop and compete for prize money.
“We’re sort of tapping into the natural resources of Indonesia — both the surfers and the waves,” said Tim Hain, the ISC’s media director. “Our goal is to cultivate their love for surfing and help them provide for their families. We can help them make a living. Without surfing, a lot of these kids would be selling drinks to tourists on the beach.”
Indonesia — especially Bali — is home to some of the best surfers and waves in the world. There are several professional surfers who earn an income from sponsorships to keep them afloat in the sport. But competing on the world stage requires visas — which can be hard to obtain — and money.