An Australian surf travel operator has introduced a "pass" system to restrict the number of surfers at one of the world's great left-hand breaks, Lohis, in the Maldives.
Only 35 passes will be handed out daily to try to control the crowds that have caused "chaos", according to managing director of World Surfaris, Shaun Levings.
The congestion has resulted in heated exchanges at the reef break, opposite Hudhuranfushi Resort that has about 200 rooms and lists surfing among its activities.
"The surfing population around the world has almost reached epidemic proportions because it is seen as ubercool to surf," Levings said.
"A lot of the new surfers who don't know the etiquette of the sport are booking themselves into international (surf) locations with reef breaks. But they aren't experienced enough to surf them and they don't follow the rules of surfing. Eventually, the experienced mellow surfers lose their cool.
"Surfing is meant to be for relaxation but (with the crowds) it becomes an arena where you are competing for waves. The whole vibe changes."
Access to surf breaks in the Maldives is already controversially restricted, with resorts receiving exclusive rights to "home" breaks.
But the system being introduced by Levings, whose company has been appointed surf operations manager for Hudhuranfushi Resort, takes it a step further by even restricting the number of resort guests who can paddle out.
It isn't the first time restrictions have been imposed on waves that are being crowded in the middle of a surf-tourism boom.
In the Maldives, Dhonveli Resort already has a "pass" system and in Papua New Guinea, the Surf Association of PNG restricts numbers with a permit system that ensures uncrowded waves. The nominal fees for the permits are supposed to be directed to local communities to build schools and other infrastructure.
One of PNG's best surf regions is Kavieng, where daily surf numbers are restricted to just 20 people.
Fiji did have surfer restrictions at places such as the world-famous Cloudbreaks, off the heart-shaped Tavarua Island, until a few years ago but now has a free-for-all system.
"Some love it, some hate it," Levings said of the restrictions.
"In surfer forums, some say that if they are spending their hard-earned bucks on a holiday they don't want to be jostling for waves, while others say it should be free access for everyone.
"But at Lohis, at least, it had got to a point where something had to be done. The waves will now be highly desirable again."
But perhaps the last word on surf crowding should go to surfing publication Tracks, which once commented: "Even Gandhi would feel like stomping someone after a ridiculously busy day at The Pass (A Byron Bay surf break)."