Shut-Up and Surf

Localism 101

Trestles Trail South OC

After running into disgruntle locals the other day at Sunset Cliffs it got me thinking about the topic of  localism, and how it works with Surfing. Many people are fascinated by surfing and the art of riding waves, but until they strap that leash on and attempt to catch a wave, they really have no idea what riding waves entails. Beginners are often thrown off by the attitude in the water and don’t understand why everyone in the water is not excited to give them their first wave, but instead appears to want to bite off their head.

Unfortunately, localism plagues many of the world’s best surf spots. Understanding what it is and why it exists can help you avoid any unnecessary trouble.

Unless you are a surfer it is hard to understand the dynamic that is taking place in the line-up. There are usually a couple of dozen people waiting for 3 waves to come in every five minutes. This means that the only way to catch a wave is to be moving around and working yourself into position. This makes many people upset, especially the old dude who remembers surfing that spot 40 years ago when it was only him and two buddies.

Localism can be good to keep things safe in the water, but in most cases it is out of control. A couple of surfers are in jail in La Jolla, CA  for beating an out of town surfer almost to death a year ago. Every day, somewhere in California, Old men fight like 12 year old girls in the water yelling at the top of their lungs, “Stay off of my wave!” Tires of visiting surfers cars are being slashed at local spots, windows broken, boards broken, jaws broken, how can this be good?

I don’t think that this form of localism is good, in most cases the ‘punks’ slashing tires and breaking windows are nothing more than yellow belly kooks who will never approach the visiting surfers face to face, but instead sabotage their belongings under the cover of being a coward. These punks are the thorn in the side of surfing. I also don’t feel that the aggro grom, or disgruntle old man trying to fight everyone is the solution either.

However often times spoiled little kids from Orange County or Brazil, like beginners, think that they should be allowed any wave, any time, any where. When they show up to new spots they start shoulder hopping the other surfers leaving them hung up to dry on the reef. The regulators, or locals often speak up and keep these surfers in check. Not only are they trying to keep these kids under control, but they are trying to keep things safe.  This form of  localism can be good.

“Locals Only” Vintage Santa Monica Picture Courtesy of Daniel Travers

The following are ten steps on how to approach or avoid locals. The information was taken from EHOW of all places but is actually packed with some bits of info for those new to the culture.

Step 1 Avoid surfing  new breaks alone, especially if it is a popular break.
Step 2 Realize that localism is a result of overcrowding. Therefore, the more crowded a break is, the more tension there is likely to be in the water. Because locals feel at home at the break and feel invaded by unfamiliar faces, they sometimes react in a negative manner to newcomers.
Step 3 Realize also that surfing is a traveling sport, and nobody is meant to surf only those waves closest to home. You have just as much right to surf a wave at someone else’s local break as that person has to surf the waves near your house.
Step 4 Practice surf etiquette in the lineup.
Step 5 Watch the other surfers. If only a few people seem to be taking most of the waves, those people are most likely locals, familiar with the wave.
Step 6 Mark the surfers who seem like troublemakers and egomaniacs. These surfers usually make a lot of noise, bitching about the crowd or pouting about their wave. They usually talk loud to other locals to let nonlocals know how “in” they are.
Step 7 Give these arrogant surfers a little extra space. Don’t drop in on their wave or paddle around them for the peak. Wait for them to take a wave, and then move to the peak position.
Step 8 Be respectful, and concentrate on your surfing.
Step 9 Remain calm if someone tries to come at you with irrational anger. Apologize if you did something wrong, but don’t be a coward. Explain that you are only interested in surfing.
Step 10 Take your next wave in, and call it a day if the vibe in the water begins to feel overly hostile.

On a side note, the funny thing about the surfers in step 6 and 7, these guys are usually some of the worst surfers in the line-up, they try to make up for their lack of surfing talent by being lewd and obnoxiousness. I usually think to myself, “SHUT UP AND SURF!”

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