Violence and harassment by territorial, agro-surf nazis is obviously a negative thing for the surf community and even though I recently felt the flip side of the coin by a very aggressive Queenscliff local (who I just happen to surf with in the same Boardriders Club), I have a soft spot in my heart for localism.
My home break in California is said to be the birthplace of localism. The Windansea locals laughed famed writer, Tom Wolfe, off the pumphouse steps in the ‘60s and have been doing so ever since. Despite being exposed to the public due to the road that winds along the shore, Windansea is in fact closed to the average, non-La Jollan surfer. Paddle out and burn the wrong guy (or girl) and you could be chased into shore. You certainly won’t get another chance to get in the way. If someone does something dangerous, you’re going to hear about it.
My feeling is that there are two sides to localism just like every thing in life. On the one hand, you have protectionism of something that doesn’t actually belong to anyone. The ocean and its waves are free to everyone in most of the world. Protecting your turf doesn’t really make sense if that turf isn’t yours. Of course, violence, intimidation and harassment aren’t the way to deal with things like frustration that your beloved spot is crowded.
But on the flip side, localism creates community. Sure the Palos Verdes guys sound like a bunch of burnouts but they have each other and their commitment to a place. It’s an identity that that all people seek. Home. Community. Belonging. Modern times and technology have created a lack of real connection between people. Instead of interacting face to face, we’re on Facebook messaging and watching videos of people we’ll never know. Cruise to the Lot at Windansea for sunset any day of the week and people are bonding with each other – high-fiving over that last wave; catching up about family, life, work; and celebrating the last swell. This is the life they’ve committed themselves to and they are willing to protect it.
I don’t condone violence or belittling people in the water. That happened to me at Manly when I accidentally burned a local a few weeks ago and I apologized profusely and still was cursed at over and over. So when that guy came down the line on his next wave, I gave him a great big Windansea-style middle finger. It sucks to be on the receiving end of negative localism.
Localism is bad when it is enforced with violence, disparagement or intimidation. But it is a good thing where it builds community. I am proud when 5 guys give some random surfer a talking to when they drop in at me while surfing Windansea. That is my community enforcing the rules of the surfing that keep us safe. Positive localism is just as strong as negative localism in communities like La Jolla. It makes the surf community stronger when it means connecting with each other and keeping everyone safe. Check out this interview with the legend Peter King on the state of modern positive localism at Windansea…
So I feel for the “Bad Boys.” I am happy that I grew up with a strong surfing community and know what’s like to feel like 100 guys and girls have your back in the water. I could have used them the other day at Manly. I guess you could say I am a “spilt” “kook” – I am of two minds regarding localism but I do think positive localism has its place.
Leave your experiences with localism in the comments… I’d love to hear how you feel about localism in the water!!!