To many of my fellow and former editors’ chagrin, I support localism. I know, I know. It’s the same backward thinking that inspires movements like the Minuteman Project. But when it comes to our most sacred surf spots — the ones that boast quality waves, are steeped in tradition and have small, tight-knit crews — I believe some of them are better off staying stuck in the ’70s.
And this isn’t just because I’ve enjoyed the upside of localism all my life. I’ve been held underwater by Whitey (may he rest in peace). Punched by Ron. Had rocks thrown at me by Billy. And chased out of the water by a psychotic, screaming Hawaiian at Kaisers. It’s awful and ugly when it happens to you, but the strong-hearted generally come out stronger from these experiences.
Why endorse such barbaric behavior? Well, I don’t, really. These examples are localism at their militant extremist. But I do endorse a community taking ownership of their special wave. I do endorse constant care and attention to a break so that it doesn’t become just another heavily trampled surf spot.
Because I’ve seen what happens when former local strongholds let their guards down. I’ve seen a notoriously protected beachbreak near my hometown — a spot we were terrified to surf growing up — turn into camera-and-crowd-filled Newport on any given winter day. I’ve seen spots in Hawaii that used to be off-limits for visitors turn into a dawn patrol destination for packs of tourists on Softops. Once the rules vanish, anarchy ensues. You can scream “equal access for all” as loud as you want, but I’m sorry: There is something inherently wrong with a pasty beginner on a Morey Doyle shoulder-hopping a V-Land double-up.
But rules apply equally to both the visitors and the locals. Just as visitors need to tread lightly in sensitive areas, locals need to tolerate the newcomers who show proper respect. Recently, while on a week-long solo trip up north (see “Table For One,” pg. 110), I surfed one of these spots for my first time. The waves were decent and the vibe in the water was indifferent, but when I returned to the parking lot, there were two notes on my windshield. One was written neatly on lined paper. “Please help keep this place under wraps,” it said. “We don’t need another generation of enforcers to hate the surf-exploiting media.” Right on, fair enough. The other was scrawled at about a third-grade reading level on a napkin. “Your [sic] not welcome here!” it said. “Split!!!”
Now, I can understand a message like this — or even a verbal confrontation — if I rolled up with a crew or even one other guy. If I had shown the slightest hint of aggression in the lineup, had wronged the spot in the past or was dumb enough to start taking photos. But notes like this break our flimsy set of rules just as much as that pasty beginner’s V-land assault.
Courteous reminders like the first one make me want to do everything I can to help keep the spot in its pristine state. Paranoid, closed-society rants like the second one make me want to say, “F–k ’em. Send in the troops.” — Evan Slater