How To Deal With Surf Localism

Surfing is a fun, enjoyable, relaxing, and calming sport, especially for those who are clearly drawn to the ocean and how beautifully mysterious it is. But there is also the danger that lurks in this sport, just like any other sport that there is.

There is a tendency to drown while surfing, get lost at sea, the occasional shark attacks, and also a surfing culture called surfing localism. 

Surfing Localism

There is so much joy to be felt in surfing, and unfortunately, there are also so many other people out there who want to experience that joy as well. The best surfing spots now get too crowded, and that is where the legend of the so-called ‘surfing localism’ was born.

Surfing was started by the Polynesians and crashed on the shores of Hawaii; it became a hit but only became more accessible and popular when it reached the beaches of California in the 1960s. This is where surfing became such a mainstream sport on local beaches that these surf hotspots became crowded immediately. 

If you are a surfer who has been surfing recently, then you might have encountered this so-called ‘surfing localism’ and might not know that this is what you have probably experienced. Have you ever been harassed verbally by other surfers? “Hey! Get out of here!” “This is our backyard!” “Go home!” These are just some of the things most surfers have been yelled at by the locals.

It’s time to face the music, and surfing was only experienced by those who lived locally near the beach in tropical regions and countries, like how snowboarding and skiing can be done where there is snow on beautiful slopes and mountains, so when foreigners from other countries or even from a different area in the same locality go to a beach and surf when it’s already crowded you get this kind of negative attitude.

The local surfers often scream at foreigners and outsiders to get out, especially if the beach is already too crowded. Is it legal for the locals to do this? Probably yes and no. Yes, if we look at it from the perspective of freedom of speech and respecting different cultures and practices.

However, no one has the right to monopolize an entire beach just to catch choice waves unless they legally own the beaches themselves. 

How ‘Surfing Localism’ is manifested

As mentioned, ‘surfing localism’ is the way some local surfers show how territorial they are when it comes to their home breaks or their surfing spots. The harassment of foreigners and outsiders can be as subtle as a vicious look directed at them by the locals.

There is the popular yelling when the locals, the foreigners, and outsiders are near each other’s earshot. Some locals who are a bit extreme may, at times, come right up to the foreigner or outsider and give them a piece of their mind, and in more extreme cases, they also resort to some physical violence.

An example of this would be a kind of aggressive surfing with very physical and aggressive techniques like blocking, grabbing the legrope of a surfer, hitting the non-local surfer’s board with their own board like a mini ocean collision, and angling themselves in front of other surfers.

All these moves and techniques are meant to ruin a ride, especially for those who the locals deem are unwelcome. Some will not show any kind of aggression in the ocean while surfing but will make their point on the beach or in some experiences in the parking lots where cars of foreigners and outsiders have been vandalized. A scary side of a rather joyful and friendly facade of the sport. 

Best ways to deal with ‘Surfing Localism’

‘Surfing Localism’ is a nasty and negative side of the beloved sport of surfing, and it might not go away anytime soon. That's why here are some tips that can help you deal with this negative culture properly and triumphantly. 

  • Always do some research about the area you are planning to surf in; apart from the immediate dangers in the vicinity, try to listen in to the local ground first by hitting the spots where local surfers like to hang out to know what the surfing scene and feel is like.
  • Take someone with you when you go visit unfamiliar surfing spots. An extra hand will come in handy. You’ll never know when you might need help. 
  • If you can’t fight them, well, don’t just join them. It may be best to keep calm and walk or, in this case, paddle quietly away from the heat. Always remember to play it safe. It might be better to lose an opportunity to ride a good break than to lose a leg or an arm. 
  • Prevention is always better than cure; well, that's what they say, and rightly so. If you can completely avoid any confrontations in the first place, then it would be great for all. But how do you do it? Simply use your powers of observation and deduction. Observe your surroundings, and if you see aggressive surfers right off the bat, then you can deduce that they are probably the ones you need to avoid at sea or even on land. 
  • What to do when the unthinkable happens and you have angry locals right up your face saying you stole a good break from them? First, stay calm and make sure that you don't initiate any fistfights. Make sure that other people around you can help you when a fight does happen or be key witnesses if you want to take legal action. If you see authorities close by, try to call their attention to come to your aid. 

Bottom Line

‘Surfing localism’ can be a huge pain to deal with, and unfortunately, it is now becoming part of the culture of surfing. There is still hope, though, for as long as there are people who are ready to defend the sport they love and are willing to share this love with everyone, then there is always hope. 

Oliver Jones

Written by Oliver Jones

I'm a dedicated surfer and writer, and my heart truly belongs to the ocean. Surfing is not just a sport but a way of life for me. I ride the waves in the water and on paper, pouring my passion into every word I write.

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