Localism in a broader sense has been around since the beginning of time. It’s a “first come, first serve” feudal like claim to the resources of an area for the benefit of a privileged few. For surfers, it’s the taking over of a certain break or wave rich region for the rights to surf its superior waves unobstructed by the likes of outsiders and to those who might pose a threat to the optimal wave/surfer ratio. It is by all accounts a highly un-democratic process. But to those akin to the wild animal kingdom, localism is a social enigma where there are undeniable winners and losers. At its core essence, localism is a shamelessly selfish endeavor. It is like a powerful aphrodisiac for the ego minded surfer crew hell bent on total wave annihilation domination. It feeds upon itself in a vicious cycle of greed, intimidation, and resentment towards outsiders. To add fuel to the fire, take a world class marquee surf break and cram it full of a large group of talented, testosterone infused surfers who think they own the place and you’ve got a ticking time bomb of localism induced mayhem ready to explode!
Surfers afflicted with the self-righteous localism bug are very much the territorial dog marking their own territory whenever possible. These surfers like to leave endearing messages to other surfers like “No Kooks Allowed” or “Locals Only” etched into sidewalks with melted surf wax in a passive yet foreboding attempt to discourage outsiders from surfing their breaks with their sheepish “enter at your own risk” advertisements. Often times this type of tagging is accompanied by a reference to an obscure group or local crew who must have spent hours mulling over what to call themselves but ran out of ideas and decided that an area code designation like “The 949 crew” or “The 808 Posse” would surely suffice. Some better established groups like Da Hui as showcased in every surfer’s favorite movie – “The North Shore” have taken things to a completely different level, literally writing the book on localism and paving the way for other wannabe factions of localism to replicate themselves throughout countless lineups the world over.
Ask any surfer their opinion of localism and you will undoubtedly get mixed reviews. Proponents of localism will say it provides order in the lineup and encourages respect to those surfers who have paid their dues in earning their place in the lineup. Opponents will harp on the injustices of localism and its often Gestapo like enforcement of a few surfers’ rights to the best waves to the detriment of all the other surfers left scrambling for the scraps. And then there is the endless debate over what truly constitutes being a local in the first place? Is it contingent on having lived in the area all of your life (a.k.a. – born n’ bred) or is it more a combination of moving parts like how well a surfer surfs, how they are perceived or acknowledged by the community, or how assertive they are in the lineup? The issue of localism and what constitutes being a local is subject to a million different interpretations and is a source of constant debate and friction amongst the surfing community. At the end of the day, what surfers must really ask themselves is: “is localism for me?” and if so “how far am I willing to take it?” Life perspective is key on this issue and many surfers will fall to the dark side like Darth Vader. When in doubt, remember – “an asshole on land is an asshole in the water!” Keep that in mind as you internalize your stance on the issue of localism. Yeap, pretty much sums it up!
To further commemorate Localism, StuffSurfersLike would like to take this opportunity to poke some fun at the typical locals you might find floating around a lineup near you. After all, what would localism be without the colorful cast of characters that go along with it? Read on, you just might know one of these guys or be one of them yourself………
The Surly “Stink Eyed” Old Man Longboarder:
Every surf town has a ripe over abundance of these old timers. They typically sit way on the outside of a surf break in a “pow-wow” congregation with other members of their crew reminiscing about the good ol’ days and popping off dirty old man dialogue that they couldn’t get away with saying at home around the wifey or ex. They often drop in on anything and everything thus giving them their 2nd designation as “Local Wave Hog” due to their usually heavyset proportions and their propensity to snag every wave like a pig at the trough. When riding a wave, they usually exude a look of sheer determination conveying to other surfers, “by hell, you better get outta my way, I’m comin’ through!!!” In addition, these surfers generally discourage the use of leashes as a tribute to the good ol’ days when leashes didn’t exist and surfers had to swim for their boards after losing them. Be prepared to be run over or hit by one of their runaway boards only to receive a bountiful dose of stink eye as your apology when they see that you are wearing a leash (sissy stuff!!) Speaking of which, these old timers bring Stink Eye – “the look of utter disdain and disgust towards other surfers” to the ultimate level. Having swallowed the bitter pill years ago, it’s a wonder they still show up to the lineup on a regular basis and haven’t gone the ExPat route like so many of their former compadres that have since gone feral to stake their claim at surf breaks south of the border. (Of note, The Surly “Stink Eyed” Old Man Longboarder is a master manipulator within the local’s social hierarchy. They are like the Godfather. There isn’t anything they haven’t seen or done over their ancient history in the lineup. In fact, they probably wrote the playbook on Localism that is currently being used to wage power struggles in the surfer strata’s a few levels below.)
The Arrogant Washed Up Ex-Pro Surfer / Local Town Hero:
This surfer more than any other local probably deserves the rights and privileges that go along with scoring the best waves under the bylaws of Localism. They grew up in the area, put in their time, they rip, made a decent stab at making it as a pro surfer, and are well known by their local surfing community. Unfortunately for the other “local” surfers in the lineup who have to put up with this surfer, they won’t be scoring many set waves when this guy is around. The Arrogant Washed Up Ex-Pro Surfer / Local Town Hero surfer often has a big chip on their shoulder from not having made it in the big boy world of pro surfing. They are effectively a big fish in a small pond and they’re going to let everyone in their vicinity know it! With the implied backing of all the local bros, this surfer is pretty much free and clear to say or do whatever they want in the lineup creating an arrogant monster of epic proportions. This surfer will typically snub you, ignore you, or give you one word answers if you try and spark up a conversation with them or congratulate them on a sick wave they just caught. In rare circumstances, these surfers may converse with you if you happen to be accompanied by an industry “bro in the know” who could hook them up with a cush job in the surf industry (they’ll need it now). Watch out if you accidently get in the way of this surfer or effectively mess up their wave by inadvertently cutting them off. This is grounds for a splash battle, witnessing of a grown man doing his best impression of a 5 year old’s temper tantrum, or worse yet, an involuntary invitation to meet his buddy Chuey on the beach for a “talk”.
The Weekend Warrior:
The weekend warrior is a busy guy in and out of the water. He/she is pretty much the meat and potatoes of a local surfing community just trying to fit in a surf whenever they can find the time. Faced with more worldly obligations such as a steady 9-5 job, supporting their family, and bringing home the bacon, they typically have no concern or inclination to climb the social strata of a given surf break. Surfing is viewed as an opportunity to let loose and have fun rather than incur more stress over trivial matters such as localism. Their no nonsense, “let’s try and fit as many waves into this sesh as possible” mentality is the bane of the seasoned locals existence. In these instances, the “local” surfer will often paddle circles around The Weekend Warrior to let them know who’s boss and to try and validate some sense of control over the uncontrollable environment that is a weekend lineup. If it becomes too crowded or aggressive in the lineup for their tastes, The Weekend Warrior will often move up or down the beach in search of a less crowded wave to get their surfing fix before they have to head home for some yard work and a couple coldies in the lounge chair.
The Impressionable “Buy My Poster/ Sponsor Me” Surf Grom:
The Impressionable “Buy My Poster/ Sponsor Me” Surf Grom eats, sleeps, and breathes surfing. In their childhood innocence, their only concern is how quickly they can half-assedly complete their homework, score a ride to the beach from mom, and snag multiple seshs before its time to head home for dinner and do it all over again the next day. In direct opposition to The Surly “Stink Eye” Old Man Longboarder, these young surfers favor surfing with as many of their surfing friends as possible in a desperate attempt to show off their skills and gain recognition from their local brat pack peer group. Emulating the flashy moves of their favorite pro surfers gleaned from hours of careful study from the latest surf videos is top of the list for The Impressionable “Buy My Poster/ Sponsor Me” Surf Grom. Surfers in this group love the status symbol that stickers and labels from niche surf companies can provide them. They enjoy plastering these stickers all over their surfboard and fantasizing about travelling the world as a pro surfer. These surfers often join competitive organizations such as NSSA for regular entry into surf competitions, which breed surfers for bigger and better competitions down the road. The Impressionable “Buy My Poster/ Sponsor Me” Grom typically idolizes The Washed Up Ex Pro / Local Town Hero and he in kind often takes the young groms under his wing as he sees a bit of his former self in their conquest to become pro and dominate the lineup. The Groms, for better or worse, often learn the dynamics of Localism and its intricate power plays from the older generations as the baton gets passed from one generation to the next. Sometimes with all the heckling and trash-talking going on in the water within this peer group, you’d think you were witnessing a re-enactment of Piggy’s demise in Lord of the Flies. Who’s got the conch??
This particularly rare and pompous surfer shows up to a break F.O.J. (“Fresh Off Jet”) and instantly acts as if they own the place. With little regard for anyone else, let alone the locals, this surfer will paddle battle, drop in wherever they please, and go around surfers to get priority of the peak. Depending on the locale and the intensity of its localism, this type of surfer may or not be able to get away with this kind of behavior for a short duration of time. Sooner or later, The Insta-Local gets put in their place and sent to the back of the line by someone bigger and gnarlier than them who demands respect (i.e.- Chuey). Examples of typical Insta-Locals are college students claiming their university town as their new home break, tourists who are competent enough to catch a wave & get in the way (i.e.- Zonies), and big budget surfers who fly halfway around the world for surf and mistakenly think this entitles them to an “All-You-Can-Eat” wave buffet (i.e.- travelling to wave rich, local heavy destinations like Bali, Hawaii, & Australia).
The Parking Lot Degenerate:
The Parking Lot Degenerate is a common fixture of any decaying surf scene. When you see too many of these guys loitering around you know things have gotten bad!! Often no more than a common street thug, these guys take it upon themselves to pick fights, let air out of/ slash tires, wax windshields, break into cars, and generally cause a ruckus all under the noble guise of protecting their local surf break. The Parking Lot Degenerate is at its core a jealous, angry, antagonizing bundle of loser denial. They feed off their ability to intimidate and strike fear into their surfing victims. As is often the case with losers of this echelon, The Parking Lot Degenerate 9 times out of 10 possess a rabid case of “crazy eye syndrome” unleashed by years of experimental drug use turned meth addiction. It is debatable whether The Parking Lot Degenerate spends more time in the lineup heckling and threatening other surfers versus swilling beers in the back of a pickup truck with his other parking lot degenerate loser friends. Similar to The Surly “Stink Eyed” Old Man Longboarder, The Parking Lot Degenerate is a big fan of holding onto the past and not accepting the reality of the present. They will often rehash past brawls and talk about fallen comrades of the Localism Elite who are now in jail or AA with a nostalgic sparkle in their crazy eyes as a tribute to what their life has become as the token Parking Lot Degenerate.