Locals Only

Let's face it, surfers are known for their gentle nature. I know, there's some serious gang shit going on in Australia, and the ever present beef between kooks and the honored members of surfing's "secret society," but really, we're more like golfers. Surfing is an activity, a skill acquired over time, not a sport. We're fighting nature - wind and sea - we should not, in my opinion, be fighting one another.


While visiting the tourist town of Seaside last weekend, I had my first real taste of localism. Walking to the end of what appeared to be a rather popular point break, camera in my hand, girlfriend on my arm, I had not one, but two people approach me suggesting I leave my camera in the car. The first, a yellow-toothed kid carrying a shortboard, seemed irritated and eager for an inappropriate response. The second guy, somewhat older and clearly not as stupid, simply said: "You'll piss a lot of people off if you bring that thing to the point." Fair enough. Seaside surfers like their secret spot.

Wait a minute...

There are no secrets in a place like Seaside. Everyone knows where to surf. Most even know when. So what's the deal? Why all the animosity? The problem, in my opinion, is that surfers seek solitude. We wholeheartedly believe we can find that secret surf spot, that point break no one else knows about. But when the reality of the situation sinks in, that this isn't a secret society, that since the late 1950's surfing has been a summer activity for lots of land lovers, we tend to get a little upset, a little possessive.

While waves break up and down the west coast, a clean point break can easily become a coveted commodity. Those that live within walking distance, or even within a half hour drive, often look down upon those who intrude. You've seen it if you've surfed in So-Cal; "locals only," the infamous phrase emblazoned on trash cans and park benches, that suggests, ever so eloquently - you should surf somewhere else.

So how do we solve this problem? How can one safely surf somewhere they're not familiar with? I have visited countless surf spots where the locals are not only friendly, but encouraging. Why then, when visiting a spot so close to home, do I encounter such hostility?

I guess I can't answer that question. That is the responsibility of those that live in Seaside and similar coastal towns, where apparently only locals are allowed to surf.

What I can say, however, is that when I met a young man outside of a coffee shop the following morning, someone who grew up surfing in Seaside but had given it up due to the possessive, "locals only" attitude, it was the first time I felt bad about being a surfer.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

if we still relied on the technology and adventure of the 1950's there would be a much more welcoming vibe, but seeing as any clucker with a pop out longboard and google thinks they are entitled to paddling out into serious surfbreaks. places with consiquences and a decades old heirarchy. get a clue. any limited recource will be competed for. its a rule of nature. spend more time living in the water and less time compensating with your keyboard.

Justin W. Coffey said...

Again, someone unwilling to attach their name to their opinion. Sad. But you are right to some extent, Anonymous. There are far too many people who think they can surf and only a handful who actually know how. Especially here in the northwest. As for the "compensating with your keyboard" bit, I probably spend more time in the water than you realize. But I'm not here to prove anything. I'm just sharing my stoke. And my opinions.

Unknown said...

I love the article and agree that the B.S in the water needs to stop. How in the heck can one progress if others discourage by using abusive tactics. Given the limited number of breaks, everyone that displays manners in the water deserves a wave.

Walla Walla Smiley (Dave) said...

I am so proud to have grown in the Northwest. I am so honored to live in Maui and call it my Home. I spent 8 years in Santa Cruz trying to give respect to the locals. I found out that most of the locals there were never going to give me back respect and most of A holes in the water were from So-Cal. I wonder about the ones in Seaside, I am betting they are really not Northwest Locals. My hope for those from the Northwest, to never be a hater, just those that are Zenned out Smiling people full of Love and Aloha. Let your surfing do the talking. Having no leash on and a huge smile, will always get you waves alone. I like how the local brown skinned locals do it over here. They talk to you nicely, on the second time, and then on the 3rd time it gets taken to the next level. Haters dont hate others, they just Hate themselves. If 6 dolphins can surf 1 wave, why cant we. Its just those that have issues with themselves, are the ones yelling Kook get off my wave. We are are One, and part of All. The ocean is our Mother, and She Loves us so much. As Surfers it is our duty to spread that Love & Aloha. We are a Lucky few, us Surfers!!!

Unknown said...

Walla Walla Smiley (Dave),

I like your style...it's been a few years, but I just read this blog post for the first time and your comment as well. I surfed the "localized" breaks on Oahu when I was first learning to tackle the big stuff. I got plenty of waves at Rocky Point, Log Cabins, and lesser-known spots despite my white skin. I was kind and respectful, and most folks gave that back to me. I surfed two full winters on the North Shore, and I only had 1 bad experience...at the hands of a German guy hahahaha. Now I live in Washington and have a 2+ hour drive to go surfing anywhere. I have surfed a few secret spots and found those already present to be very mellow and friendly. It sucks to hear people in Seaside and elsewhere acting like children. I'd love to go surf down there someday. I have nothing but good vibes to give, but if someone physically threatened me, I would keep my distance and ignore them. If someone laid a finger on me, I would call the cops and press charges. End of story.

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