Localism is a persistent feature of the surfing world that has hindered surfers who operate with a high level of integrity, honesty, and benevolence from enjoying their surfing experience to their maximum potential. You might ask, "Is it worth it for victims of localism to do something about this destructive aspect of surfing?Ē The answer is, "You bet!Ē. This article proposes to explain an aspect of the fundamental nature of localism, thus illuminating why it is bad for people and what can be done to work towards bringing about its eventual elimination.
By the time one has been surfing for a couple years s/he has likely had some experience with the all too common expressions of localism. These include destruction of property (usually car or surfing equipment oriented), bodily violence, verbal threats involving either of the preceding, and the nuisance that is car waxing as recently experienced by Cam. Fortunately, the explicitly violent forms of localism are not very frequent.
Each of the above are extensions of rights violations. In light of this, you would think that it is plainly the case that whoever performs these actions has no right to do them since it is absurd to claim that you can have the right to violate rights. However, when someone performs some act of localism s/he normally does it with the conviction that s/he is in the right. What would give someone this impression? Something terribly dark, belonging in some distant, medieval time. It is the notion that one has the right to something s/he hasnít earned.
The most common expression of localism is probably the situation in which a local snakes someone who has earned priority on a wave in accordance with surfing rules. In contrast, the misconstrued conception of earning a local implicitly accepts is that by virtue of either having surfed in a particular area for a certain amount of time or by developing friendships with people who have already earned the title of local one has "earnedĒ the right to violate some surfing rules that other people donít have the right to violate. The rules of surfing are clear. Whoever takes off on a wave first has priority for that wave. When two people are taking off at the same time, the person who is closest to the peak, or breaking part of the wave, has priority for that wave. This is not news. Anyone who has surfed a handful of times is aware of these rules and locals are no exception. There is no rule of surfing that states anything to the effect that if you knows so-and-so (or a group of so-and-sos) or have logged a certain number of years surfing at a spot, you have priority on any particular wave regardless of the position of other surfers.
When someone earns anything, s/he does so by either producing that thing him/herself or by producing something and trading that for the thing s/he wants which someone else has produced. In such a trading situation, the trade must be carried out with the mutual consent of both parties involved, otherwise the transaction is nothing more than theft (legal connotation aside). Thus, localism punishes the characteristics in people that result in consistently surfing according to the rules of surfing and operating with a high level of integrity, benevolence, and ability. It rewards those characteristics of people that lead to initiating force and threatening others. It rewards the local for relying on such force and threats rather than ability to get the waves s/he wants. As such, localism is bad for all people.
For a local, or anyone else for that matter, to earn the right to violate some surfing rules while others donít have this right, s/he requires the consent of every surfer whose surfing rights s/he violates. Without this consent, every surfer who is dropped in on has the right to retaliate just as someone who has their property stolen from them has the right retaliate against the thug who has mugged them. Thus, the question to answer is, "What is the best way someone can retaliate against people who drop-in on them?Ē In the situation of a mugging, one is often best to enlist the help of police. Though this can be an effective way to deal with the expressions of localism that involve destruction of property or bodily violence, it is a completely unrealistic approach to take when you or your buddy get snaked.
My suggestion is this:
The next time someone drops in on you (or you see them drop in on someone else) and makes no effort to apologise for their transgression, paddle up to him/her and say something to the effect of, "I couldnít help but notice you snaking me on that last wave. I understand that people have different ideas as to whatís acceptable surfing behaviour and I take it that you see snaking as a legitimate means to getting a wave.Ē At this point you more than likely will hear some form of apology if the drop-in was unintentional. If not, continue with, "I just wanted to know what kind of strategy I should use for getting waves and it's clear to me now that I should try to take off on the shoulder when I see you going for a wave.Ē That is, play by their rule to the best of your ability and make it clear to them that that is what you will do when it comes to surfing with them. Do not, however, extend their rule to surfers who have snaked you or someone else accidentally or surfers who donít snake. There is no rational reason to which locals can appeal that gives them the right to drop in on non-locals and it is up to each person who values rational surfing rules to acknowledge this and stand up for themselves.
The next time you see some local thug blatantly snake someone (or you) or a local yelling out some drivel about having surfed some spot since way back when and claiming some sort of ownership because of this, ask yourself, "What should Ido, right now, if I am to stand up for what I think is right?Ē Iím not suggesting making threats or running around waving a club and throwing rocks. What needs to be done is to make it crystal clear by explaining it to them, that locals have no right to violate other surferís rights and to show them that you will not tolerate their idiocy.
Having said this, itís important to note that not all locals engage in localism. Though it can be difficult, it is well worth recognising this fact and ensuring you donít generalise the destructive activities of some locals to all of them.
Obviously, localism has negative effects on non-locals. Anyone who consistently surfs according to surfing rules and doesnít engage in the destructive behaviours typical of locals has nothing to gain from localism but does have something to lose; an unobstructed, happy surfing experience. Conversely, this is what we all have to gain if we consistently stand up for our rights when locals, or anyone else, try to violate them.
Mike Stupka is a student at UVic and an occasional weekend warrior.
You can reach Mike at
The opinons stated here are those of Mike Stupka and do not nessesarily reflect the opinons of CoastalBC.com management.