Join 3,382 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Butthole Surfers
April 25, 2010 11:02 PM   Subscribe

There is such infinite dirty pleasure in burning a righteous kook. An introduction to the sometimes violent phenomenon of surfer localism and the strict enforcement of surf etiquette. A Tragicomedy of the Surfers' Commons?
posted by eddydamascene (49 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
It wouldn't be so bad without all the bennies.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 11:19 PM on April 25, 2010


Is "burning a righteous kook" a trick?
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:40 PM on April 25, 2010


Interesting article. Heavy with jargon, but it's all clear from context what it means. Good writing. The comments illustrate the content perfectly:

Joe, Sun Mar21, 2010, 9:28 AM: "A gun packed away on the beach takes care of localism"

Testosterone, and nothing but, speaking there. In what possible way could a gun help this man? If he was so stupid and so angry as to actually shoot someone over what amounts to access to playground equipment, what would he expect to happen?
posted by aeschenkarnos at 11:43 PM on April 25, 2010 [5 favorites]


If, like me, you found the first page impenetrably jargon-tastic, rest assured that it gets better on subsequent pages.

I thought my industry spoke in code. Damn.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 11:45 PM on April 25, 2010


Pope Guilty Is "burning a righteous kook" a trick?

My guess is "burning"is to cause a person to miss the wave, or fall off their board, or otherwise be stymied in their surfing intentions, perhaps incurring physical pain; "kook" means a territorially aggressive or otherwise irrational surfer; "righteous" could either refer to the (self-)righteous motivations of the kook or be a use of the common slang malapropism for "extreme".
posted by aeschenkarnos at 11:47 PM on April 25, 2010


I'm having difficulty getting through the first page mostly because I can't stop reading it in the voice of Crush the Seaturtle from Finding Nemo.
posted by jamaro at 12:23 AM on April 26, 2010 [5 favorites]


I'm just waiting for some asshole to talk about how he's the epitomy of surf, and about how the public comes wandering in on his private beach in Malibu.

Come on out...show your face.
posted by hal_c_on at 12:24 AM on April 26, 2010


But the sad, bald truth is localism-like the threat of a mutually assured destruction pact-works to enforce an effective, if decidedly meanspirited, sense of environmentalism to keep a surf spot from being overrun by the tyranny of the mob

Wait, is this a metaphor for MetaFilter? I keed!

Also:
[The] Groundswell Society, an ad hoc think tank that audits surfing's cultural health

Of course this exists.
posted by dammitjim at 12:24 AM on April 26, 2010


I've just been surfing for the first few times this week, so this is very timely, thanks for posting!

I actually asked my friend who is teaching me if there was any special etiquette I should know about. He told me "Of course there is. There is pages and pages of it." At this point I'm still way too sucky to even come close to stealing someone's wave but this will be a good reference for the future, if i don't drown first.
posted by capnsue at 12:29 AM on April 26, 2010


The Surf Punks covered this 30 years ago. It's my wave baby, gonna break your face.
posted by birdherder at 12:38 AM on April 26, 2010 [3 favorites]


Yeah, I've seen plenty of localism growing up surfing.

It's stupid. But part of it is based on the particulars of the surf spot. If you don't know the lineup or the break and you paddle out and get in everyone's way it can be dangerous, akin to being new to skiing or snowboarding and sitting down right in the middle of the run, or stopping someplace dangerous like the landing spot to a jump. Any good surfer not only watches the waves and break points, but also the mechanics of the lineup. If it's a good break there are people out there waiting in a loosely enforced pecking order and taking turns waiting for the good waves. The waiting and taking turns part is loose because the waves break in slightly different spots every time.

However, the real kooks are the meatheads who can't use their grown-up words. And the best way to burn that kind of kook is to be such a good body surfer you can steal all their waves. When they try to run you over or "skag you" (a skag is the control fin on a surfboard, and skagging is a deliberate attack using the sharp-ish fins as weapons) it's pretty easy to knock surfers off their boards. A body surfer is rooted deep in the hydrodynamics of the wave and has a very low center of gravity. A surfer - though faster on the wave - is in a very precarious state of balance. As a body surfer you can "porpoise" below the surface of the wave and plant a shoulder under their board and take 'em right out.

And since you're a body surfer without a board if they actually do something stupid like take a swing at you while out on the water (it happens) all you have to do is dive or swim away. You have fins on and are faster in the water off the wave.

And oh boy does it piss meatheads off. I mean, you're a body surfer. You're not all rad and shredding up on that ultra-aggressive thruster short board, brah.
posted by loquacious at 12:42 AM on April 26, 2010 [9 favorites]


but this will be a good reference for the future, if i don't drown first.

Or if some surf gang doesn't beat the shit out of you and leave you in a heap of teeth because you are in their private part of the ocean.
posted by pracowity at 12:45 AM on April 26, 2010


Get off my lawn wave.

Seriously, how "rad" is it to be the kind of small minded, sniffy, parochial turd the original forefathers of surfing fought against?
posted by MuffinMan at 12:49 AM on April 26, 2010


pracowity, yeah. i'm glad i have someone holding my hand through it, i don't think i'd be able to navigate this subculture on my own. I guess nowadays people can look up these Rules on the internet, but I am thinking that surfing is maybe the type of thing where you kind of have to have a mentorish person showing you the ropes.
posted by capnsue at 12:53 AM on April 26, 2010


It's having heard about the localism and overall GRAR-iness of surfing (supposedly such a laid-back sport) that has largely kept me from really trying it. I absolutely love body-surfing, and wouldn't mind learning surfing. I just don't want to have to deal with a hyper-aggressive asshole who has decided that I'm in his personal patch of ocean.

What can I say, the part where Keanu was getting hassled by the local surfers got to me. Luckily, Bodie was there to help out.
posted by Ghidorah at 12:55 AM on April 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


That article seems to be about California Surfing, not surfing in general. I've met some random assholes, of course, but outside of them even the most 'local' breaks are cool if you respect the line up.

Although I longboard, and only shortboard is acceptable to the Malibu crowd - so I'm spared a lot of this nonsense.
posted by kanewai at 2:14 AM on April 26, 2010


The kids in Malibu really used to hate me and my surf kayak. I could sit way further out than they did and catch pretty much any wave I wanted due to my superior speed. Wasn't much they could do, you can't knock someone off a kayak, and a paddle has a nice long reach if necessary.
posted by Jawn at 2:44 AM on April 26, 2010


loquacious, the first person up in the curl "owns" that wave. Superior body surfing technique notwithstanding, if you steal waves you're just as much of the problem as the meatheads you're decrying.

Second, knocking surfers off their boards is just stupid. It's possible, under certain surf and bottom conditions, to really injure someone by doing that, anything from separated shoulders to broken necks. It has happened. What you're doing isn't self defense, it's assault. Yes, they shouldn't be trying to skeg you but that doesn't give you the right to attack them on the next set.

Third, I'm not sure what you're saying against short boarders. It sounds like the sort of elitism so prevalent in many sports, e.g. fly fishing vs spinning, Harley riders vs sportbikes, Western saddle vs English saddle, long boarders vs short boarders vs body surfers, and so on. As a surfer I've heard this argument so many time, usually buttressed by some sort of "purity of the sport" logic. Why can't participants stop discriminating against their brethren and start celebrating the fact that they're doing something very few people in the world can do, and advance their sport through cooperation?

Until a short time ago, I was a lifelong surfer, from body surfing to bodyboarding to long and short board surfing. I wish I could have shared the sport with more people, it's one of the most joyous things in my world. And localism sucks, it's done more to destroy the sport than anything I can think of.
posted by Purposeful Grimace at 2:59 AM on April 26, 2010


I PISS ON YOUR CUTBACK
posted by eddydamascene at 3:27 AM on April 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


That article seems to be about California Surfing, not surfing in general.
Read the last link. This is a problem everywhere.
posted by GeckoDundee at 3:48 AM on April 26, 2010


Not just surfing. My local MTB trail has a 'secret' freeride/downhill trail (on public land) that some of the local hotshots built. I've been physically threatened for even mentioning its existence.
posted by unSane at 4:45 AM on April 26, 2010


tl;dr: Surf Nazis must die.
posted by Faint of Butt at 5:11 AM on April 26, 2010


What I don't get about localism in surfing is if you only surf your own breaks and defend them against outsiders, how do you get experience surfing other beaches and learning to surf in other conditions?

I think someone should institute a system for locals from different beaches to visit each other as a group, whereby one beach pulls up in their longboats and jumps out, and then performs a haka or something. Then the host beach can perform their haka or sipi tau or whatever, and everyone is cool with each other. This way you can also set up a network for exchanging shell beads, armbands, woven goods and brides.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 5:17 AM on April 26, 2010 [14 favorites]


I don't surf, somewhat understandably since I live in the flatlands of the middle of the USA. But I experienced rampant "localism" just walking the beaches around Huntington Beach, Laguna Beach, and further south around La Jolla.

If it were just about surfing, I'd figure that I would need to learn the etiquette of the sport. But in each case of localism, I was either walking the beach alone or with my family, when teenage thugs approached and tried to threaten me and mine. Now, I'm nearly 6ft7in and about 250 lbs. I am rarely scared in any environment, but these kids seemed on the verge of just attacking anyone on their beach. My guess was that it was part of the entire culture of violence that has enveloped these surfers (and I see from the links that this problematic culture is a global one). I was scared for our safety.

I didn't say much, I didn't want to provoke these kids--who appeared to have consumed some sort of artificial "courage." I simply indicated that we were walking from point A to point B and we would be gone in just a few minutes.

I am someone who believes we should all be able to just get along. I think that the "localism" culture needs to dial it down from 11. I don't know any of this sort of surfer personally, but the type that solves territorial problems by pummeling the offenders as I saw in some of the video clips should be arrested and tried for assault and adjudicated. It isn't the most pressing social issue, I know, but damn. And as I read the California land statutes, the beaches DO belong to the people, not the privileged few.
posted by beelzbubba at 5:22 AM on April 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


A surf-culture kula ring! Yes!
posted by sciurus at 5:31 AM on April 26, 2010


I told Warchild to back off.
posted by total warfare frown at 5:55 AM on April 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Does anyone have an English translation for this article?
posted by clvrmnky at 6:03 AM on April 26, 2010


Mr. Brown, in the comments, has it covered:

"FUCK LOCALS. THEY DON'T OWN STATE BEACHES. TRY TO "ENFORCE" ME AND I WILL PUSH MY THUMB ALL THEY WAY THROUGH YOUR RIGHT EYE AFTER I BREAK YOUR NOSE."
posted by applemeat at 6:58 AM on April 26, 2010


Cali needs an infusion of aloha.
posted by Burhanistan at 7:01 AM on April 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


All I need are some tasty waves, a cool buzz, and I'm fine.
posted by bwg at 7:10 AM on April 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


As a surfer in New England, I can tell you this happens everywhere. In some cases it does come down to someone who is out in conditions or in a surf spot that is far too advanced for their skills. Which creates a danger to other surfers in the water.

In other cases it is a matter of "Me and my friends have been surfing this spot for 20 years, you can't just show up with three friends and try and take over the place, we won't let that happen." If you show up and play nice and don't try and take over the spot then more than likely you will eventually be allowed a few waves.

And in other cases, it's just "Me and my friends have been surfing this spot for 20 years, now it has turned into a zoo because everyone and their mother comes here to surf because it is such a big beach, but I am still gonna be a dick cause I live here and you had to drive to surf here."

I try and go out of my way to surf by myself but with the popularity of the sport gaining, that is becoming increasingly difficult to do around here.
posted by WickedPissah at 7:18 AM on April 26, 2010


None of this elaborate revenge cycle takes a behavioral science Ph.D. to figure out. It's hardwired into our evolutionary core. Both you and the local are playing out ancient biological scripts: Intruding Manguy who needs something relevant to do with his life versus Territorial Man everyone else.

I've seen this sort of thing elsewhere only, with different cryptic slang and jargon. In my experience the people most likely to stir the pot on this kind of crap are typically unemployed or, worse still, have wound up in a dead end job (maybe for good reason) and they're looking so hold some sort of sway over things (until Monday when it's back to asking, "Would you like fries with that sir?"
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 7:27 AM on April 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Luckily, Bodie was there to help out.

BODHI.
posted by adamdschneider at 7:35 AM on April 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Surfer localism? Should we be blaming this on Michael Pollan somehow?
posted by stet at 8:01 AM on April 26, 2010 [3 favorites]


People get weirdly defensive and protective about all sorts of things.

I mean, just try bringing up the cabal.
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:20 AM on April 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


Didn't Tom Wolfe write something about this? I can't remember, "surfers" in the 60's, but they were more less just kids that "owned" a piece of beach and crashed in some abandoned house.

I've always wanted to surf, but i live i nthe middle of Texas. Not really wave country. I'll probably be pushing if not 30 by the time I could get to the ocean, is that too old to start?
posted by djduckie at 9:07 AM on April 26, 2010


Never too old to start surfing, dude.

Also, good article. Localism should be whispering about the best spots and deferring to the natives when you're not at your usual beach, not being some macho asshole or serial wave thief.
posted by Damn That Television at 9:31 AM on April 26, 2010


Surf Nazis must die.

... and don't even get me started on Nazi punks....
posted by Afroblanco at 9:32 AM on April 26, 2010


They don't have to die, they can just fuck off.
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:40 AM on April 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


Surfing is such a beautiful activity. Surf culture, surf commercialism, and the behavior of many surfers gives lie to that.
posted by Danf at 9:40 AM on April 26, 2010


Didn't Tom Wolfe write something about this?

The Pump House Gang.
posted by Combustible Edison Lighthouse at 10:00 AM on April 26, 2010


GeckoDundee- I just finished the last link. It's still mostly all about California. 14 years in Hawaii I've never seen surf gangs, or locals chasing visitors away just for being visitors. Surf Gangs are NOT everywhere!

Capnsue - don't even worry about all this. Most placed basic etiquette works. Pick a spot where you think the waves will break, and hang out there until one does. Smile and acknowledge the people around you. Don't cut anyone off. And surf waves that are at your level!

And just enjoy the sunshine. Of course.

Loquacious - there's a certain safety element here. We can't see body boarders. Body boarding in a surf break is like playing in traffic. It's dangerous for everyone.
posted by kanewai at 10:05 AM on April 26, 2010


Never surfed, but I grew up skiing as a local. Most of my friends were patrol brats, and we spent absurd amounts of time on the mountain. We did the same dumb territorial shit, got into fights with kids from other, slightly less local towns, and felt nothing but contempt for those who drove in from the city. I write it off as hormone-crazed adolescent shenanigans. I certainly hope most adults ignored us.
posted by unique_id at 11:21 AM on April 26, 2010


It's still mostly all about California.

Allow me to troll you with a few links about Hawaiian localism:

-They are known as the Wolfpak or simply “the boys.” They use fear and their fists to command respect in the surf along the North Shore of Oahu, a seven-mile stretch of some of the world’s most renowned waves. At the celebrated Banzai Pipeline, they determine which waves go to whom, and punish those who breach their code of respect for local residents and the waves.

-Looking back, yes, I could have just talked to the guy who cut Braden off. He was already scared when he saw me, and I think he regretted what he'd done, so I didn't need to take it that far. I wish it had never happened at all. And thank God I didn't hurt him that bad. But look, I wouldn't just paddle out at Huntington Beach and take all the waves from the guys who live there. There's localism everywhere. Australia, Brazil … You fuck with the Balinese, they'll chase you with machetes. I beat up that guy, but I wasn't swinging a machete at him.

-Yes, his face was broken. His surfboard broken in two. His spirit and memories of Hawai'i will not be one of Aloha. Those who view this horrendous piece of brutal force will defintely come away with a perception that Hawai'i isn't what they say it is.
posted by eddydamascene at 11:37 AM on April 26, 2010


Needs more Gary Busey ...


brah.
posted by rudster at 11:59 AM on April 26, 2010


Enforcing the lineup is not 'localism.' Have you been here? North Shore is about as international a community as you can get. The majority of guys out there on any day are from Brazil, Australia, Tahiti, California, Morocco, etc.

I hate violence. But I'm also torn on what to think about these tough guys. We get a lot of aggro surfers coming here each season, and sometimes it's nice to have someone meaner than me putting them in their place. And Kala has a point in the article - Pipeline et al. are dangerous breaks. People die every year. You need a system - otherwise there'd be anarchy on the waves and even more would die.

Technically the "tragedy of the commons" refers to a free for all where each person takes what they want of a resource, and the whole suffers. This is the opposite of that.
posted by kanewai at 1:07 PM on April 26, 2010


Technically the "tragedy of the commons" refers to a free for all where each person takes what they want of a resource, and the whole suffers. This is the opposite of that.

I totally agree. What I find interesting is that this reaction to the problem of the "tragedy of the commons" -- localism and enforcement -- ranges in character from the arguable good of promoting fairness and safety to indefensible violent overreactions (you dropped in on somebody and now I am going to beat you to death). It pushes a lot of the same buttons any discussion of vigilantism does.

Have you been here?

No -- I appreciate you sharing first hand experience.
everything I know I learned from the internets
posted by eddydamascene at 2:42 PM on April 26, 2010


We get a lot of aggro surfers coming here each season, and sometimes it's nice to have someone meaner than me putting them in their place. - kanewai

Nothing hurts more than to watch a kook waste (wipe out on) a wave that you could have used to perfect a move. Combine that with greedy aggro visitors who cut you off, and you get some serious tension at the lineup. That is not to say there aren't random assholes out there (at all lineups), it is just to say that no one should enter a new lineup without humility. Those that don't, should be humbled.

To explain further, surfers are inevitably frustrated most of the time (until they reach the 'bliss' state of accepting that just paddling out without even catching a wave is a good day!). One of the things non-surfers don't consider is just how surfers don't get to choose their wave days. Mother Nature decides. I suspect we have all spent 1000X more time looking for waves, watching wave cams, and judging from the beach, than actually slicing across the green wall in ecstacy. AND - ironically - the better you get at surfing the harder it is to find the waves to challenge you to the next level.

Of course, in Hawai'i we have a lot more waves, a lot more days and so can make a lot more room for newbies - and even for kooks. As Kanewai says, it is often the visitor surfers - accustomed to more 'wave-famine' - who express more greed and anger in the lineup. The n. shore locals see way too many of these out of state surf-fiends in the winter especially.

As a sponger (bodyboarder), in my own 'kook' days, I experienced phenomenal accommodation by the resin riders in lineups here. I am ever grateful to the knee boarder who held back a greedy longboarder to give me a wave ... to the long boarders who would yell, "take it seestah!" ... to the guys who gave me all the tips and forgave me all the transgressions. It is all about attitude.

And, yes, just paddling out to sit in the lineup and watch the water and sky is enough some days.
posted by Surfurrus at 1:52 PM on April 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


loquacious, the first person up in the curl "owns" that wave. Superior body surfing technique notwithstanding, if you steal waves you're just as much of the problem as the meatheads you're decrying.

Sorry it took so long, but your points deserve reply. Yeah, first in owns it.

It's really hard for a body surfer to actually steal a wave from a board rider, so "stealing" was a loaded term I shouldn't have used. It's really almost impossible to get the drop on a surfer from behind, they're much faster on the surface and on takeoff. Generally the body surfer has to be there first, already down in the pocket when a surfer drops in on them. Which happens a lot both intentionally and on accident. It can be hard to see a body surfer down in the pocket when you're grabbing it from the curl or shoulder.

It happens a lot intentionally, too, because a lot of aggressive surfers don't seem to have a lot of respect for body surfers unless you're at the Wedge in Newport Beach, where hard boards are almost always (or permanently) black balled and it's almost impossible to stand-up surf that break, anyway, because it's like trying to surf a largish explosion of water. I think this is one point of tension, too, that body surfers get to ride everything, black ball flags or no. Another facet is that a lot of the more aggressive surfers seriously disrespect body surfing because it doesn't involve flashy cutbacks or lip tricks, so some erroneously see it as a waste of a wave.

More than anything what I'm talking about is a very risky form of self defense, especially after some punk tries slashing you with their skags or intentionally running over you. The act of a body surfer ducking under a violent board surfer and knocking them off the wave is very mild compared to their attempt at assault with what amounts to a deadly weapon.

The main injury is wounded pride, which is as it should be. When I was growing up I used to watch my dad knock dangerously disrespectful bullies off of boards all day long, but he was a tried and true waterman in all senses of the word, from sheer skill to stewardship, fairness and an open, inviting demeanor. He was anti-localism, but also cherished and respected surf etiquette, because it meant sharing the waves. There's enough for everyone, they're not going anywhere, nature always makes more.

But God help you if you drop in on his wave and close out his tube and then act like a prick about it like he shouldn't even be there. He might be riding a goofy little pool kick board as a body surfing plank with a pair of old school orange Duck Feet fins, but he knows more about surfing and riding waves than anyone I've personally ever met, even after growing up spending 20 odd years in the ocean.

So, no. I don't actually have a problem with any surf rider, shorty shredder or no. I've surfed a little of everything from skimboards and body surfing to body boards, kneeboards, thrusters, longboards and even the occasional inflatable toy or random piece of waterlogged wood. I don't even mind kiteboarders or kayakers as long as they're safe and aren't being assholes.
posted by loquacious at 6:23 PM on April 27, 2010


« Older Da N-Viro Thugz Present "The Answer", examining th...  |  Her Majesty's Ambassador to th... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments