Surf Localism and Surf Etiquette, the Delicate Relationship Every Surfer Should Understand
A touchy subject to say the least, but our homie Morgan Bernard shares some of his thoughts and experiences on Surf Localism and Surf Etiquette, dive in below as we tackle one of the more sensitive subjects in surfing - Surf Localism and Surf Etiquette, the Delicate Relationship Every Surfer Should Understand…
“ As a traveling surfer, I have mixed feelings about localism. On one hand, I loathe the anxiety I feel when paddling out at a tense lineup for the first time. I always sit down the line away from the main peak to get my bearings and observe the pecking order. I’m content taking the few waves that come my way during my first session at a new break. Still, nothing is worse than waiting all day for a peak to pop up in front of you, only to be burned at the takeoff because I’m not a local. On the other hand, I’ve seen waves I love devolve into chaos, especially since the Covid surf boom sent scores of new surfers to lineups all over the world. It’s clear that surfing cannot function without order, not with crowds at least. Localism and surf etiquette work together to provide the order and structure lineups need to function. Localism is a give respect to get respect system that has evolved from violent origins to its current state, but it’s still often taken too far. Given the current state of surfing, what role should localism play?
What does unhealthy localism look like?
Beyond the obvious, like parking lot fist fights and mid-surf screaming matches, unhealthy localism has many forms. When I think of unhealthy localism, I think back to a foggy morning surf in the Pacific Northwest, when I paddled out to a single peak lineup to find a frustrated middle-aged surfer. The surfer was yelling that people sitting down away from the peak were in his line. He might have been right if set waves were the majority that day. The swell was dying, and most of the waves that came through broke farther inside down the point. Every ten or so minutes, when a set wave came through, the rest of the lineup paddled out to sea to clear the way for whoever was on the wave. If most of the waves that day were set waves or the other surfers had been sitting directly behind the angered surfer, a real issue might have occurred. Instead, this unhappy man took out his frustration with the crowd on anyone who would listen and soured the mood of the lineup. Additionally, after each set wave, the angered surfer paddle back to the peak bypassing everyone else in the lineup, including locals. Eventually, enough people barked back, and he paddle off. On a more critical day, the angered surfer may be right to warn other surfers to clear his path. In another scenario where the older surfer had been repeatedly dropped in on by or snaked by the other surfers in the water, his behavior would be warranted. In this case, he was unnecessarily attempting to assert his dominance in mellow waves and created conflict with several other surfers. The enraged surfer that day broke one of the most vital localism and surf etiquette rules, you must give respect to get respect. He immediately disrespected the entire lineup with his rage-filled tirades and bypassed the usual, established etiquette protocols for the main peak.
Localism as a tool for surf etiquette
Healthy localism allows the lineup to function like a well-oiled machine and brings order to the chaos of a crowded peak. When I think of healthy localism, I think back to a sunny afternoon surf in North County, San Diego. A paddle boarder was in the mix at the peak, but it was clear he was not in control. He dropped in on me and several other surfers unknowingly and failed to make the majority of his waves. After more than a few offenses, one of the lineup regulars sternly told the paddler that he was dangerous and each wave he had taken had put someone at risk. While the paddler might have felt he was within his right to surf that peak, it was clear the wave did not match his skill level. Localism, when practiced correctly, shouldn’t prioritize exclusion. Rather, proper localism focuses on safety and order. If a surfer is a regular at a spot and the most skilled in the water, he or she will likely get more waves than the average surfer. Their skill level allows them to do more with each wave, and their seniority gives them their place in the lineup. Conversely, if a surfer of any skill level paddles out to a lineup for the first time, I think it’s customary for them to sit outside of the peak and wait till the local surfers have taken off on a few waves before entering the mix, especially at more advanced waves.
The ending thought? Localism may be a controversial topic, but without it surf lineups would devolve into chaos…"
Are you getting out to explore the localism factor that may or may not exist at some new waves? Check out the Faro Workshop before your travels.