What is the first thing you think about when I say Surfing ? Is it Waves, Beaches, Sun, Fun, Relaxing, Beautifully Tanned Bodies, Sports Heroes ? How about gangs ? How about Hawaii’s The Wolfpak and Kala Alexander, or Australia’s Bra Boys of Maroubra and Jai and Koby Abberton ? Maybe Southern California”s The Silver Strand Locals ( SSL), The Oxnard Shores Locals ( OSL) or the Pierpoint Rats, known for notorious localism violence in protecting local surf spots in the 80’s and 90’s. Do you remember that pro surfer Emery Kaunaui after an altercation in a bar was beaten and killed by the Bird Rock Bandits in La Jolla, Calif., in 2007 over what was described as “Hawaiian Surfer Machismo ” Does the sport of surfing encourage this type of behavior or lifestyle ?
What is it about a peaceful and non contact sport like surfing, that draws lines in the sand to outsiders and resorts to violence and protectionism over bodies of water that are essentially public domain. Don’t you find it strange that the one thing a person cannot own at least in the United States is a part of the ocean or the beach in front of it. Meaning, you can own beachfront property but your ownership ends at the sand dunes. Beaches are not private, only the parking spaces or land in front of them are private or municipal spaces,parks, homes or parking lots. You can not be stopped from walking on a beach in most parts of this country, if you can get there in the first place, maybe only to find that you are violating the unwritten rules of the ocean and surfing.
While, it is a dangerous sport for the professionals, bigger wave surfers and thrill seekers pushing the envelope, it is also a sport that is easily embraced by those who did not grow up in ocean front communities looking for sport, recreation and relaxation on the beach. It is an extreme sport that is beautiful and part of the fabric of its respective communities. It is amazing to watch and to enjoy. It makes for great video, photo’s, movies, memories and documentaries and is world wide in its appeal, Yet beneath the outer layer the sport can harbor violence, territoriality, cult – like worship and gang mentality all in the same package.
Contact sports like Football, Basketball, Soccer and Hockey, are about controlled and regulated violence, structure and playing by the rules of which there are many. The players wear protection, they are protected by a set of rules, and are part of regulated team environment. Surfing is a wild, largely unregulated sport, challenging nature, your athletic ability and each other while allowing each athlete to maintain his/her own creativity and individualism, including living life on the edge in the sport and in their personal lives. Surfing is not a team sport, its more like art, or writing where the ocean is the palette or canvass and working with what it gives you but never owning it.
The cult like nature of the sport comes from its “leaders” who display fresh approaches to the age-old sport of surfing. Leaders always have followers, which makes life interesting.