I can understand how localism occurs among surfers, but it really is pointless when you think about it. Unless you live on that beach, you’re not even a local. It’s just a particular spot that you like to surf, but the ocean always changes. That spot you surfed yesterday? Completely different tomorrow.
However, localism is one of those things on the surf etiquette list. Respect the locals…because you can really tell they are locals. What, do we wear gang colours now or something? I do respect the locals; you know how I do that? I just respect every single surfer out there in the water. It’s that simple.
I’ve been lucky so far to have not encountered localism. While I’m learning I tend to stay away from pods of surfers. They are magical creatures that awe me and intrigue me…but also intimidate me. I met a surfer the other week in the shallows of my ‘local break’. He suggested that I go out into the bigger (they looked huge) breaking sets out the back because I’d get a better wave. I cheerily squeaked ‘I’m scared of the big waves’. He smiled and told me that I’d be ‘right’ and ‘come out and give it a go’. He was completely welcoming and encouraging but I stayed where I was: out of the way, because I’d been lying. Well, sort of. Yes the big waves are daunting but the main thing I am afraid of is getting in someone’s way.
I suppose to the amazeballs surfers I see out there, this makes me their favourite kind of kook. Maybe I’ll even earn their respect just by staying away…but that won’t help me progress with my surfing will it?
My partner, a non-surfer, finds my fear irrational. He tells me ‘you’re not in Hawaii – they’re not going to bash your face in’. (I don’t think surfers will bash my face in for messing up a wave by the way – nor do Hawaiians bash faces in.) It’s not a fear of being bashed. It’s a fear that I’ll get in the way and be annoying. I have so much respect for these faceless surfers that I’m afraid to do them wrong. How silly is that? But I can hear those faceless surfers nodding in approval thinking yeah kook out of our way. But there are a lot with faces that smile and say ‘nice try’ or even laugh with you at a hilarious wipeout. At the end of the day we all deserve respect, beginner, local or not – we’re all just trying to enjoy the water.
Isn’t that what we love about surfing?