The Inertia Senior Contributor
Localism has long been an accepted part of surfing. But why? Screenshot: Josh Pomer/Westsiders

Violent localism has long been an accepted part of surfing. But why? Screenshot: Josh Pomer/Westsiders


The Inertia

How much longer will surf culture remain in thrall of its most despicable element? How much longer will the global surf community continue to simper and tiptoe around the assorted goons who pollute the world’s lineups in the name of localism? This love affair of a culture with its posturing malcontents would seem almost tragic if it were not so patently ridiculous. The frivolity of it all was laid bare last week with a lawsuit filed against people who have apparently spent years intimidating those who would dare surf LA county’s Lunada Bay without performing whatever tree-house initiation they no-doubt require in order to paddle out and sit near the peak. 

The class action lawsuit alleges that members of a group calling itself (apparently with a straight face), the “Lunada Bay Boys” have spent years harassing people they don’t know who come to surf “their” wave. This harassment includes intimidation, vandalism, the sexual intimidation of women, flat-out violence, and that favorite weapon of schoolyard bullies everywhere: rock throwing. They even have their own club house, presumably with a strict “no girls allowed” policy and a secret password to get in the door. 

I grew up thinking that the ever-present threat of violence that hangs like a miasma over many lineups was normal. Until I was in my mid-twenties it was like the muzak in a department store – so seemingly integral to the experience that it simply fades into the background. How easily we are all inured to such despicable behavior.

Yet, somehow, this culture of fun has spawned an underclass of miscreants trapped in a terminal adolescence – individuals with such a deluded grasp on reality that they have fashioned themselves the guardians and secret police of a tidal Neverland where there is only one game and all the rules are made up as you go along to ensure that you always win. In all other parts of life people who scream and cry and hit you when you ignore their arbitrary rules are called “children.” In surfing, they’re called “locals” and, somehow, they’re afforded respect.

Localism has held surf culture in its sway since in the 1950s when Mickey Dora began to whine about the crowds at Malibu even as he hawked his surfboards to the masses, posed for board short ads and worked as a stuntman on mass-market Hollywood movies. No matter the facts, surfers adopted Dora’s paranoid fantasy of invasion by the masses, and, together with the surf media, constructed layer after romantic layer of myth around the figure of the heroic local battling the tide of “mainstream culture” trying to co-opt and sell-out his beloved pastime. There is no question that Miki Dora was one of the best small-to-medium wave surfers of his time, perhaps of any time, and there is equally no question that he was a two-bit con whose world view only reached as far as his farcically bloated ego. It has taken equal shortsightedness by subsequent generations of surfers to maintain Dora’s aura as the “dark prophet” of surfing, as if his pseudo-intellectual ramblings had any meaning deeper than self-aggrandizement. 

Far from rebelling, Dora, and indeed anyone who adopted the persona of the “local” in Post-War America, was taking part in his own small way in the dominant coastal trend of the time – property privatization. The trickle, then flood of Americans to the coastlines of the United States starting in the ’50s set off a gold rush of land acquisition that continues to this day. In a climate of rapid land enclosure, localism was and is, a de-facto privatization of a tiny, and otherwise useless bit of territory by men without the capital or the power to actually purchase or properly annex said property. Don’t look for heroism, selflessness or altruism here. Their intentions have remained the same since the great diamond entrepreneur Cecil Rhodes muttered his eternal lament: 

The world is nearly all parcelled out, and what there is left of it is being divided up, conquered and colonized. To think of these stars that you see overhead at night, these vast worlds which we can never reach. I would annex the planets if I could; I often think of that. It makes me sad to see them so clear and yet so far.

If not the stars, then what about the waves? Even someone as predatory as Rhodes – whose diamond empire became a driving force of Apartheid – created certain types of value for others through his land holdings. Diamonds adorned jewelry and were used in industrial cutting and drilling. He paid taxes and employed workers (though not, it should be remembered, at particularly fair rates). 

Crowded surf spots have grown no less crowded in the last 50 years, dangerous spots no more accessible, and the most fiercely protected spots remain just that – fiercely protected for the privileged use of a handful of the most hateful little bottom feeders in surfing’s large and varied community of avid participants. 

So why did it take a lawsuit for this to really hit the collective conscience?

Simple. The mainstream surf media once again failed to shine a light into its darkest corner until it was done for them by others. Since then, both the surf pubs and the mainstream media have roundly condemned the men behind years of violence and intimidation, but one gets the sense that they’re missing the larger point. Most outlets bizarrely focused on the novelty of a “gang” made up of guys who are, according to that die-hard source of hard reporting, The Independent, “white and affluent”. You know, because all gang members are black or Latino.  

The story has nothing to do with race or tax bracket. The story is that a group of men have spent years intimidating, vandalizing and hurting people who just want to surf and almost no one in a position to do anything about it has lifted a finger. Why weren’t these degenerates shamed out of existence by the larger surf community in California 10 years ago?

One reason is that stories that paint any aspect of surfing in even the most wan light of negativity simply can’t be sold to publications for an amount of money that is worth the hassle you go through to report on them. Trust me, I’ve tried. 

But the bigger problem is cultural. Namely, the many of those working in surf media vacillate between fear and sympathy for locals. As industry insiders – or more often wannabe-insiders who must survive on the scraps thrown to them by big clothing companies and star surfers – many have adopted (even if they won’t admit it now) the same deluded, “us-and-them” mentality that Dora made famous and the Lunada Bay lynch mob has honed into its driving ethos. In this world-view, the local is cast as the enforcer of order and protector of a society in threat. He is the only thing standing between the little fantasy land of “real surfers” and outright anarchy in the lineup brought on by the faceless hordes of “kooks” and people “from the valley” who are overunning the coast. Crucially, no one in the media would ever actually behave like a “local” themselves, but they are certainly content to snuggle into the folds of the curtain of fear that more vicious people bring to the lineup – always provided they are on the right side of it. 

The fear I speak of is the kind of reality-defining, adolescent fear born of the belief that your job and even physical well-being depends on the goodwill of people who are stronger than you are. It’s particularly acute for anyone who must put their name to writing and be held accountable for it later. You would be surprised how long memories can be. When it comes to more tightly knit surf communities, the danger of speaking out against abuse is far more present, and it’s one of the driving factors behind the continued support of some of the North Shore’s most despicable men. Ironically, by elevating the status of these types of bullies, the media helps ensure that the scene in Hawaii remains dominated by petty thugs who dress up the savage pursuit of their own narrow interests with doing what is “good for the community.” 

This, I suppose, is the point where someone makes the argument that “the world doesn’t work like that, and mutual respect won’t get you waves at ____________ wave. Which is true. But if you can’t paddle out and catch a wave at your chosen surf spot, without first smacking half the lineup, or threatening to, you have no business surfing there. It doesn’t matter if it’s Pipeline or San Onofre. This is perhaps harsh but it is the only free and fair way to approach access to highly ephemeral natural resources. Alternately, everyone could just share a bit more, but I suppose any suggestion that we should be less greedy a little too quixotic.

When I was a child, I saw violence against my fellow man in the soft focus glow of romance and adventure. To the immature mind, violence promises to erase life’s vagaries with decisive moments of victory and defeat, win and loss, black and white. But after more than 30 years of witnessing and occasionally being involved with violence, I have come to understand it for what it is: the final bastion of men with nothing left to lose – men so terrorized and warped by modern life that the only real joy left to them is inflicting terror on others. So-called “locals” aren’t surfers, not in the sense of people who have developed a life-defining love of one of the ocean’s more beautiful phenomenon. They are sadists who have found an outlet in the shabbiest and most cowardly expressions of surf culture. It is long past time to purge surfing of them and all that they stand for.




  • freerider

    Here we go again–It seems in old Hawaii ‘localism’ may of really had “it roots”.–“A common person had no right to use an olo or to surf at the breaks of the Alii & if one was found in violation of either of these he or she could be “put to death”. Localism in the extreme! –So–whatever–try and blame it on dora or whoever–maybe it comes from the true addiction hardcore surfers seem to acquire–either way–it seems it really started a few hundred years ago…

    • John Polkey

      Either way its time some people evolved 😉

    • geechdavies

      localism is rad

    • wethepeople34

      Commoners in the day Hawaiinwas ruled by kings refers to actual common people, the lower caste below high ranking officials and the king himself. It had nothing to do with localism. Lol, your ignorance is beyond blissful.

      • freerider

        So–‘might’ makes right? Seems that might fit in at Pipe too. Still seems like a form of localism……

  • John Polkey

    Well said!

  • theKook

    Refreshingly deep.

    • geechdavies

      you’re deep man

      • theKook

        No, I am the theKOOK!

  • JSC

    Dayyyam – a searing manifesto to all that is evil and repugnant about “localism” -Bravo, Ted!

  • freerider

    “Dora’s paranoid fantasy of invasion by the masses”–If you think Malibu’s invasion by the masses is a fantasy..I guess you have never surfed Malibu.–40 50 years later–you guys are still trying to crucify Da Cat..

  • JohnHolmes13

    Not all beautiful things are fair and these guys def. take it too far… BUT ,having been on both sides as a traveler to localized breaks and as a local at a localized break for many years,let me share why localism is good. In short. I can take you to a place,escorted, in s. cali ,where if you come with me, you can get A frame shacks with 20 guys or less on a mile stretch of beach. You can get 2nds as a visitor and have an experience not obtainable anywhere on the coast. An actual session where there are enough resources a.k.a.waves for every surfer to leave the water with a complete ,progressive surf session. We didnt beat people on site ,we just snaked them EVERY Time, even pros, and told them to beat it. IF they were core enough, they would paddle down 20 yards and bust a sick turn and after being seen and regulated on for a year, they would get invited to a set wave. The only time violence popped off is when a pack of guys tried to test the rules and wouldn’t paddle down or bail… Usually one would lip off and get popped by one of the older guys and sent in.. living to surf another day and learning humility and respect.

    • Kyle J Dylewski

      You tried your best to make it sound eloquent and it still makes localism sound juvenile… nothing about what you said makes it ok so say that you and your friends own and control a certain portion of THE OCEAN, something that you literally have no control or ownership of. Also, you tried to say that voilence is a good way to teach humility and respect, which sounds antiquated and bigoted. Its time for locals to grow up and move forward. Sorry.

      • geechdavies

        you are massively wrong

        • Johan Andres Uribe Perez

          Did you really vote up your own post?

          • geechdavies

            yes, you can see that surely

    • Matt

      PROPER

    • Johan Andres Uribe Perez

      So, localism sucks when you aren’t the local, and localism is rad when you are the local? Deep thoughts, dude. If you want to control a mile of beach, move to South Carolina where it is legal, and put your money where you mouth is. Otherwise you are just a parasite and a bully. Thank god rock climbing, mountain biking, and back country skiing are not full of parasites like surfing, who think they control parts of public nature because… they have been there longer?

    • geechdavies

      Localism is amazing. If anyone who enjoys an inertia article thinks that it sucks, then clearly its the way forward.

  • freerider

    ” his pseudo-intellectual ramblings”. –Funny–Tet–one of Dora’s quotes–“these few Wall Street Flesh Merchants seek to unify surfing–only to extract the wealth”. This at a time when none of these companies even thought about going public–then boom– 20 years later–Quicksilver (RIP) and others (RIP) are now or were actually on Wall Street–pimping out the so called pros (flesh merchants)–so they could a buck. Seems Dora had a lot more insight than people give him credit for–and had the guts to say what no what else would say–but don’t worry–he’ll be around long after you catch your last wave….Peace,,,,,

    • Kyle J Dylewski

      I mean the quote sounds nice, but at the end of the day Dora totally sold out against his principles. He appeared in various surf movies, posed in magazine ads, and promoted his “da cat” board. This article nailed it: he was only against comercialization when it was convenient.

      • geechdavies

        you didnt know miki dora

      • freerider

        Nobody said Dora was a saint–he was flawed just like you and me–but he still had the guts to speak out against the status quo –“The individuals are being pushed out, and the clones are taking over.” –and speak out against the surf industry and their greed…..Surfers today are so brainwashed by surf mags and the surf industry–they almost don’t know what to think…

  • TomHouse

    The only people who claim to not understand localism are not locals anywhere.

  • TomHouse

    “The mainstream surf media once again failed to shine a light into its darkest corner until it was done for them by others. ”

    Actually, it’s that localism is not even remotely news.

  • mik

    “So-called “locals” aren’t surfers, not in the sense of people who have developed a life-defining love of one of the ocean’s more beautiful phenomenon.”

    So now you’re generalizing all “locals” as non surfers? There is a big difference between the Bay Boy losers and locals who understand safety in the ocean and speak up when someone is in over their head. Lifeguards don’t have time to patrol a lineup for unexperienced surfers who are making it dangerous for everyone, there is definitely still a place for people who command respect by putting in time and earning the right to say something to someone in their local lineup when someone is acting out of line.

    I’m pretty sure I know a lot of people who have “developed a life-defining love of on of the ocean’s more beautiful phenomenon” who would still tell a kook that this might not be the best place for them to surf if they’re paddling for every wave and unknowingly burning people.

    • geechdavies

      hey man you suck

  • geechdavies

    this is crap. localism is the only thing that keeps women out of the sea.

  • Donny Trumps

    time to rip the spot

  • Rexford Tugwell

    Good article. I am a California attorney, and from here on out I will be taking a judgment against anyone who drops in on me. Causes of Action: (1) Nuisance, (2) Trespass.

  • Nick Panasuk

    Good story but you dragged it on and on and on and on and on.

  • Nick Panasuk
  • Reality check

    Dear Mr. Endo, Nice article…well done!

    • geechdavies

      pfft

  • Mitch

    Of course you have this perspective. Your writer profile says it all. You don’t have a home-break that is sacred to you and you are rooted to. You are only considering the visitors perspective to someone’s home-break. What is your favorite restaurant? Is it crowded every time you go? What if it started to be? You show up one day and you can’t get a seat for an hour. You finally get a seat and see what you want to order; try to order it and maybe they are out of it. You can watch someone else enjoy it on the adjacent table. The quality of the restaurant diminishes as it tries to keep up with the influx of people. You just sit and enjoy the sub par cacophony around you. It may not be fair that not everyone gets equal access to waves but it is also not fair for someone who has logged countless hours and dedication to a spot to be relegated to getting the same homogeneous access that a visitor with a soft top should get.

    • freerider

      Some food for thought–seriously…Maybe Mr Endo will be courteous enough to give you a reply

    • Reality check

      Your analogy doesn’t hold water. A restaurant is private property and customers, at their choice, pay for what they get. The Bay is public property and will always maintain it’s quality and sacredness…you don’t own that just because you were born there. If you don’t have the skill to take off behind outsiders it’s time to go surf Middles or the Cove. And how do you reconcile the double standard of not letting others surf your home break while traveling the state/world to surf others home break. That’s what a hypocrite does.

    • Reality check

      Johan Andres Uribe Perez
      said, “So, localism sucks when you aren’t the local, and localism is rad when
      you are the local? Deep thoughts, dude. If you want to control a mile of
      beach, move to South Carolina where it is legal, and put your money
      where you mouth is. Otherwise you are just a parasite and a bully. Thank
      god rock climbing, mountain biking, and back country skiing are not
      full of parasites like surfing, who think they control parts of public
      nature because… they have been there longer?”

  • jazzmangold

    I know one of the named defendants, Brant Blakeman, a 50-something, unemployed trust-fund guy and former PV high school football player, who lives in a P.V. house he inherited from his parents. He doesn’t even surf (he rides on his knees) but bragged to me about his bullying of visitors and, in racist terms, how he personally ran off pro surfer Sunny Garcia when Garcia came to Lunada. He runs interference for sponsored pro surfer Alex Gray, a generally nice guy and PV local, who benefits from the intimidation and violence while turning a blind eye to it when he surfs Lunada. I wonder how Gray’s sponsors feel about this. Alex, are you part of the problem, or are you gonna be part of the solution?

    • BoiseBoy

      Duke Kahanamoku himself could return from the dead and these kooks would still beat the carp out of him.

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