The Inertia Contributing Writer
Surfers clash with riot police over a beach being destroyed to protect a roadway.

Surfers clash with riot police over a beach being destroyed to protect a roadway. Photo: Renzo Giraldo

The Inertia

There are way, way too many incidents to list in the long and sordid history of surfers clashing with lawmen. But we’ve tried anyway. From the idealogical to the brainless, here’s a list of surfer v. police skirmishes, skewing to the important, the amusing, and the peculiar.

1. Riot at U.S. Open of Surfing, Huntington Beach, 2013

Most of us probably remember this ugly chapter from 2013 where a bunch of people went ape shit for no apparent reason, knocking over porta-potties and throwing bottles at police officers. No lofty ideals here! To be fair, the melee occurred at a surf contest attended by thousands, so those who partook may or may not have been surfers themselves. Whoever they were, it took 250 officers, an unknown number of pepper balls and rubber bullets to bring the rioters to an stop. The incident led to at least one thought-provoking article on race and some 20 arrests. It also builds on the heritage of the OP Pro Riots of 1986, but we’re sticking with the most recent random act of violence from good ‘ol Surf City USA.

Surfers trying to stop dump trucks from unloading boulders onto the beach.

Surfers trying to stop dump trucks from unloading boulders onto the beach. Photo: Renzo Giraldo

2. Protests at Costa Verde, Peru, 2015

Last year, Peruvian surfers banded together to protect a choice Lima-area wave, the right hand, pretty-big-wave spot at La Pampilla Beach, which was threatened by the construction of a retaining wall – part of the questionable expansion of a coastal highway. Demonstrators formed a human barricade to prevent the dumping of boulders on the beach. Others paddled out in defiance, followed by riot police who actually waded into the surf to apprehend them. The good news is, all of this was apparently successful at saving the wave.

Towns/Raalhugandu, the homebreak. Image courtesy of Aiham

Towns/Raalhugandu, the homebreak. Image courtesy of Aiham

3. Maldivian Mayhem, 2016

Just last month, Maldivian po-po slapped 11 surfers in steel bracelets for protesting the construction of a $300 million bridge linking Male to the airport island, a project they felt would destroy local waves. Given the history in the Indian Ocean nation of waves like Sultans and Honkies just barely evading privatization, it figures why local surfers might get defensive. The protesters, including the Maldives Surfing Association president Ahmed Aznil, swam toward a tugboat in their unsuccessful bid. The Maldives has numerous surf spots, but weirdly many of them are reserved for surf tourists, not locals. The spots the protesters were looking to save are among the only available to locals.  


4. Kelly Slater, Crime of Passion, 2007

Let’s not forget about the 11-time world champ’s former lothario streak and subsequent run in with Israeli cops, who detained him for a scuffle with photographers who were seeking to capture the mind-boggling attractiveness of the surf god at the side of his womanfriend, Israeli goddess-slash-supermodel Bar Rafaeli.

5. Superferry Protests, Hawaii, 2010

Kauai residents were none too pleased about the specter of daily trips by the 800-passenger, 200-car Superferry arriving from Oahu. They too deployed the human chain, a bobbing flotilla of surfers stretched across the mouth of Nawiliwili Harbor. Not even the Coast Guard could break up the chain, which forced the ferry to turn tail and steam back to Oahu. The 5-0 was none too pleased, however, tossing over a dozen protesters in the clink.  

6. Surf Rage on the Gold Coast, 2012

When the waves on the Gold Coast are on fire, so are tempers at the ultra-crowded D-bah and Snapper, where police have taken to patrolling lineups and first responders are busy with fin chops. Does make you wonder: What happens when one of those cops is a surfer? Maybe they help burned surfers enact revenge on chronic snakers.

7. Deep Sea Drilling Protest, Raglan, New Zealand, 2011

Despite roadblocks and being tailed by the fuzz, Raglan surfers paddled out near the ship Polarcus Alima — owned by the same folks who owned the Deepwater Horizon well — stationed for deep sea oil exploration. Surfers managed to evade the po long enough to raise signs reading “Stop Deep Sea Oil.”

The horrific scene we found in Taiji, Japan at a location we dubbed the Killing Cove. Image courtesy of Oceanic Preservation Society

The horrific scene found in Taiji, Japan at a location we dubbed the Killing Cove. Image courtesy of Oceanic Preservation Society

8. Pilot Whale Slaughter, Japan, 2007

A group of surfers including Aussie style master Dave Rastovich formed a circle to stage a surfer’s funeral ceremony over the slaughter of whales and dolphins in Japan’s Taiji Bay. Sadly, cetaceans that fisherman had rounded up were eventually slaughtered anyway. Japanese po-po briefly detained several surfers, but set them free without arrest.

9. Mitch Coleborn, Indecent Exposure, 2010

An apparently very hungover Mitch Coleborn found himself faced with being on the Canadian sex offender registry for taking a slash outside an elementary school around 8 in the morning on a weekday. Canadian officials only surrended his passport — allowing him to travel from Tofino to Santa Cruz for a Cold Water Classic event — after paying a whopping $5,000.


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