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Locals Only Surf Art by Damian Fulton

Last year in Santa Cruz, a young surfer was killed in the infamous West Side just because of a sticker he had on his board. My point is: we are all missing the point. Art: DamianFulton.com


The Inertia

So here it is, I’ll be the first to say it: I abused my powers as a so-called local. I let the measly amount of time I spent in the same waters, or endless hours checking the same surf report, get to my head.

It had been three days of mediocre surf and similar weather on the Central Coast and despite the gloom, the beaches were crawling with tourists, the whitewash full of weekend warriors. Our usual crowd of 5 or so swelled to roughly 15 (I know what you’re thinking: “Oh, he suffers so!”).

I was out enjoying a friend’s borrowed fish with a couple of the usual folks when our afternoon took a turn for the worse. As a choppy set wave peeled into the line-up I was sitting in the right spot, but as I stood-up something flashed quickly in front of me.

A fucking boogie-boarder. What the hell was this? How could he miss my bright-red board? “Calm down,” I thought, “He is probably new. Remember what you learned from those who taught you. Educate kindly.” And so I bailed, took the chest high-slop on the head and paddled back out.

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“How was it?” My buddy Mike hollers at me from the other side of the line-up.

“I was snaked by a sponge,” I bitched back.

Mike laughs, “Remember! Educate and encourage,” he says. So that’s how it started.

I paddled over to the boogie-boarder and said condescendingly, “Hey Buddy! Next time you see me on a wave before you’re on it, make sure you watch out, okay?”

He looked at me like I was stupid, “Ya man, okay.” He quipped. And would you believe it, the very next wave on which I found myself there in front of me flashed that damn sponge. I was fuming.

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“Hey, watch out!” I screamed. But he only glided further in front of me. Bullshit. Even after I tried to educate and encourage him? Unbelievable.

Needless to say I once again ate shit in the white wash and was forced to crawl disgraced back to the lineup. But, I decided I was going give that sponge HELL. That was the last time!

As soon as I saw him, “What the hell was that?”

He didn’t look phased, “Shut your fucking mouth buddy!”

Seriously? Shut my fucking mouth? I had been courteous, I warned him after all. That was it. I went off. I exploded. I had enough!

I couldn’t give you a verbatim repeat of what I said, but it wasn’t very nice, it wasn’t very badass either, and it definitely was not very local.

It went something like, “Know your place in the line-up, sponge, ya-da-ya-da-ya-da…I’m just watching out for your safety ya-da-ya-da-ya-da…who the fuck do you think you are? ya-da-ya-da-ya-da…”

And though initially he persisted, he finally broke.

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“Ok, I’m sorry man, I didn’t know it was such a big deal. Don’t worry it won’t happen again.”

“That’s what I thought.” I made my way back to my high horse in the line-up.

And the next 15 minutes were beautiful. Every wave I caught was sans boogie-boarder. Not a sponge in sight as I slid across the water.

However, my guilty conscience caught up with me quickly, and I began dissecting my afternoon’s interactions. Had I done the right thing?

Of course. I surf here everyday, I know the pecking order, respect the locals, don’t mess with us.

Respect the locals, I mean that’s what Coco Nogales said about Puerto right?

Sunny Garcia showed us how to protect our friends in Australia, and even Sunny learned his ways in the insanely localized North Shore.

No, no, no. That’s not right, that’s not why I surf. I am no different than the sponger. We are both here for the same thing. Being at each other’s throats achieved absolutely nothing.

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My entire surfing life, those around me (all except once) had always been helpful, educational, and encouraging towards my surfing, and, believe me, I did not always deserve it. In the beginning, I would paddle straight into the pack and battle for waves without even waiting my turn. It didn’t help that I had no idea what surf etiquette was. Nonetheless, somehow they found the kindness to educate and inspire me. And not letting that guy catch waves was the exact opposite. It did nothing for him, and only served to make me look like a giant prick.

Another 15 minutes of solo waves carried on, and the debate raged on in my head as the guilt grew further in my soul. I couldn’t carry on like this. Surfing isn’t surfing when I have this feeling of guilt. These empty waves aren’t worth it.

So as I cruised back to the line-up and passed the boogie-boarder I stopped.

“Hey man, what’s your name?”

“Paul,” He grimaced.

“Paul, I’m sorry. What I said was wrong, I had no right to go off on you like that. My name is Marvin. Why don’t you come into the lineup and rotate through with us?”

“Thanks Marvin.”

Head held higher (albeit only slightly), he kicked his way over to the rest of us. The rest of the afternoon was much simpler, and the issue of being snaked disappeared. Rotation ran seamlessly and everyone got his or her fair share of waves. It was beautiful.

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As the session wore on, I got a new perspective. Through conversation I learned Paul had lived here longer than me, even if he hadn’t been in the water as long. What shone through the most was his passion for the ocean; it was unsurprisingly similar to mine, and the rest of the folks in the water.

He was the same. The sponge he rode was a product of necessity. Paul would surf if he could and I offered him the use of an extra board the next day to which he gladly obliged.

I was lucky to salvage my bad behavior before it was too late, but often time’s surfers fail to show redeeming qualities when being proud about their communities.

Last year in Santa Cruz for example, a young surfer was killed in the infamous West Side just because of a sticker he had on his board.

And if you want to take a look right in front of you at the latest “Pirate Invasion” of Lower Trestles, you will see perhaps the most well-documented blatant localism in years.

My point is, that we are all missing the point. Our aggression towards each other is a slap in the face to surfing’s forefathers. Surfing is a celebration of life! It is meant to enjoy, if you aren’t going to open your mind to at least the possibility of happiness then you have no place in the water.

Look no further than the Paskowitz clan. Through all the B.S. they deal with in life and inter-family turmoil, they all take solace in surfing. Look at Robert August, Paul Strauch, Wingnut & Co. When did the “Endless Summer” attitude end? When did being territorial become cool?

Let’s get back to basics, back to sharing. Stop remembering better times and create better times. Be kind to all, share, smile, let it slide, and inspire each other! Let’s change the direction of surfing.

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Don’t let something so beautiful slip away. In a world where hiding from problems is near impossible, let’s not ruin the last sacred temple.

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