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Who done it? Photo:  Kelly Slater

Who done it? Photo: Kelly Slater

Fuckwit? Who you callin’ a fuckwit? In a controversial, not-so-recent Instagram post, Kelly Slater went back and forth with a few die-hard Gold Coast locals over a photo he uploaded of “FUCKWIT” tagged in wax across his windshield. While the details of the event remain unclear — i.e. whether or not the tagger knew it was Kelly’s car — or even if the perpetrator was a Goldie local, these details are beside the point. The heated discussion over Instagram reveals an underlying trend in localism these days: an unfettered disregard for logic.

Talk about biting the hand that feeds you. Kelly has contributed so much to contemporary surfing — from setting trends in board design to setting the stage for numerous modern maneuvers — that very few can truthfully say their surfing would be exactly what it is without his influence. For this very reason it seems counterintuitive for anyone to accept all these advances and then attack him through social media.

Usually localism occurs for one of two reasons: to maintain the exclusivity of a spot, or for the sake of others’ safety. While sometimes the means of achieving these objectives is questionable, at the very least there is some sort of logic behind it. In Kelly’s case, however, it’s extremely doubtful that he was putting others’ safety at risk, and when it comes to exclusivity, Kelly mentions himself, “I’m no ‘local’ but I’ve been surfing here since 1987 and it’s always been crowded beyond belief.”

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Considering all of this, the question remains — why? Why do surfers continue to hate on other surfers for no reason?

Maybe this time it was for attention, or maybe it was just a way to blow off steam built up from the frustration of dealing with crowds in the lineup. No matter the case, it simply doesn’t make sense.

Even the traditional idea of maintaining the secrecy of a spot, though, is on shaky footing these days. Many surfers are quick to be territorial when it comes to their home breaks, but also spend their time surfing other waves across the globe. If they have the right to be territorial at home, why do they feel that they also have the right to invade other people’s home breaks? This way of thinking truly undermines the necessity for mutual respect.

In no way does this mean surfing must become lollipops and rainbows all the time, but the appropriation of surf spots among certain groups defies the idea that most if not all people commonly agree with: the ocean doesn’t belong to anyone. Also, seeking to maintain the exclusivity of a spot in the face of a growing surfing population is a fleeting exercise in futility. If a spot is that great, something’s gotta give eventually.

By its very nature localism also alienates surfers from one another — the ones in the club that are allowed to surf the spot versus everyone else. But what if all of a sudden the people that had been turned away for so long were needed in order to keep the wave alive?

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Lowers, for example, can be one of the best but most frustrating waves on the planet due to how crowded it can get. But the same throngs of surfers that flock there day in and day out were the same ones that came together for the Save Trestles campaign, opposing the toll road extension that threatened the wave. For more localized spots, the threat of suddenly losing them to development is much higher because there are less people to protect them.

When it boils down to it, acts of localism are just one person or group’s attempt to take out their anger on others, and in many ways they lack any kind of logical footing. It is therefore up to us to decide if we’d rather perpetuate this dog-eat-dog form of surfing, or approach things in a more reasonable way.

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