LOCALISM AND HIERARCHY: NECESSARY EVILS?
Surfing has few rules but a fierce code of etiquette that confounds newcomers. At most surf breaks surfers take turns for waves and those with the most skill, experience and knowledge get the best waves. At many spots this leads to an informal hierarchy. Top dogs get the sets while groms and travellers contend for scraps and wide ones. Drop-ins, aggro and hassling are unnecessary and if you put in enough time you rise through the ranks. Unfortunately this meritocracy unravels when it becomes overloaded. Crowding – and the fear of it occurring – encourages surfers to herd together and become territorial. According to surf historian Matt Warshaw localism dates back to the '40s but became widespread when surfing boomed in the '70s. While violent localism has been in decline it remains in some form at most popular surf breaks. Some argue that localism is justified because it maintains order, protects secret spots and limits overcrowding. While travellers may not be welcomed at localised breaks they are rarely harassed unless they arrive in packs or behave disrespectfully. But there is an equally strongly held view that localism is greed dressed up as stewardship, that it cuts against surfing's egalitarian spirit, and that the ocean should be free and open to all comers. Into this turbulent mix add the contested rights of body boarders, longboards, SUPs, old legends, beginners, and assertive modern groms and you've got a brilliant case study in human behaviour. You've also got bedlam. Panel discussion: do localism and hierarchies do more good than harm?
Slater gets a lesson in Snapper Rocks surf etiquette.||