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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.||

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