You know the story: you’re at a break somewhere you don’t live or regularly surf.
Someone walks/paddles up, almost certainly a male, probably middle-aged but not necessarily, and asks, ‘Where (the fuck) are you from?’
Given the abrupt, aggressive nature of the question, given that the vibe isn’t friendly curiosity as in, ‘oh yeah, my wife’s sister used to work there… do you know the Kings Head pub, curry and quiz night on Thursdays…?’ but more of the initiation of a confrontation, your options, based on a quick summary of the situation are thus threefold:
a) “Fuck off” (be ready for possible fisticuffs)
b) Say where you’re really actually from, sheepishly as in “Erm… just outside Melton Mowbray, actually.”
c) Comedic: “Trenchtown” “King’s Landing” “Tatooine” etc
Your reaction will probably be decided by things like, does he look hard? Is he in a crew?
Only you can really decide the appropriate response (although, always c). I’ve seen all three done.
What I would like to consider is whether you, when being confronted by this every day, generally accepted occurrence around the surf world, are actually the victim of a hate crime?
Let’s ask Wiki:
A hate crime (also known as a bias-motivated crime or bias crime) is a prejudice-motivated crime which occurs when a perpetrator targets a victim because of his or her membership (or perceived membership) in a certain social group or race.
“Hate crime” generally refers to criminal acts which are seen to have been motivated by bias against one or more social groups, or by bias against their derivatives. Incidents may involve physical assault, damage to property, bullying, harassment, verbal abuse or insults, or offensive graffiti.
In 2013, Greater Manchester Police began recording attacks on goths, punks and other alternative groups as hate crimes.
“Are our self-appointed local surf heroes taking cues from the Gestapo?”
The answer therefore, is obviously yes.
Taking exception to you just being there, breathing the air, and then threatening/harassing you, is a hate crime.
Not for dropping in, not for snaking, not paddling up the inside, not endangering the safety of others in the lineup. Just being there, and not being them or their friends.
Being stopped on the street / car park and demanded to reveal your origins has something of the Nazi police about it, doesn’t it? Are our self-appointed local surf heroes taking cues from the Gestapo?
So why is it then that we tolerate, or even accommodate such behaviour? How is it than in our modern society, we as surfers, once considered an open minded, progressive group, are judging people purely on where they come from? Before any perceived infringement has been committed, and breaking of surf code, literally just being there, and coming from elsewhere, means it’s ok to bully, harass or threaten.
“The inter-tidal zone around the UK is, apart from certain exceptions and MoD property one of the precious few remaining areas of common land in our islands”
A UK surf photographer recently told me about a semi pro surfer from England’s South West. Generally speaking, an open-minded, intelligent cat. “He’s pretty much a poet” says the photog, “really progressive and right on in his outlook on most things… and yet when it comes to localism, he wishes there was more of it at his local beach.”
In other words, when it comes to outsiders coming to surf waves he considers to have some kind of territorial claim over, by right of an accident of birth/where his parents decided to raise him, the opposite.
He’s not only a perpetrator of hate crime, but welcomes there being more of it.
Aside from being wholly incorrect in his territorial claim (the intertidal zone around the UK is, apart from certain exceptions and MoD property, one of the precious few remaining areas of common land in our islands) how do we justify surfers holding two apparently opposing sets of values?
Selfishness? Entitlement? The general performative carry on of being a surfer?
I can remember as a kid, outside the shops near my Nan’s, someone had scrawled P**** out”.
The shops had recently being taken over by a family with ethnic origins in the Sub Continent. “That’s disgusting” my nan said, “shame on whoever wrote that.”
Was my 1984 Nan, then in her 80’s, more open-minded, than 2019 surfers? While (hopefully) WL readers will all agree there is no place for those attitudes and acts in today’s society, how come we tolerate similar sentiments against un-local surfers? Why is ok to scrawl “Locals only” as in ‘outsiders don’t belong here’ on a wall near your break?
Despite Greater Manchester Police’s stance on crimes against goths as outlined in the Wikipedia quote above, it’s unlikely Devon & Cornwall Constabulary, for example, will take the same stance on harassment of stoke-seeking grockles and emmets, and class their mistreatment as hate crimes.
So when bolding forging out to surf outposts in search of a wave, it’s worth remembering that there may be folk displeased to see you and your kind, who dispute your right to paddle out. Thus defending your right to surf, your honour, even upholding the law, will probably remain in your own hands.
Physical confrontation is never a good look, and is probably best avoided, and certainly should not be initiated.
Maybe you could start a Crowdfunder to get ‘Locals only’ graffiti removed.
Or, go a different route.
I once saw, at a fairly unspectacular beachbreak near Bude, someone had spray painted ‘If You Don’t Live Here, Don’t Surf Here’ on a wall by the beach steps.
To which someone else, presumably the mini mal toting Melton Mowbray Banksy, had replied,
‘And If You Do Live Here… Unlucky. CUNT.’
Now, now. Can’t we all just play nicely?