Earlier this week, following the fruitful aftermath of Storm Eleanor, controversy erupted when a photographer’s tyres were slashed and his truck graffitied after his images of a supposedly ‘secret’ wave were published on The Plymouth Herald’s website.
Online opinions have been staunch on both sides of the debate, with some calling out the actions of the photographer and many more deeming the response utterly pathetic, particularly because, they contended, the spot wasn’t even a secret in the first place.
When the story broke in the mainstream press, the general public were baffled, with the comments section providing a healthy reminder of just how far-fetched the tribal ideas that still underpin the surfing world seem to those outside of it.
“What is the fuss about this stupid nonsense” cried Mavis. “All stems from greed just about sums society up these days” lamented Lisa. ‘You really need to grow up and stop insulting people and believing that the ocean belongs to surfers. It truly belongs to the animals that live in it . NOT YOU’ summarised a furious Carol, expressing a sentiment that was echoed by many.
For us, the argument is a little more nuanced. While the van trashing and threats are indefensible, as they would be in virtually any other context in adult life, we do see the angry Janners side of things.
It was a revealing of their cherished spot on a grand scale; not only publicising exactly where and when (so by proxy on what conditions) the wave broke, but also doing it on a large(ish) local platform. These are locals who have spent years figuring it out and waiting for those rare good days. Their understandable worry is that by revealing those details to a city full of surfers, including a transient population of students, those rare good days will end up mobbed by people with little knowledge of or care for the rules, ruining the fun for everyone.
Unfortunately surf guide books, online forecasting sites, google maps, social media and, of course, surf mags like us, put pay to most of the south west’s secrets a long time ago.
While the wave is certainly not the most dangerous in Britain as the original article asserts, (perhaps included as an attempt to deter Janner day trippers with ten quid sponges), it’s true that it doesn’t hold a crowd well, and getting burned out there leaves the burnee hopping off into a few feet of water over sharp craggy reef.
However, to in any way condone the locals intimidation would set a dangerous precedent in a region thankfully almost completely free of localism.
When you go to other countries and experience that shit; those shouty line ups, the threats on the beach, the slashed tyres, it makes you grateful you can come home and surf fun waves without hassle. Localism breeds bad vibes and makes lineups less fun for everyone, except those at the top of the pile- although even they seem perpetually stressed out with their self-imposed roles as maintainers of the pecking order.
Additionally here in Britain we’ve got a ridiculously long coastline, full of (occasionally) epic waves. If your spot has got busier in recent years, that’s a shame, but there’s no point crying over spilt milk. Surfers are perpetually hungry creatures and as a result, when word gets out, the genie never goes back in the bottle. Unfortunately surf guide books, online forecasting sites, google maps, social media and, of course, surf mags like us, put pay to most of the south west’s secrets a long time ago.
The best course of action is to get on the hunt for something else. There’s still empty epic waves out there in our coastlines nooks and crannies and finding a new little slice may be even more rewarding than sliding in at your old one.