As much of Europe starts to emerge from lockdown to varying degrees at varying rates, and we start to imagine and build the new normal, coastal dwellers and out of towners consider their positions along a shifting idealogical fault line.
In much of mainland Europe, identifying the interloper at distance has generally been a more straightforward affair. Car number plates give away instant status, or lack of.
In France, a simple two number code in each plate (40 for Les Landes (Hossegor), 64 for Pays Basque (Biarritz), etc) reveals the driver’s origin for all to behold.
Your Parisian station wagon pulling up at a semi secret Hossegor-adjacent sandbar, a Madridista T6 California trying to stay inconspicuous at a moody Basque Country reef…. Good luck with keeping that on the down low.
It’s the administrative equivalent of a permanent ‘Hey I’m not from around here,’ almost as if conceived by the powerful surf wax manufacturers’ lobby hoping to open up the lucrative emerging windscreens market.
Once in Bakio in the Spanish Basque Country, I witnessed a hierarchy of abuse visited upon different cars in a group; Spanish plate (worst), French (moderate), French Basque Co. (light). Even the victims couldn’t help but be impressed with the nuanced vandalism.
Like so many things, hate of the other is a spectrum.
Elsewhere, in the Bude area of Cornwall, some friends and I used to witness a local dishing out his brand of hostility at a broad range of breaks located quite some driving distance from each other, giving rise to the inevitable question of how far can you be from home and still be a local? We wondered how far did his jurisdiction reach, in his own mind?
Kilkhampton shops to that signpost before Morwenstowe? Is it like an MP’s constituency?
Then of course, rather than straddling physical distances, there is the localism that requires the stretching of reality, to some kind of alternative universe.
Who could possibly forget the Scouse SUPer telling someone to “Fuck off back to England” in Cornwall? Genius.
As spring 2020 peeks sheepishly towards summer 2020, and surfing ceases to become an arrestable at gunpoint offence, we’re faced with the dawn of a different kind of localism.
Not so much idealogical, about rights and privileges to lineup access and set waves but a more visceral, biological aversion.
“Coming down here, killing our Nans, overwhelming our A&E’s… oh and btw, you’re a kook. Zip goes at the back, bellend…”
As if we didn’t live in a polarised enough society, with our culture wars, echo chambers and partisanship on every issue, a residual and lasting doubling down of surf localism feels inevitable.
In our current situation, it’s state sponsored, police enforced aversion to blow-ins. If you don’t live here, don’t surf here… it’s literally against the law.
In France, which like most of The Continent has taken a more rigid approach to lockdown rules compared to Britain, has imposed a 100km restriction on travel for our current easing phase.
I’ve looked on Google Maps, there’s a village in the Gers, 99km east of Hossegor called Ayzieux. If you’re west Ayzieux’s local shredder, you are, presumably, stoked.
Or at least will be from this weekend, when the lineups are expected to open for surfers here.
The UK has no set limit, although you are supposed to be sleeping at your principal residence. You could in theory drive from London to Cornwall every day to surf, as long as you drive home again.
Probably not a great idea.
I never did quite understand why surfers who lived next to a beach in Britain where surfing wasn’t banned had decided not to, if they could do it avoiding other humans.
I personally didn’t for one minute understand why, if you knew you could get up at 5am, walk down in your suit and paddle out in the dark, shred and get home without seeing a soul, why you possibly wouldn’t want to?
If transmission is out, how accident prone are you in the surf? Surely you generally back yourself to emerge from a 2ft West Country beachbreak without requiring medical treatment at least 99 times out of a hundred?
If you seek stoke but don’t want to be a super-spreader, much less the target of post Covid neo-localism, a general rule moving forward could be to orientate your surfing goals towards surfing places nobody else is.
My own deal used to be to try and surf alone with one mate. We’d go to all sorts of lengths not to surf with other people if at all possible, it’s nowhere near as hard as you think. Sure, there’s gonna be no lifeguards and you’re going to be in the middle of nowhere.
Now if that is in any way a potential deterrent for you rather than part/most/all of the appeal, then definitely don’t.
Let’s hope we all emerge with new ways to appreciate each other’s co-existence on our little spinning elipsoid for but the most brief of blinks on the infinite space time continuum, but let’s also prepare for a perhaps likelier renewal of traditional surfing hostilities.
When it came to dealing with ruffians, bullies, bigger boys and ne’er do wells, my mum’s advice, if crap, was at least consistent.
“Well just… try and stay away from them.”
It’s worked ok so far.