Surfing is a great way to get comfortable in the ocean, stay in shape, and enjoy the outdoors. However, there are also some downsides. Some people hate it, but most can’t ever seem to get enough.
Sure, it may be the most difficult thing you’ll ever try to learn, but just ask a surfer: it’s worth it. Some find relaxation in the open ocean, while others find solace or challenge. The adrenaline rush of riding a monster wave appeals to some. Others enjoy small, peeling waves, gracefully “hanging ten” (ten toes over the nose) as the more advanced surfers do, or wobbling around trying to keep balance as those of us who begin do.
Although surfing brings great joy and satisfaction to many a surfer, there are some negative aspects. It is important to know these factors well, and if you do end up falling in love with wave riding, please do your best to help change them!
What is localism, you ask? It is the intense guarding of surf breaks by folks (usually considered “locals”) who surf there almost, if not every day.
This phenomenon is rarely experienced unless one enters the surfing world. If you’ve never surfed, and don’t know anyone who does, the notion might seem absurd. In fact, it is not only very real, but can lead from confrontation to violence.
Surfing is probably one of the most selfish sports out there. “Team” isn’t the mentality often associated with your run of the mill surfers. Each wave is a priceless gem and every surfer longs for the thrill of dropping down the face of wave, leaving a trail of salty spray behind.
Some surfers are so territorial about their “spots” that an unrecognizable person will most likely get yelled out of the water. If this unlucky individual doesn’t listen the first time around, threats and violence may ensue.
Any surfer that is not pretty damn good is called a “kook.” This term is thrown around lightly, but can also be a bitter word of hate if crossing the wrong person’s path.
Best advice: surf friendly beginner spots when you’re a beginner. Learn about the area your surfing before just charging out there. Girls have the advantage on this one, but even we aren’t totally in the clear. Chances are you’ll be fine, but it never hurts to be cautious. If there’s one thing surfer’s care about above all else, it’s catching endless amounts of waves. You don’t want get in their way. To be a smarter surfer, learn more about localism.
Forget about it. According to National Geographic, “the United States averages just 16 shark attacks each year and slightly less than one shark-attack fatality every two years. Meanwhile, in the coastal U.S. states alone, lightning strikes and kills more than 41 people each year.”
Take a minute to think about that one. If you are attacked, fate had it out for you and it would’ve happened one way or another.
Degraded Water Quality
Poo water stinks.
Nobody wants to paddle around in a murky, bacteria-rich cesspool. Each winter, heavy rains bring all sorts of toxics and chemicals from our vapid wasteland into the unwelcoming sea. Everyone suffers.
“You can get sick from all the run-off coming out of overflowing sewage systems,” said Josh Berry, Environmental Director for Save The Waves Coalition.
San Francisco is no exception.
This, unfortunately, leads to hyper-localism. With the increase in the worldwide surf population over the past 50 years, you can forget about all that “sharing is caring” B.S.
Most surfers dream about finding a perfect, barreling wave. Deserted.
In reality, this rarely happens.
So, we do what we can. Beginner’s breaks are always the worst, so learn your defensive strategies first. You may be a beginner, but there are lots of us out there, and someone could be uncontrollably headed straight for you.
Remember how mom and dad always told you to “never turn your back on the ocean?” Well never turn your back on a slew of surfers either. Stay alert. Perhaps wear a helmet.
Surfing Is Perfection
Some believe that all of the factors above are a pittance compared to the ultimate joy of surfing. And as with most things in life, surfing is a give and take situation.
It’s important to stay positive, towards others and yourself. Be conscious where and what you dump because remember: “all street drains lead to the sea.”
As far as overcrowding and localism go— we must all learn to deal with it. Be a good sport and remember to share the ocean.