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Inertia: “Surfers to blame for genocide!”

Chas Smith

by Chas Smith

The home of thinking surfers points the finger at you!

In a piece of alt-left performance art, Venice-adjacent #vanlife blog The Inertia published a piece this morning blaming surfers for genocide, violent expansionism, oppression, racism and proto-fascism.

It is almost too good to be true!

The Inertia editor, frustrated with surfing’s portrayal in mainstream culture, finds solace in an article by a different The Inertia contributor for KCET titled The Complicated History of Indigenous Knowledge and Colonial Entanglements in Surfing.

Should we read some select passages?

Duh!

A more accurate understanding of the history of surf culture in California, however, must consider the historical context of the state and its own history of genocide. Although surfing first appeared in 1885, it was fleeting. Surf culture is generally acknowledged to have been planted in Southern California in 1907, when a young Hawaiian named George Freeth was hired by land developers Abbot Kinney and Henry Huntington to give surfing demonstrations as a marketing tool to entice the sales of coastal properties.

Until then, most of the population in the Los Angeles area was concentrated inland. Coastal areas were relatively unpopulated, having been scrubbed of an indigenous presence due to the ravages of Spanish, Mexican, and U.S. colonialism. Those who survived the foreign diseases and the mission system had been forced to move away or into new identities under state and federal policies designed to eradicate them first physically via outright killing, and later through forced assimilation.

Coastal lands, now largely free of a visible indigenous population, had fallen into predominantly white ownership within a few short decades after California statehood in 1850. The large ranchos that descended as Spanish and Mexican land grants were swindled out of Mexican ownership by corrupt American laws designed specifically to enable white settler ownership.

In other words, from the very beginning, surfers have been blissfully unaware — or perhaps unconcerned — that their beloved sport was founded on a history of indigenous erasure, in both Hawaii and California.

Boom!

How much do you hate yourself right now? Like, enough to stop surfing? Like, enough to apologize for ever surfing in the first place? Like, enough to read The Inertia out loud every single morning while apologizing and not surfing to passersby as penitence?

I hope so, but there is no way you could hate yourself more than The Inertia. I can only imagine the interior of their #vanlife is filled with tools for self mutilation, posters of Edward Scissorhands and also a few longboard skateboards.

#vanlife!

Speaking of, I’m working on my doctoral thesis right now. It is titled The Uncomplicated History of Child Molestation and Hemp Fabrication in Van Life.

It should be done soon.

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