The warm fist of localism still got a place in our little world?
New York surfer Tyler Breuer runs a neat little podcast called Swellseason Surf. I’m a big fan, and not just ‘cause he interviewed ya boy a couple years back.
I listen because it plugs into a local level of the community in a way most surf media don’t. It studies a surfing fabric that will withstand market plunges, tour takeovers, and foil invasions. The core, as we call it.
This week Tyler sat down with a local enforcer from the Hamptons, Steven Bedford Browd (unfortunately no relation to the delicious Stuart, the “good-looking, hot-tempered” former WCT surfer) to discuss growing up in a time when the surfer’s code was as real as a punch in the face on a cold winter’s morning.
For those that haven’t been there, the thought of an enforcer from the playground of New York’s rich and famous might seem ridiculous. But beneath the Gatsby mansions is a working class neighbourhood with a strong surf community. Picture Sydney’s northern beaches pre-eighties property explosion, maybe.
I think you’ll find, SBB’s experience of localism would ring just as true in Steamer Lane or the Bells bowl as it does on that 100 mile stretch.
You can listen here.
Many will dismiss their chat as two dinosaurs waxing lyrical about the bad old days that surfing, as a mature mainstream sport, has put behind it.
On receiving grom abuse:
“To be tortured, to be hammered like that. These are good things.”
On the breaking down of ego, confidence and self worth by tribal elders:
“They take it away from you but give it back to you in pieces.”
On treatment of outsiders:
“There’d be eight or ten of us circling around a grown adult splashing him, yelling ‘beat it kook!’ And the guy deserved it.”
A modern day reading would call this behaviour sociopathic.
Exploitation. Grooming. The type of actions that’d send people into breakdown. Get bosses fired from workplaces. Or worse.
“Ya gotta have rules and ya gotta have discipline,” muttered Kevin Bacon’s paedophile prison guard as he prepared to molest his victims in the cult classic Sleepers.
I know good surfers, great surfers, whom I respect immensely, that have no time for localism.
A masochistic anachronism.
Tribalism at its worse.
But, I still in the Bedford Brown camp. Localism has a place. Maybe not on a two-foot straighthander beachbreak. Or in the hands of a power-hungry psychopath.
But at a reef ledge. Or a crowded local lineup. Environments where actions have consequences. Heaving sweeps and splitting lips.
There’s no room for democracy when people can get hurt.
Ya gotta have rules. Ya gotta have discipline. People need to know their place.
And ya gotta have community, which is something SBB and Tyler touch on too.
I see it now at my home beach. It’s very quickly becoming gentrified. Cafes, apartment blocks, shared workspaces. Instagram geotagging going off its tits.
With that comes the new breed of VAL. Over entitled, over confident, and over here.
Our local boardriders has made a concerted effort to change with the times. Comps most months. Club functions every other. No beers until after the final. Welcoming to all levels of surfer, especially the groms and families. An inclusive environment ‘creating a community through surfing’ as the tagline goes.
But it still formalises a chain of command. Cultivates respect. Keeps local songlines in tact, or whatever you want to call it.
Is it working? Maybe.
A couple of comps ago on a small, windblown day. We were the only surfers on the usually crowded beach. Some aggressively intermediate type on a Spinetek that nobody knows decides to paddle out and sit on the four guys in the water. He’s politely told by the surfers out there that they’re in the final, and that there’s any number of shitty windblown peaks he could sit on up and down the beach.
He takes exception, bellies a wave in, storms the tower, and attempts to take on what he assumes to be a bunch of boneheaded Spicolis.
“I’m a lawyer,” he blusters. “Jurisprudence of public spaces means you can’t take over this bank, blah blah blah.“
Sorry mate, we say as we flash him our council papers and approval. But we can.
Back in the day he’d have been pelted with beer cans, cold sausages. Forbidden from returning. But instead he’s beaten at his own game.
He backs down, saunters off, and hasn’t been spotted since.
Maybe it’s a win. Maybe it’s not.
But localism in the 21st century be that way.