"The performance of masculinity in settler states like Australia and California is tightly linked with upholding colonizers’ whiteness."
A bombshell essay on the news blog Zócalo Public Square has revealed “whiteness” to be the poison that has made the seemingly innocent pastime of surfing “dependent on toxic chemicals, mass death, and uncheckable greed.”
Author Maya Weeks self-describes as “a white settler transdisciplinary artist, writer, and geographer from California working on ocean justice with particular attention to climate, pollution, and gender.”
Her ethical surfing bona fides are beyond question.
“I sit on my log in the lineup, waiting, watching the horizon (no glasses, no contacts, just vibes) in between bits of conversation. I say hi to everybody; I’m from a small town. I call my board a log but it’s not, it’s a performance longboard for a man twice my size, a literal dad board for going fast and doing longboard cutbacks. I prefer riding hand-me-downs. It’s another way to be connected with the people I surf with and the water I surf in.”
The essay nails, point by dreadful point, the descent of surfing from joyous, shared pastime of Hawaiians to the vile broth of “white masculinity” it is today.
Important passages, though I recommend reading the essay in its entirety.
“Surfing has a reputation for embodying all the most annoying and violent aspects of white masculinity, and for good reason. Contrary to its roots as a kānaka maoli (Native Hawaiian) cultural practice, modern surfing as widely distributed by white men has been a font of rugged masculinity, hyperindividualism, and conquering (especially when it comes to big waves). I’m thinking of white locals in my hometown telling visitors “we grew here, you flew here”; of white men stealing the waves of people they don’t know; of the way professional surf contests as late as the 2000s were set up to give women the worst conditions to surf in as well as far-from-equitable prize money; of white American men leasing private islands to capitalize on as surf resorts; of literal surf Nazis.”
“At the Chevron Estero Bay Marine Terminal, crude oil was loaded onto tankers from 1929 until 1999. In 1940, the U.S. Navy “established an amphibious training base” in Morro Bay due to its coastal location and harbor, town boosters Roger Castle and Gary Ream report in Images of America: Morro Bay… These industries offered high-paying jobs that afforded their employees—mainly white men—the ability to live on the coast. The white men who dominated these industries were, therefore, the same as those who dominated surf lineups. They brought the mentalities of the industries into the lineup with them. With this information, surfing begins to look less like a fun pastime and more an offshoot of a grim regime dependent on toxic chemicals, mass death, and uncheckable greed.”
“The performance of masculinity in settler states like Australia and California is tightly linked with upholding colonizers’ whiteness. Whether those who perform them realize it or not, the aggressive behaviors listed above are grasps to maintain a status quo that overwhelmingly favors a white patriarchy that manages how wealth, power, and free time for recreation flow.”