Money where mouth is, please.
The new, kinder World Surf League rarely misses an opportunity to build awareness of various en vogue social issues. Much Instagram posting. Many references during professional surfing contests. More Instagram posting. Santa Monica has not shied away from draping itself with the shawl of “awake” and, most recently, published a fine piece celebrating its celebration of Indigenous Peoples Day.
Inspirational, though not to all.
Lauren Mattice, first year law student writing for the University of Southern California’s Daily Trojan, took the opportunity to excoriate the League for its empty performative dance, penning:
Surfing is one of those unique sports that has an integral connection to the land. In the past year, the World Surf League has used its international events as an opportunity to incorporate land acknowledgements into various tour spots, including Lower Trestles on Acjachemen land and Banzai Pipeline on the North Shore of O’ahu. At the WSL Finals this year, Kumeyaay educator Stan Rodriguez hosted a tule boat build, a demonstration wherein he used harvested materials to create an original California watercraft.
The WSL also hosts grant programs, panels and other events that showcase Indigenous engagement with the sport. These are moves primarily geared to shift narratives surrounding the use of Indigenous land by the surfing community. What these moves don’t do is take responsibility for — or at least grapple with — the richest of the surfing world moving onto Indigenous lands and exacerbating issues of socioeconomic inequality, houselessness and environmental displacement.
She pivots to surfing’s troubled history, evil white prospectors stealing Hawaii’s Sport of Kings, exporting it to coastal California, being naughty etc. before shifting to what the World Surf League should do if it actually cared.
If the World Surf League, or anyone in the surf community, really wanted to give back to Indigenous Peoples whose land was pulled out from under them to the former’s benefit, then land acknowledgment and donation can’t be the end. Returning the land, decommodifying it and investing in its recovery from the degradation it suffered while stolen — all while working with the consent of Indigenous Peoples — is the next step that should be lobbied for to truly honor the sport and its creators.
I very much agree that the WSL should, at the very least, return Trestles.
Final’s Day is yuck.