An Obsession with the Local (Spot)
Are you a naughty local?
There’s an old adage in surfing: “The meanest locals are only that way because they’ve never been able to go anywhere in their lives.”
I call balderdash.
The meanest locals are that way because they’ve been a fair few places in their lives, and when they got there, they weren’t allowed to catch any of the best waves. So what did they do? They came back and implemented those same territorial practices at their own spot. A true ring of rancor.
But this character, the angry local, is not exclusively a hater. He’s also a lover… a lover of one thing and one thing only, that being his homebreak. On days warm and cold, with conditions flawless or deformed, the local protects his homebreak like a first-born child. He defends it from blasphemers, smooth-talkers, and bad influences. He’s even known to shove pictures of his baby in your face, despite the fact nobody really gives a shit. And while he’s not oblivious to your feigned enthusiasm, he gives zero credence your opinion because it’s his local and it he loves it.
But sometimes that love goes way too far.
Today, I was the victim of first-degree tube theft. The assailant? My good friend and host in the wonderful city of Sydney, Sam Jones.
Sam is a man of the world. He’s chased waves from New South Wales’ north coast to its south, he’s been to the Gold Coast at least once, and more recently he’s grown an affinity for Tasmania’s favored stair set. Perhaps most telling of Sam’s spirit was a solo mission into the heart of the Eyre Peninsula, in which he used the continual shrill of deep-house music to energize his mind over the twenty-hour drive. Australia is a big world.
Despite his innernational outings, there’s nowhere Sam would rather surf than his stupid, horseshit local. Deadman’s is a chunky reef with a roll-in and a step, and by Sam’s own admission, he gets a decent barrel on roughly two of 100 waves he surfs there. He also surfs it every time it breaks.
How do I know that? Well,
This week we traveled down the coast for a swell, where the conditions were meant to be superior to those in Sydney. For two straight days, Sam could not stop bitching about his local.
“Ahhh mate what if it’s pumping?
“I’ve been waiting all season to surf it.”
“I’m gonna be spewin’ if it’s fun at home.”
“I honestly wouldn’t even care if we missed good waves here and get skunked at home. I think we should go back.”
We’ve all felt this pain. Six years ago I moved west from New Jersey, and to this day it’s difficult to watch a twirling swell in the Garden State. Using empathy and logic, I did my best to console young Sam, but every time I talked him off the ledge, he’d return ten minutes later with a minor variation on the same eye-rolling rhetoric.
Must. Surf. Deadman’s.
Sam became so obsessed that, after checking a spot that was maybe too big to surf this morning, he turned the car around and, without saying a word, started driving back toward his hometown. I bitched and moaned but to no avail. Sam simply couldn’t handle the thought of missing a decent day at his local.
And perhaps mediocre would be a better way to describe it. I surfed for two hours and caught nothing of note. Sam surfed for five hours and, to his credit, bagged a handful of decent tubes. On one wave, he mistimed the chip shot and was forced to drop in on his belly. From there, he managed to perform a prone bottom turn, pop-up in the pocket, and double-arm stall for a cheeky rinse. He does surf the place well.
Sam doing what Sam does. Deadman’s, today. Clip by @tim_bonython
A few hours later, we turned to the world’s greatest envy-maker, Instagram.
And wouldn’t you know it, the place we’d left that morning went absolutely bonkers in the afternoon. While we chased the dragon, six-foot throat monsters discharged their phlegm over more patient men in the south.
And as my heart plunged, Sam’s smile refused to fade. It was only then that I realized quality is a relative term, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and control, perhaps most importantly, is the hands of the keyholder.
This is why, beyond their acting like petulant sandbox children, I find “locals” completely irrational. They view their homebreak through such rose-tinted lenses, that it’s impossible to recognize a rotten tomato even when they’re biting into it.
Which is fine, but please, don’t push your fetid produce onto me.
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