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Take Five: EP 21 Is surf localism racism?

07.07.21 – TAGS: , ,

“Hey haole, beat it!”

If you’ve surfed certain regions in the South Pacific to any significant degree, you’ve probably heard this catchy little phrase of endearment either directed at you or, hopefully, someone else.

Or, perhaps, it was in Australia and it was timeless classic, “fuck arf seppo.”

Or, the many other global variations on the theme.

But, truth be told, we’ve all done it one way or another.

We see a new face paddle out at our local and we give them the “who da guy” look. Maybe grumble under our breath about all the blow-ins recently, or something equally demeaning. All the while the very real possibility that some basic undertones of what one might consider a tacit racism is creeping out from under our shallow sarcasms.

A new face can just feel threatening for some reason.

Pretty simple really, you’re not from here so we don’t like you.


Not a new conversation by any means but there has been a recent uptick in harassment of surfers of color, which would certainly seem to be related to an overlying political polarization of which has only further divided us.

However, the question still begs: does surf localism actually take on a form of racism?

We don’t think so. At least not in the true sense of the word.

A person of color, or lack thereof in some cases, surely has been hassled in the lineup by another person based on their racial profile, of which, most likely, had nothing to do with surfing. That said, certainly, there are situations of which are unknown to us. However, it would be our opinion that the person doing the hassling is most probably a racist who behaves the same way on land or in the water.

There’s a different element to it with surfers, however, which we feel is more materialistic. More of a protection of one’s possessions-type vibe. 

I don’t care what you look like, just don’t mess with my shit.

Which, on the surface, wouldn’t necessarily seem racially motivated.

The racial aspect coming more along the lines of simply being identifiable as a non-local and not a dislike that is based on that identity. Perhaps similar to having the wrong license plate frame on your car or that your board isn’t locally built, etc. Your skin color not necessarily being the issue, but more the fact that you’re white as a ghost and paddling out at Ala Moana is simply a very easy giveaway that you most likely don’t live in Hawaii. 

Or, the many other identifiers that might expose one to harassment and ridicule wherever it may be.

Which brings us back to the concept that surfing localism just might be more about territorialism than a dislike based simply on race.

We hope so anyway.

All that in mind, here’s a few thoughts to leave you with.

If ya don’t want to get vibed, show some respect.

If ya see a new face who is showing that respect, maybe lighten up a bit.


What Youth

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