Wax On, Wax Off: Surfing, Violence and You (Pt. 1)

Usually, almost nobody comments on the articles here at “Wax On, Wax Off.” Every now and then, some sweet person will say something like, “I'm really glad I found this blog.” That's about as involved as our readers normally care to get. But last week's story about a fight that broke out between a standup paddler and a shortboarder at Newport Point caused quite an uproar, attracting a whopping 28 comments and counting.

A look at surfing, violence and the backlash to last week's story after the jump.


Some of the comments were thoughtful and productive, and contributed in a meaningful way to the emerging debate over standup paddlers. Here are a couple of those:

  • “All I can say from watching the incident from surfing on a surfboard that day out there the it was the paddle boarders fault. I do paddle surf and own a stand up paddle board surf shop 'Paddle Surf Warehouse' and I tell everyone who buys one to never paddle into or by a pack of guys. Never never drop in on anyone. That sucks for the guy but he was asking for it.” – Posted by “Paddle Surf Warehouse”

  • “Stand up paddlers need to be more careful. They cannot go into crowded packs and expect everyone to think it's ok. Those things are big and dangerous and 75% of SUPs I see don't know what they're doing, lose their boards, and are a complete mess. I'm no pro either, but I know when to stay out of the way!” – Posted by “Discount Supplements”

  • “I'm from a ski town in Colorado. Been there done that. In the 80's it was the war between the skiers and the snowboarders. Skiers felt like they owned the hill and did'nt want these boarders disrespectin' their mountain. Today skiers and boarders share the mountain with few incidents. Folks, its about enjoying what you do no matter what you ride. Let's respect each other and the proper etiquitte when we're out in the line up. Ned's a dork for sure, but hating all SUPer's is just ridiculous. Surfing is surfing no matter what size board you are on, as is shredding the fresh pow pow whether your skiing or boarding.” – Posted by Anonymous
  • “The point + solid waves = barrels…not sure that is the best place for a SUP to begin with…” – Posted by Anonymous

Although “Wax On, Wax Off” does not necessarily endorse or reject the validity of any of these different points of view, these were some of the comments that seemed to address the issue at hand in a fair-minded, constructive manner. They brought up points of debate and controversy. But most of the comments people left were nothing like that. There's a whole collection of what seem like the ramblings of immature, prejudiced, violent and/or mentally unstable surfers. I won't bother to repeat any of them here. But go back and read them here if you're interested. My thanks to people who have fought against the threats and inane babbling, like another Anonymous commenter who wrote, “Do all shortboarders have trouble with basic writing skills and the English language or just the ones responding in this blog? It's difficult to follow some of these threads. Been skipping school fellas?” Well said, Anonymous.

Strangely enough, yet another category of commenters rose up and began attacking the OC Weekly, my editors and me for running the story at all. Here are a couple of those:

  • “not sure what to think of the article. yea it's f'd up someone drops in with a huge paddleboard which is dangerous in itself and 'neds' previous manners is a no no and probably deserved a beat, but dont know what to think of the idea of violence being revered in any way in a publication like the weekly…” – Pposted by Anonymous
  • “I agree with the language skills. The article is so poorly written it's amazing the writer has a degree in journalism.” – Posted by “aonymous mouse”

My personal favorites, of course, were the comments from people who stepped in to defend the article and the Weekly (thanks, people!), like these:

  • “it's a funny story, but the guy has suffered enough, don't you think? names were changed in the story for a reason…because surfers with too much time on their hands will try to make it personal. just enjoy the story and move on. don't perpetuate the problem…” – Posted by Anonymous
  • “'aonymous' mouse doesn't know how to spell. and you can't agree with 'language skills.' you can agree with a person, a statement or a point of view…but not a skill. The article is written just fine. And apparently the reporter hit on some strong news, because all of you are all hot and bothered over it. Let's just thank the gods that you people are not the ones handing out journalism degrees or editing magazines. You don't know what the hell you're talking about! The sad thing is that all these comment threads are an embarrassment to the sport and culture of surfing. None of you has commented on the many other thoughtful, newsworthy articles on this blog. What a bunch of losers…I just want anyone who might be reading this to know that not all surfers are uneducated bigots with too much time on their hands. I'm gonna go read some real news now…” – Posted by Anonymous

I have a feeling many of the violent, prejudiced comments were left by bored children or the mentally ill. Plus, it is possible that because of its subject matter, this article was linked on several other blogs, exposing it to a crowd of readers that might not otherwise read the OC Weekly. Nevertheless, it's the most popular blog post “Wax On, Wax Off” has ever run, which is nice, but also a bit…disturbing.

Today, I wanted to explore the various views on violence in the surfing world, and try and get to the bottom of why this article ruffled so many feathers and attracted so much attention on a blog that is normally dead quiet, in a county that isn't known for it's beach violence. As I mentioned in the story, Orange County, in general, isn't known in the surfing world as a heavily violent or localized area. Surf-related fights are few and far between, and the few that do occur are almost always mild and boring. That's why this particular fight was news for Orange County. It was rare, exciting and unusually dangerous due to the use of deadly weapons.

To start my search, I asked local surfers to give me their thoughts on why Orange County is generally less violent and localized than some other areas in Southern California. Here are a few of their answers:

  • “It's just as bad, you just don't hear about it that often.”
  • “Too many knives or guns might pop the OC bubble…duh.”
  • “Cuase we don't have that many point breaks. We can spread out a bit more at sandy beach breaks.”
  • “It's because of the accessibility and the broad beaches at Huntington and Newport. People are used to sharing their breaks here…the peir gets localized…and spots with just one wave, spots that aren't accessible by any freeways like Crystal Cove…small Laguna spots can be really competitive. But it's still not like Palos Verdes or anything.”
  • “We mimic our lifestyle out in the water.  It's a more laid back place, and that gets mirrored out in the water, too.”
  • “It seems like people here are becoming more patient and accepting. We see that localism doesn't work.”
  • “With icons like Knost and Donovan, it's becoming cool to be chill and peaceful.”

I picked seven of the most well articulated, thoughtful answers I got from people. They give you the sense that local surfers here feel the difference and are proud of it. But even so, at least one of the responses also reveals that no matter where you go, there are people who are willing to use violence as a way to get what they want.

Violent localism is a problem in surfing. And apparently, even in our less violent county, it's more of a problem than we thought. If you have any doubts, go read some of the crazed, territorial rantings that have piled up on “Wax On, Wax Off” in response to the fight story.

This is part one of a series of articles we're running on violence and surfing in Orange County. The idea here is to plug into the debate. We're looking at a combination of issues in surfing, including localism, violence, etiquette and the emerging controversy over standup paddling. Get a feel for what people are thinking and saying. Read the comments. Talk to friends. And most of all, tell us what you think. Please feel free to continue the debate and post your thoughts here at “Wax On, Wax Off.” Check back tomorrow for more about this sensitive, sometimes explosive topic.

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