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Waterspot: Politically correct surf culture

Surfers tend not to be very political by nature. Instead, they allow those who have never ridden a wave, seen a sunset from atop a surfboard, or even walked a beach barefooted to make laws that concern them.

Politics don’t matter to surfers until legislation is passed permitting a nuclear power plant to be built on a popular surf break (San Onofre) or a series of fine reef breaks to be sealed beneath a coffin of boulders (Dana Point.)

Most of us agree on the desire to preserve clean ocean water and the waves that break in them, but national politics usually has little to do with any of that. And national politics, something I am not immune to speaking about, has been hard on some of my local friendships.

This year I lost two longtime surf buddies because I expressed views contrary to theirs. (I know, politics and religion.)

Believing they might have assigned bad motives to my beliefs, I requested we sit down and talk things over. One failed to respond entirely while the other called to try and shout me into submission. These and other distasteful incidents led to my removing myself from social media entirely.

I mean, really, why not? In over five years I got thousands of “likes,” and a few angry responses to my statements.

Still, in all that time, I never once changed anyone’s mind that I know of. I half expect the “tolerance police” to “cancel” me for the crime of disagreeing with them.

Such reactions prove something we have all known for a long time — that surfers are not always the tolerant people we like to envision ourselves to be. If you don’t believe that, write a political slogan on your board, or paddle out to a crowded break on the next swell to endure raging tempers and flying boards, which, sadly, have become the norm.

I don’t believe that Americans in general or surfers in particular are any more or less tolerant than anyone else.

I have experienced angry wave hogs, fools and racists in Canada, Mexico, Micronesia, Australia and New Zealand. America consists of people from there and every other region of the world.

Surfers consist of males and females from the aforementioned regions and beyond, with backgrounds and occupations ranging from day laborers, to day traders, from janitors to medical doctors.

In short, we are the world, and the world seems to be spinning off its axis.

Political solutions have nothing to do with lightening darkness in the human heart, but in legislating against that darkness. In attempting to destroy an invasive plant, politics attacks the leaves.

Make bullying or certain inflammatory speech a crime and everything will be fine. The only problem is that it isn’t fine and people are still bullied and railed against, albeit in ways that skirt the law in order to avoid being arrested.

Laws don’t create better citizens, but more compliant ones that mumble rather than shout their discontent. We are in danger of becoming a nation of nervous sheep unable to express dissent for fear of being ostracized by the flock.

Anyone reading this is invited to contact me and discuss his or her point of view in a non-threatening way. 

In return, I promise not to shout at you or belittle your opinion regardless of how much I may disagree with it. I realize that I just might be wrong on a number of topics and welcome your attempt to correct my faulty thinking.

Until then, maybe we should try adapting one law —“Love your neighbor as yourself” seems like a good one to start with.

1 comment

James Morgan March 21, 2021 at 2:35 pm

Chris, do you really believe that surfers are as “tolerant” as everyone else? Try paddling out to any surfable break, anywhere, as a non-local and see how you are welcomed. Surfers are, and have been for at least the 50 years I’ve been in the water, known as wave hogs, selfish, rude and dangerous. I also ride my bike along the coast and have always noticed to types of folks that are dangerous to bicyclists; old guys that think they own the road and surfers. Regarding your political point, name calling (Nazi, racist, etc.) is owned by liberal democrats. It’s the go to response to anyone who differs from their opinion.
No one is more in favor than I for cleaning up the environment. However, I think more with my brain than my heart so usually find myself on the receiving end of inflammatory speech.

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