Home and away
Don’t think I don’t know what’s going on.
I’ve had my eye on you, mate, and I’ve got you all figured out. I know the secret desire laying hidden deep inside your soul. I know exactly what it is you’ve always wanted.
You want to watch the lineup part before you like the Red Sea before Moses as you take your rightful spot at the top of the peak. You want to see blowins scatter before you in the beachside carpark and defer to your daunting presence at the pub, their eyes wide in awed silence whilst you bestow upon them amazing tales of historic swells at the local and the heroes who dared ride them - yourself included. You want to be able to burn a travelling surfer on the wave of their lives without so much as a flicker of regret registering in a heart as black as the eye of a Great White shark.
Of course you do. You want it all.
The nauseating entitlement, the sense of unearned exaltation and the ability to ignore the pleading look of desperation on a stranger’s face as they sit waveless whilst you cherry pick every set.
Admit it. You want to be a local, don't you?
Well my friend, you’re in luck. I may just be in a position to aid you in fulfilling your greatest wish.
As it so happens, in a bizarre turn of events, the Coronavirus in conjunction with other circumstance, has found me in a situation I’d managed to avoid for a quarter of a century. After months of travel restrictions rendering me rooted to a single location, it was my shock and surprise to realise that without any desire or ambition to do so, that I myself was beginning to think, feel, and act like that strangest of beasts in the world of surfing…a local.
Whoa there a minute! Before those dual-headed, inbreds amongst us start reaching for their pitchforks and screaming spittle-flecked diatribes regarding just who is and who isn’t a local, let's all take a moment to acknowledge that unspoken, yet widely accepted natural law best described as the Subjectivity of Localism.
The Subjectivity of Localism allows for the fact that all presumption of localism rests within the eye of the beholder. So it is that a third generation local surfer whose great grandfather cleaved the first track to the local back beach may look upon a surfer who moved to the area thirty years ago as a blow in, while that same three decades of residency might be considered unimpeachable local credentials to a surfer who visits the break every weekend. Perspective is everything.
Localism is indeed a many-headed beast and when you then start accounting for all the myriad factors which contribute to its convoluted hierarchy, such as ability at a break, whether someone is recognised in the lineup, ownership of local real estate in the area, or even a vague public association with a spot, you can soon comprehend such outlandish distortions of the localism concept as a surfer from Kalbarri somehow being considered local almost 600 kms away at Gnaraloo, a surfer from Adelaide vibing Queenslanders at a wave on the Eyre Peninsula, or a French national thinking they’re entitled to pole position in the lineup at Canggu.
Once you’ve got your head around this simply confounding posit it’s just a quick jiggling of the facts to presume that you too could think of yourself as a local.
You doubt me? I’m speaking from first-hand experience. If you just believe hard enough you can mentally transform your blighted tourist image within months, weeks, even days of arriving at a new spot into a heady swagger of proprietarianism ready to be strutted on whichever beach you’ve recently elected to call home.
Even more appealing, as I've discovered after several months at the same postal address, is that the glorious thing about being a hard nut local is that by no means is it restricted to the surf or even to the beach. I’ve found that anywhere within the district is a great place to mark your territory with outrageous displays of intolerance. Up the shops, on the street, down the park...it’s open season to vent your overwhelming displeasure at the sight, the behaviour, and even the mere existence of tourists. No suspected transgression by a visitor to your town should go unremarked.
Pro tip: Before you start it’s best to be able to positively identify the transient object of your derision. It could set back the establishment of your local presence by hours if you unwittingly castigate the primary school-aged daughter of the local alpha surfer for walking her dog outside of a designated dog zone, or if you noisily berate some elderly lady you assume is from interstate for her driving ability in the supermarket car park only for it to turn out to be the mother of the president of the boardriders club. Whatever happens, never retreat and never surrender. Console yourself with the fact that a true local never lets kindness or rationality get in the way of exerting their authority.
Having said that, there is no place like the lineup for putting an out-of-towner in their place and the thrill of localism is much more than just paddling past someone patiently waiting for a wave as though they’re nothing more consequential than an insentient jellyfish. I’ve found that few things quite elevate the mood like refusing to make eye contact and passively aggressively belittling someone about their address when they dare try to engage you in pleasant conversation. Better yet is to conduct an inappropriately loud discussion with a fellow local sitting on the other side of a tourist. The key here is to talk THROUGH the stranger so they don’t just feel they are utterly excluded from the camaraderie of the surf, but that they have somehow been born an impediment to the happy life you lead as a local. A life they’ll never, ever have an opportunity to experience.
Are you starting to get the picture ? See how easy it can be for you to carry yourself as a prince amongst men based on the happenstance of being born in a certain location or having laid your swag there for a longer duration?
As with most other things in life, localism is as localism does.
So say 'stuff it all' and go get your share. You deserve it.
Footnote: OK folks, summer is almost upon us and due to international borders remaining shut, we all know it’s going to be a season of crowds the likes of which we’ve never seen. The small coastal towns are going to be inundated with frothing punters all set to maximise their fun quota. Please remember that when you are whooping it up in some small holiday town that you are a guest within a community who have created and maintained the place you wish to visit. It’s the locals who build order into the lineup, the locals who cater to your whims, and the locals who will be there to pick up the pieces if your visit takes an unexpected turn for the worse. They man the hospital, the firehouse, and the bottle shop, and the best possible way for you to behave is with a generous attitude to your local hosts and a mind to how you’d like to be respected by visitors to your hometown.
Most of all, just be sure that amongst the flurry of zinc cream, paddle pops, and ice cold schooners that you don’t unwittingly become the only thing worse than the dual-headed, inbred local - the mouth-breathing, gormless tourist.
// CARCHARODON DUNDEE