Surfing has always had its fiercely protected local breaks. It seems localism, where resident surfers intimidate visiting surfers to discourage them from surfing “their” waves, doesn’t seem to be going anywhere.
For example, a few years back, in Streaky Bay in South Australia, a local group called the Mid West Coast Surfriders Association put a halt to a proposed Big Wave World Tour event at a relatively new big-wave spot called Yanerbie Bombie.
Since we were thinking about this incident recently, we decided to come up with five of surfing’s most localized beaches, where the extremely dangerous waves are the very least of your worries.
Pipeline, Oahu, Hawaii
You’d think 30-foot waves breaking over a sharp, shallow coral reef only meters from shore would be enough of a deterrent, but Pipeline also comes with a strict hierarchy and an ever-present threat of violence. To challenge this order, even by accident, is to court a beating.
One of the scariest sounds in surfing is the whistles that come from local surfers in the houses that overlook the break, which signify that someone has transgressed the rules and is about to pay. If those whistles are directed at you, your best bet is to paddle for the horizon and don’t stop ’til you get there.
Silver Strand, Oxnard, California
The Silver Strand Locals (SSL) have protected their mile of high-quality beachbreaks at Oxnard for three decades via talented surfing, outright hostility and physical abuse. The intimidation can start even before you hit the water, with slashed tires commonplace if visitors are foolish enough to park in the lots closest to the well-known breaks.
The local punk band Aggression’s song “Locals Only” probably sums up the SSL attitude best with the lyrics, “Walk down to the beach and what do I see / Non-local cars blocking up our streets / Don’t they know the beach is for locals only / Don’t they know they can’t surf on our beach.”
Mundaka, Basque Country, Spain
One of Europe’s finest waves and one of the world’s best lefts comes with a fierce pack of talented local Basque surfers who surf the wave every time it breaks. While not overtly violent, a small takeoff area is generally guarded by ferocious drop-ins to anyone not part of the crew.
“I had 10 of the best backhand tubes of my life,” said former world champion Joel Parkinson after surfing Mundaka in 2009 (see clip above). “Unfortunately, I was dropped in on half of them.”
El Quemao, Canary Islands
Called “The Pipeline of Europe,” the left on the island of Lanzarote has powerful waves and an intense crowd to match its Hawaiian namesake. In fact, it is a general rule that unless you come with one of the local surfers, it’s pointless to even paddle out.
Visiting surfers have been sent from the water under threat of violence, while damage to cars and equipment on land is also commonplace.
Lunada Bay, Palos Verdes, California
Los Angeles County’s Lunada Bay is the surfing jewel in the Palos Verdes crown of surf breaks. However, there is nothing about surfing the long-walled rights of the pointbreak that is easy. The steep and treacherous cliff trail, the long rocky walk — and the locals.
Hawaiian tough guy Sunny Garcia was famously told not to enter the water here, while rock throwing is one of the more hospitable acts you can expect to receive.
It is an epic right-hander and fairly consistent, but many non-locals have failed to even make it down the goat trail, let alone paddle out. If they do, catching a wave can be virtually impossible.
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