Cyclone Uesi continues to deliver great surf across the east coast. This time last week though the swell was still raw, the skies were grey and all the action was at Noosa. At its peak on Thursday, Uesi was bending 6-8 foot cylinders into Boiling Pot, one of the jewels of the Sunny Coast.

As is the nature with social media the swell was being covered in real-time. Clips began dropping into our social feed with one a standout.

A corduroy line reveals itself and an unidentified surfer elevator drops into the belly of a beast. The wave bottoms out and he plunges into a blue orb, which pulsates down the point. He threads through the cavern and suddenly he’s cut down in his tracks. It’s surfing’s greatest sin.

“Woah,” groans the videographer. We all let out a collective sigh. How Could You Do That?

Despite the multitude of throaty pits that we all bore witness to or hopefully experienced during TC Uesi some of the drop-ins that went down were brutal.

“Back in the old days if someone’s slotted and they’re right in the centre there, and you know they’re a good surfer, there’s no way you’d drop in,” says Justin Gane aka @pulsesurf who captured the Harrison Roach clip above. “And if you did there’d be fisticuffs on the beach over that.”

Cyclone Uesi exposed how lineup etiquette seems to have evaporated at some of the more populated surf zones. It’s no secret the Gold Coast and Noosa have a reputation for drawing in a crowd when a cyclone swell comes to town and that drop-ins aren’t uncommon. Some of the best local surfers are also merciless. It’s understandable that it’s frustrating when the surfing masses descend upon your break, many flying in for the swell, but does your surfing status justify a heinous burning? It’s not uncommon to see a local pro toast a very competent surfer he doesn’t recognize. Where does that scenario sit in the ethical debate? Many would argue that the pro surfers traverse the world surfing good waves and should at least be aware of the fact they lead a privileged existence with wave quotas well beyond the average Joe.

But what was it like in the past?

“There used to always be drop-ins in ’92 but there would kind of be like 70 or 80 good surfers at Kirra back then in the early 90s, like local surfers,” says Gane. “Now I don’t know where they’re from or they are just kids I suppose. I don’t know, there were a lot more old people living here when I moved there in the 90s, mainly retirees and lots of good local surfers.”

A couple of heavy burnings featured in the clip above. Accidental? Intentional? Incidental? 

Ganey has had his lens pointed at the Goldy’s premier point breaks for the past two decades. An accomplished surfer himself he’s since given up fighting to take a slice of the Kirra action and in his words, would, “Rather surf a shitty beachie to myself.”

The surfers in the 90s era Gane is talking about had a ruthless reputation for enforcing their home break and the standard of surfing was at an all-time high. You can see it first hand on his insta account, which is a treasure trove for those who dig power surfing.

Aside from surfers having more length in their standard shortboard and rocking boardies below the knee, the 90s were a time when surf violence was a real consequence if you disrespected the pecking order or performed surfing’s most mortal sin by dropping in.

“It was heavy. There was still a lot of violence in the water and you kind of knew everyone in the water and you knew your pecking order too. There were crew you just wouldn’t drop in on because you’d almost be run out of town.”

Fast forward to 2020 and those heavies that regulated outsiders or threatened anyone with ultraviolence if you stepped out of line have moved on. Some flamed out, others were pushed out by higher real estate prices, were fed up with the crowds or simply got too old.

“You don’t have that localism or that older crew anymore,” says Gane. “Around the same time the Superbank appeared around 2001-2002 it was like all those old guys stopped surfing. All the people that kind of enforced the law got over the crowds. Because after the Superbank appeared everyone started moving here, surfing here or flying up every swell. It seemed all those older guys are now gone."

Left with no one to police the lineup Ganey reckons the drops ins are more dangerous than the threat of violence the old guard once exercised.

“So now there’s no violence in the sport but there’s complete disorder,” laments Ganey.

No doubt surfing has changed from the 90s. The barrier to entry for surfing is low, even at highly populated breaks with real consequences when it goes wrong. Less localism, less regulation, more surfers, more adult learners, and lineups treated like “safe spaces” where everyone is welcome with an access all areas pass. It’s a unique time in history to be a surfer.

“It just seems like guys who have been surfing two or three years are throwing themselves into ledges,” after observing the chaos at Noosa reckons Ganey. "They don’t have the ability to make the bottom turn or even or get into the barrel. I don’t know what it is maybe people are watching too much Nazare or something. Like 6-8 foot for the average competent surfer–that’s pretty big.”

And maybe that’s the problem.

Or are drop-ins now simply the price of admission for surfing good waves?