Territorial localism has been an emerging trend since Covid-19 hit lineups across Australia. Argy-bargy between local enforcers trying to shut the gate on out of towners has popped up everywhere. 

Some would argue Covid-19 is just cover for some to up their wave count and the resurgence of enforcement is simply designed to keep their spots from overcrowding by visitors. To believe some of the most hardcore, gnarliest locals are suddenly also the same guys that care about the health of their communities is a bit of a stretch. Covid-19 might just be cover to vindicate years of bad behaviour. 

But there’s another emerging trend affecting lineups.

The part-time surfer transitioning to a full-time devotee. 

The guy you used to see a handful of times a year or down there in summer is suddenly out and proud every single day. 

With so many people working from home and every single kid homeschooling, there are a lot more people in the lineup. 

A surfer evaluates the human traffic while attempting to lay it on rail, during a recent east coast session. Photo: Swilly

With exercise mandated as an essential activity, lineups have swollen with out of work backpackers, students on visas and the general population surfing more. Part-timers are saying to hell with it and dedicating themselves to a full-time surfing lifestyle. 

In the absence of work, surfing has become all people can think about and days are plotted around tapping into the best conditions. 

Ironically board sales are going up. 

Mates who work in local surf shops and in production tell me they have never been busier. People are stacking their quivers and not just the hardened crew preparing for winter. 

You can’t blame people for embracing surfing as a means of escape from the Covid-19 blues, but if you’re a regular who has put in years of astutely studying the sand movement, winds, and tides at your local, to suddenly find a whole new crew riding on your slipstream is a maddening affair. 

One mate put it more bluntly. 

“More kooks are thinking they can take off at the peak and hassling, lowering the general surfing standard in the lineup.”

He makes a good point. 

You might bristle at the thought of localism and its tribal, sometimes moronic expressions. But a wayward mob of beginner surfers, high on confidence but lacking in self-awareness can do just as much damage to the general vibe of a lineup.

Many surfers have made a lifelong commitment to surfing before Covid-19. Any crew new to the scene often can’t immediately grasp the nuances of a lineup, beyond the basic rules. And the newbie who wants to sit deep and go over the falls and call others off is a kook. Just like the local ripper who takes every wave because he can. 

Is there a middle road here – somewhere between the passive acceptance of the learner onslaught and irrational surf rage? The erosion of lineup etiquette and lack of awareness might be set straight with a few measured words of instruction. Many honest part-timers are doing their bit and ensuring their ambition does not exceed their ability – they would welcome a few tips. If someone is determined to take up surfing they are less likely to cause friction in the water if they are given some advice that might not be self-evident. E.G. Don’t paddle towards the wave face if a surfer is going down the line – paddle inside them.

So, will the grumpy local rise up?

Or will surfers embrace and advise the part-timers who are trying to make surfing their new full-time gig?

Much to unpack.