The sport of surfing has lost its Kumbaya vibe as it has moved from a fringe activity to a free-for-all atmosphere where manners and protocol as disappearing quicker than etiquette at an Australian cricket match.
If surfing were not inherently dangerous enough, due to such issues as an ocean that routinely kills, razor-sharp coral and voracious sharks, now it is humans armed with surfboards who add to the threat.
All over the world, it seems, the resident surfers of good wave spots, known as the “locals” seem to believe that they own the waves and are showing increasingly violenttendencies towards those from outside their immediate circle of wave riders.
Such is the case in New Zealand, where residents of Raglan are banding together to put unwritten etiquette rules on paper in the attempt to decrease conflict between the anointed and the “tourists.”
It would seem that the Raglaners are anxious to avoid people being speared with surfboards, such as was the fate of a friend of local instructor Matti Thorley-Symes, who took a nasty puncture wound under the arm after an encounter with a visitor who thought the ocean was his and his alone.
A veteran of the Raglan scene, Miles Ratima, mentioned that ambulances were required almost half a dozen times this summer.
“If you don’t want to get run over, don’t come to Raglan. It’s the most crowded surf spot in New Zealand,” said Ratima.
With sometimes in excess of 1000 surfers vying for the legendary Raglan breaks on some summer days, many of them beginners unaccustomed to big waves and perhaps lured into a false sense of complacency by shorter boards and buoyant wetsuits, it is beginning to resemble a mob scene at places like Raglan.
Ratima and other members of the Raglan community met in July to form the Surf Safe Management Committee, which is a well-intentioned effort to ease tensions between locals and visitors, but the problem is obviously one to demand exceeding supply, much to the detrimen
t of all parties.