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Nonlocal Surfers Catch a Bad Break

June 17, 2002

Re "Angry Residents Sink Police Chief's Surf Cam," June 7: Several years ago, as San Diego's lifeguard chief, I proposed state legislation entitled the California Open Waves Act, which was intended to reduce surfer localism. Localism refers to the protection of local surf spots through violence and intimidation. There have been many examples over the years that have included very serious assaults. The proposed act declares that "the ocean along California's coastline and the waves which strike it are an invaluable asset which is owned by no person and available for equal use by all." Common sense, one would think.

I was not surprised when the proposal met opposition from those who practice localism. I was surprised, though, to encounter opposition from other--seemingly responsible--surfers. The reason, I came to understand, is that some who do not openly practice localism nevertheless perceive a benefit from its existence. Namely, there is less congestion at their local surf spot. Lunada Bay in Palos Verdes is infamous for localism. Nevertheless, local officials recently knuckled under to the desires of local surfers to protect their turf. So it was when the Open Waves Act was proposed, and so it is today. As Shawn Collins (president of Surf- line, whose video cameras monitor activity on local beaches) rued, "Localism works." It will continue to work until and unless someone puts a stop to it.

B. Chris Brewster

San Diego

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