Lunada Bay: a spot where only the 'Bay Boys' can surf | Photo: tiarescott/Creative Commons

Lunada Bay. A surf spot like thousands in the world. Not better than Ericeira, Bells Beach or Jeffreys Bay, but still a splendid wave. The right-hand point break is located near Rancho Palos Verdes, just 40 miles west of Huntington Beach.

For the good and the bad, the California break and its history represent a slice of a wider concept within surf culture. According to the historians, it all began in 1962. After surfing 18-foot waves at Lunada Bay, the iconic Greg Noll compared it to Waimea Bay, in Hawaii, and the place gained new life.

However, Lunada Bay is not only known for its firing surf. The place is "controlled" by a group of local wave riders, who believe they have the sole right to enjoy these waves.

Localism is not a new phenomenon. It has been a recurrent issue since the caveman times, i.e., since humans of the ice-age (50,000-10,000 years ago) started living in rock shelters and needed to protect themselves from strangers and foreigners.

Waves are a scarce resource, and it is understandable from the human nature perspective that local surfers refuse to share their most precious commodity, even when their actions violate the law.

Lunada Bay has a long tradition of localism. In the 1970s, and according to the Encyclopedia of Surfing, "visiting surfers have had rocks thrown at them while walking down the cliff-side Lunada trail, and returned from the water to find their car windows broken and their tires slashed."

In the past five decades, there have been a few arrests, fines and probation sentences. But the self-titled "Bay Boys" continued to deny outsiders the right to catch a few waves in the spot.

Lunada Bay: on good day, it is a splendid right-hand point break | Photo: tiarescott/Creative Commons

The visiting surfers have already spoken out about them and told police, lawyers and court officials that the group is essentially white, middle-aged and wealthy.

The Lunada Bay "surf gang" - which also includes women - deliberately uses physical intimidation, verbal assault and vandalism to keep who they want out of the line-up. Episodes of violence in and outside the water have been reported to the authorities, but the "Bay Boys" continue to rule their oceanic kingdom. All for a few waves.

In 2016, the authorities destroyed a small stone fort built by the surf territorialists to overview the surf, control the spot, and bully the outsiders.

City managers asked the police to increase patrols and monitor the surf sessions at Lunada Bay. Local citizens - and even local surfers - have also been working with the authorities to help them identify the offending individuals.

Despite all the attack from the community, friends with the group say the reaction is disproportionate, and that, in most cases, the "Bay Boys" are just protecting the Lunada waves from snaking surfers, and beginners who don't respect surf etiquette.

The Lunada Bay dossier is a classic story of surf localism. The access to the beach is public, but a small group tries to keep it private. Whatever happens in the future, it will definitely involve everyone - the local surfers who demand respect, the outside surfers who just want to have fun, the residents and the authorities.

Will the surf war at Lunada Bay ever end? How do you call the "Bay Boys? Are they territorialists, localists, terrorists, or simply people willing to defend the waves that break in their hometown?

Lunada Bay | The Surf War's Timeline

January 17, 2017: Outside surfers paddle out and surf Lunada Bay on Martin Luther King Jr. Day;


January 2017: Police start patrolling Lunada Bay;

December 2016: Palos Verdes authorities demolish the beach shack built by the "Bay Boys";


March 2016: A class action lawsuit is filed against the "Bay Boys";

May 2015: British newspaper The Guardian releases a video in which the "Bay Boys" intimidate outside surfers;


1996: Peter McCollum is given two years' probation for threatening a TV camera professional;


1962: Greg Noll surfs 18-foot waves at Lunada Bay and compares it to Waimea Bay;

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