- 15 November 2013 | Surfing
Surf gangs have been protecting their local surf breaks for decades. Wars, violence, death and respect. Which surf groups have written their name in the dark side of surfing?
"My gang will get you", Jim Morrison once warned us. While he visioned one of the worst sides of beach life and surf culture - threats and revenge - he reminded us to behave in foreign territories.
Localism. That hostile, unfriendly feeling that we've all tasted has its roots in the 1960s, with the explosion of surfing and its lifestyle. To defend, and to protect our local waves.
Sociologically, surf localism could be understood as the defense system which is activated when someone who has not been invited to our home still sits in you favorite couch.
Localism can be an individual or group phenomenon. You can be invited to leave the wave peak by an uber-confident surfer or by a circle of empowered, furious newly-made enemies.
Surf gangs are the natural result of the selfish side of surfing. Waves are rare, good waves are scarce and perfect waves are limited. Verbal and physical threats made by "surf nazis" or "surf punks" start to flourish in Southern California, in the 1960s.
The "Cito Rats" were formed in Montecito, California, around 1978 and 1979. The surf gang "owned" the beaches of The Biltmore Pier, Dorbo Dunes, Chicken Creek, Pigion Ridge, The Underground, Miramar, Hammonds reef, Nuns, "The Rock", The Shooting Range, Rancho Coyote, The Herb Estate and RKL. Their ultra-local activities faded away in the 1990s.
The "Wolfpak" is one of the most relevant surf gangs in the world. Their name has an explanation, "because we run in a pack, working together. When you mess with one of us, you mess with all of us."
The Hawaiian group born in 2001, in Kauai, Hawaii, demands respect. The "Wolfpack" has been trying to manage the crowd factor on the North Shore of Oahu. Kala Alexander, the founder, doesn't allow drop-ins.
"I don't care if it's Kauai or Brooklyn. And I believe wherever you go, locals have the right of way. That's how it should be, and how it used to be here", Alexander told.
Despite not assuming their "gang" factor, the "Wolfpak" is feared and respect in the Hawaiian Islands.
The "Hui O He'e Nalu", also known as the "Black Shorts" or "Da Hui", were founded by Eddie Rothman, in 1975, in Oahu. Initially, they were hired to water patrol surf contests, but their reputation involved trouble.
"When I go out and surf, don't bother me, don't bother my kids, don't bother the other kids around here. Just stay out of the way", Rothman told in 1997.
In Australia, the "Bra Boys" had a member tattoo "My Brothers Keeper" across the front of their chests. Founded in Maroubra, Sydney, in the 1990s.
Brothers Sunny, Jai, Koby and Dakota Abberton established an organized group of local surfers who became known for its violent clashes with citizens and police.
The "Bra Boys" gained control of Cape Solander surf spot and renamed it "Ours". Drugs, fights and riots were attributed to the Abberton gang. In 2007, the feature-length documentary entitled "Bra Boys: Blood is Thicker than Water" is an instant hit.
The "Longos" are one the oldest surf gangs. They were born in Long Beach, Los Angeles, and are still quite active in the region.
The Silver Strand Locals, the Oxnard Shores Locals, the Pierpoint Rats, the Palos Verdes Surfers, the Bird Rock Bandits, also groups involved in multiple surf wars to protect their local breaks, in the last decades.
While many surf gangs have been directly linked to episodes of extreme violence, there are groups strictly setup to keep foreign surfers out of the water.
Catchphrases like "Locals only", "if you don't live here, don'ts surf here", and "haoles, go home" will remain as fresh memories of one of the darkest sides of surf culture.