A Government Green Light For Localism

Localism and surfing have been intertwined since time immemorial. From the very start, the Hawaiian’s ruling class had the best beaches and the best boards, and the commoners were not allowed on the same patch. 

More recently surfers have become synonymous with protecting their spots. Each beach does it differently; the local codes can be violent, based on superior surfing skill or combine a myriad of more subtle means that keep non-locals uncomfortable in the line-up. 

The point at which it becomes a good thing or a bad thing has been debated endlessly. It’s an ephemeral concept; hard to explain and harder to measure. A cost-benefit analysis has never, or will ever, be done. Localism simply exists. Has always done and so always will.  

Yet until now in Australia, it has never been enshrined in law. However, with the new social distancing laws put in place due to Covid-19, the locals-only approach has never had it so good. Geoff McKechnie, the assistant deputy commissioner responsible for policing in Regional NSW, has said, “We will be looking for people who are travelling unnecessarily, without a reasonable excuse, and we will be ensuring that those people comply with the directions.”

On the Gold Coast Mayor Greg Tate was more pointed, “Unfortunately, over the weekend, out-of-towners are descending on the Gold Coast in mass numbers and I fear that this number will increase over the Easter weekend,” he said. “Therefore, as of midnight on Tuesday, The Spit, Surfers Paradise and Coolangatta beaches will be closed [to everyone].” Other beaches would be open to local residents only.

Of course around Australia and on social media surfers have leapt on the new rules. It wasn’t so much that they were keen to practise safe social distancing, but it was more important to make sure blow-ins didn’t come in and also not practise safe social distancing. 

Now I’m a little biased, being based in Europe, where all surfing is banned, no matter where you come from. To me, any form of surfing is breaking the social distancing protocols that will, eventually, bring this shit show to some type of conclusion.

Yet I get in Oz the rate of infections and deaths are no way comparable and the rules have scope to be less draconian. Yet just why a surfer from Brisbane has fewer rights to a beach than one from Byron, is a little baffling. 

It seems localism has finally gone mainstream. 

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