Photo by- Maya Sacks

By: Laird Tuel

Issue: Oregon Surf Culture 


The writers of and Surfline articles state that Seaside, Oregon has the best lefthander (a wave that breaks to the left when facing shore) in North America. According to Seaside is one of the top ten most localized spots in North America, and top five in the United States. According to in the last ten years, surfing in the Northwest as well as other cold water areas have gained a large increase in travel due to the advancements of wetsuit technology. Now that the cold water is not keeping surfers away from areas such as the Northwest, professionals are beginning to travel to the Oregon coast as a surfing destination, which is creating a lot of newfound media attention. With the recent influx of surfing in Oregon, localism acts have increased. A news article from stated, the Seaside police department received a number of reports and complaints in the past couple of years, including surfers throwing rocks at a person taking photos. Another person filed a report after someone had glue poured into his vehicle’s keyholes.”People who typically live near a good locations end up claiming it as their own because of the proximity,” said former world champion Nat Young. “And when people come to that spot who don’t live there, they’re looked at and treated as invaders.”


Surfing was invented in the 1800’s by Polynesian fishermen, and later popularized by Duke Kahanamoku of Hawaii in the early 1900’s. Duke introduced surfing to California in 1906. The first surfer to surf in Oregon was Dana Smith in 1959, according to the records at Cleanline Surf Shop in Seaside, Oregon. Surfing gained mass popularity in the 1950s, and according to the Encyclopedia of Surfing, surfing is now an activity that nearly 20 million people worldwide enjoy. Surfing by definition is the act of riding a wave toward the shore while standing or lying on a surfboard. Surfing is an individual sport, which is best enjoyed when it is one rider per wave, not with a crowd. With the increase of crowding at surf spots, behavioral responses and acts of localism are triggered. According to M D. Alessi of Cal Berkeley, “Localism is an attempt to reduce the crowd by using violence and conflict on the water to stake out exclusive territories. In each case, the threat of violence or at least social sanction is used to discourage miscreants or interlopers.” The Surfer’s Journal states that the reason surfers in Oregon take localism so seriously, is that there is a very limited supply of good locations, and a rapidly growing surf population, as well as being a new found surf travel destination.


According to professional surfer and former world champion Sunny Garcia “Localism in surfing is an ideal that will always be around, getting stronger with each new comer to the sport. With a population increase and the interest in surfing the localism will only get stronger.” According to the Oswald West state park records, a popular surfing beach on the northern Oregon coast, in 2015 there were 617,000 day use visitors. In 2014 there were 600,000 and in 2013 there were 570,000 annual visitors.