Baja Surfer Rage

“I was paddling back out to catch another wave and all of a sudden this Mexican on a body board came swimming toward me and came directly into my face with a lot of out-of- control and totally inappropriate cursing,” said Buck Woodall, frequent Baja Sur surfer.

Woodall said he had stayed, “a fair distance from him. To me, it was entirely safe and fun. If it were my friend or my brother, we would have had a laugh together on the same wave.”

Woodall was surfing that day at Los Cerritos Beach, in the El Pescadero area, about an hour north of Cabo San Lucas, Baja Sur, Mexico.

Like road rage, surf rage increases according to increased traffic. The more surfers in the water, the less chance there is of being the one to catch that next good wave. Surf rage might also be akin to the increased violence within organized sports. Good sportsmanship sometimes declines with a rise in fiercely competitive environments, and especially when the rules aren’t clear to everyone involved.

When asked about rumors of ‘surfer rage,’ Mario Dillanes, a Mexican surfer from Los Cabos, Baja Sur, Mexico, looks uncomfortable. He explains that when he surfs away from his home terrain, even in Mexico, he always makes sure to allow the locals to go first. “Some Gringo surfers, maybe because they have been surfing longer and aren’t used to Mexicans surfing too, might not let the local Mexican go first.”

Dillanes added, “I would never go first on someone else’s beach or I would get beat up. The Gringo surfers sometimes don’t have patience.”

Surf rage doesn’t always have to do with being a local or not, though. It has become a problem over the last several years in most areas of the world where good surf waves exist and bring in more surfers than waves. It has been reported from Australian, Hawaiian and Californian beaches, where there have been numerous violent incidents, but also from African, Fijian and other popular surfing beach areas. The violence is between local and other local surfers, and non-local and other non-local surfers, as well as non-locals and locals.

Woodall said he just didn’t see the other surfer at first that day. “It was a very unpleasant experience [being cursed at] and it made me very sad to see the Cabo surf energy creeping into the Todos Santos area.” He said he has been surfing at Cerritos Beach for over 10 years.

Both population density and the stressors associated with an increasing pace of life have often been blamed for road rage, especially in Canada and the States, and perhaps this applies as well to surf rage. At first glance, it seems doubtful that the pace of life and associated stress is driving surfers to violence here. Yet, the pace has certainly picked up here too, according to long-time residents, and there are growing numbers of surfers in Baja Sur, as there are worldwide.

Surf rage may also be one product of the human tendency to become territorial when space is limited, just as road rage may be. In other words, a road rage car chase is something like a rhinoceros charging a person who gets too close, and on the water may mean a vicious attack that may be carried out further on shore.

It’s interesting to note that most road rage occurs when drivers are returning home from work. The surfing corollary to returning home from a long day at work may be that surfing is the surfer’s relaxing time, just as going home after work is usually considered a release from the stress of the workday. When someone gets in the way of that pleasure, there’s an increased likelihood of frustration and rage.

Surfing has no formalized rules, as do many sports, perhaps accounting for confusion about whose territory the wave may be at times. Rules may be especially important when many people are involved in the sport at one time in one area. Still, most surfers do recognize that taking turns is a part of surfing.

In this land of pleasantly warm weather, calming scenery, and no worries culture, surf rage in Baja Sur and its destructive results could become as prevalent as the crazed driving we witness here every day. The surfers themselves probably can’t develop protocols to effectively govern the less controlled of them while on the water, since enforcement would be next to impossible. They can all, though, recognize that a wave cannot really belong to them, use the consideration that most surfers do on the water, and paddle away from any potential conflict as Buck Woodall did that day at Cerritos.

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