The Tragicomedy of the Surfers' Commons

Daniel Nazer


Ideally, the introduction to this article would contain two photos. One would be a photo of Lunada Bay. Lunada Bay is a rocky, horseshoe-shaped bay below a green park in the Palos Verdes neighbourhood of Los Angeles. It is a spectacular surf break, offering long and powerful rides. The other photograph would be of horrific injuries sustained by Nat Young, a former world surfing champion. Nat Young was severely beaten after a dispute that began as an argument over who had priority on a wave. These two images would help a non-surfer understand the stakes involved when surfers compete for waves. The waves themselves are an extraordinary resource lying at the centre of many surfers’ lives. The high value many surfers place on surfing means that competition for crowded waves can evoke strong emo- tions. At its worst, this competition can escalate to serious assaults such as that suffered by Nat Young. 

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