At least in Los Angeles.
I grew up surfing in Maine where swells are usually only good during hurricane season through winter, when the already cold Atlantic waters drop into the numbing 40’s. Under those conditions, in a region where surfing is far from ubiquitous, line ups are generally relaxed if not empty.
When I moved to California after seven landlocked years in Vermont, I was psyched to start surfing again. Not only that, but surfing in a world class area, draped in legend, with clean waves and warmer water. I got a couple boards on craigslist and started exploring the spots that dot the coast of LA County.
Sunset beach, the first break I visited, was the closest from my house in Santa Monica and is the only spot I didn’t catch shit. Sunset is a beginner’s break and most people out there are on their first couple weeks of surfing and the waves aren't very good. I rode a couple mushy rollers and called it a day. I was surfing again and couldn’t be happier.
Topanga Beach became my break of choice, a nice little reef break that unzips even the smallest waves with a long clean curl. The problem is the break is filled with a pod of traffic agro dicks who tell their friends how things aren't the way they were and tell you to fuck off.
Even the most chilled out surfers will tell you about the risks of getting beat up, beating people up and funny stories about strangers getting beat up in the same breath as how mellow and chill surfing is and how it changes your life. While both of these observations are generalized clichés of the sport, the former seems to be the more truthful when it comes to LA.
I believe the attitude of surfers here starts with population. In a sport where your playing field only rolls around every ten minutes or so, sometimes separated by weeks, it’s understandable that one does not want to battle for that rare feature with dozens of other surfers and the more surfers, the more tension. I also believe that the longevity with which one can surf has something to do with the culture. Most sports kick you out of commission before you start to gray and are dominated by kids 15-25. In surfing, you can surf until your 100 years old, leaving fatty chunks of ego in the salty stew to simmer for years.
Maybe I'm the dick. I do love to surf and I surely believe it can change people’s lives if they’re hoping it will. And I will surf again, either in the right place or when I start waking up at 4:00am. Instead I’d rather climb or snowboard or hike or ride my bike, where strangers are friendly and if their not, you can always part ways.