Alejo Muniz and Carissa Moore won titles Sunday night at the US Open Of Surfing in Huntington Beach, but the roar of the crowd they heard probably wasn’t from people showing their appreciation. Instead, it was probably from people showing Huntington Beach the ugly side of surf culture as they rioted in the streets, fighting, ruining property, and looting stores.
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The annual event draws large crowds to Huntington Beach, and not everyone is content to enjoy the surfing, chill out and have a good time. People have been complaining about unruly tourists attending the event for years. In fact, of the eight people the police are looking to arrest, only one is actually from Huntington Beach.
As is always the case, these days, social media quickly began to fill with video, pictures, and tweets about the disturbance that carried on into the night. In addition to documenting the action, these images are likely going to be used to find the people involved in the ruckus to try to bring them to justice.
Looking at a wide angle of the video, it appears that the unrest was caused by a small portion of the fans in attendance.
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You could say that this is a case of a few bad apples, but the fact is violence is endemic to surf culture. Surfers hang out together, they are protective of their territory, and they will rough up anyone who transgresses their unwritten code of the beach. While the violence and rioting was unexpected, it should also have been unsurprising.
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There are actually surf gangs that exist. They don’t get the same level of scrutiny as the crips and bloods or various motorcycle “clubs,” but they exist. The “Bird Rock Bandits” were responsible for a murder in 2007, and the prosecution in the case for the murder of Brandon McInerney argued that Oxnard’s surf group, the Silver Strand Locals were a gang. We have a perception of surfers as being these laid-back, happy-go-lucky types, but like the koala, they are deceptively aggressive… as these paparazzi who dared enter a beach to grab photos of Matthew McConaughey can attest.
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No one would suggest that all surfers are jerks just because a small part of the community of surfers are rambunctious idiots, but it bothers me that the rambunctious idiots get a pass.
The real question is was this riot the result of the increasingly unruly behavior of surfers, especially at the US Open Of Surfing, or was the riot an outlier, unlikely to be repeated? Do any of you guys surf? Have you ever seen a surfer fight? What do you think about surfers and violence?
Seriously, the guys who did this were a bunch of jerks
– Earnest (on Twitter @earnestp)