Aggression in Surfing

| posted on February 22, 2011

Shea Lopez

The author of SURFER’s Top 32 Review, Shea Lopez spent 11 years competing on the World Tour and now reigns as our resident expert on the pro surfosphere.

In light of the recent events that transpired during the Breaka Pro at Burleigh Heads, I began thinking back to my own mindset as I neared the end of my competitive career.

Being a focused, determined competitor requires a need to bring emotions and actions into play that have no place in everyday surfing. Two such instances that I was involved with during that final year ultimately led to my decision to stop competing. Both were captured on film and spread all over the world wide web. I’m not proud of those moments, actually. I’m quite shocked it’s even me in the videos, as those type of actions are the farthest thing from who I feel I really am as a person. Having seen what competing, losing, and the whole process had begun to extract from my emotions, I wasted no time in throwing in the towel and getting back to being at peace with myself, the ocean, and my fellow surfers—the way God, Duke Kahanamoku, and Rasta would like it.

If we could all learn one thing from the drama at Burleigh, it should be this: Acts of aggression have no place in the surfing world, yet the very nature of the sport (whether competing or surfing a crowded lineup such as Burleigh) lends itself to conflict. We all must do our best to subdue those feelings and at times show restraint, even when you know the other surfer is in the “wrong.”

  • Steve

    I agree totally however in the last 2 weeks i have been told to “Get f!@#$d by a girl who has no ability in the surf whatsoever and hangs with a bunch of guys, and dropped in on by a SUP just this morning. Should i just turn a blind eye or let these kooks keep doing these things until they do meet up with someone less tolerant and more violent? Or do i offer them advice on what to do or let them know their out of their depth? It is a very fine line because i have no more right just cause ive lived there all my life however it does make it dangerous for not only me but everyone else out there. And while i am all for surfing to get the recognition, and the pros are finally getting the prize money they so deserve it is only going to create more crowds and more problems. And if its ok for the Hawaiians to “enforce” their local breaks why not everyone else? This is a subject which you could go on and on about but i’d prefer to head down the coast away from everyone and surf crappy little waves to myself.

  • abbreviated

    It is a little odd to me how everyone knows what the limits are. Yet we surfers constantly need re-affirmation of what we already know. It is not always what you say but how you say it. AS one, possibly over used, example: The idea of calling someone a “kook” isn’t really such a good way to begin a constructive conversation. For that matter I sometimes think we are projecting or transferring our views of our selves. So many good surfers might feel like kooks in their, out of the water, lives. They are so disgruntled, angry and confused with their lives that they try to use surfing as a way of feeling better about one’s self. That doesn’t work, feeling good about who you are has to come from within and usually takes some effort. The “surfing makes me a better person” way of thinking is fictional and self deluding. A week without waves, a session without waves and your a monster. Only you can make you a better person and first you have to want it. Happiness can be an illusive biatch when your looking for it. It’s right there, so close it could bite you. Yet happiness has no bite, that’s why you don’t know it’s there, when all you know is pain.

  • Paul

    whats the rap song playing in the second video?? anyone know?

  • 111makai111

    Just keep it simple. We all know the basic etiquette a wave catching. And for those who have no clue… Try to explain that for their safety and everyone else’s. If that doesn’t work. I’m sure a few other people mentioning it might get through.

    The person closest to the peak has the wave. End of story. And if your good enough to get a ton of waves that way… Share a couple in between.

  • Surf Nazi

    We need to bring surfing back to what it once was. We need to bring respect back into the water. Respect for the ocean itself, and respect for fellow surfers. Anyone that doesn’t acknowledge that needs to be educated, either by words or by fists, until they get it. Competition brings out the worst in everyone. Do we really need it? Do we really care about the WQS ratings or do we just like to watch our favorite surfers surf? We certainly don’t need competition to improve the sport – Christian Fletcher is living proof of that. Remember what got you hooked on surfing from the beginning and stay true to that. If anyone’s in it for anything else, they don’t deserve to be in the water in my opinion.

  • Miles Waits

    Same song Shea. Your Moral Anger is causing you to believe what you do is alright and others “must” change their “agressive behavior.”
    Like a drunk, you believe the angry Shea we see is not you; but it is you in the pure. Drunk or sober. You want the explosion and critical nature of you to be forgotten and overlooked and replaced with “who I really am as a person.”
    You can overcome this monkey on your back. But only by acknowledging it is about YOU and not other’s “agression.” Like your “Moral Anger” complaint about Jordy and kelly getting off the tour, this too falls on deaf ears cause you still don’t get it – this is about the angry Shea that is yet to deal with the real and pure source of the discontent and righteousness – YOU.
    Become less moral and more empathetic. And aware.


    I’ve seen dozens of dolphins riding the same wave with no conflict, and I’ve watched thousands of fish swim fluidly together, so why can’t we?

    It is due to our vanity, our need to be better than the rest? Or is it that we are so in need of the endorphin release that comes when we catch a wave, that we get all b!tchy when someone screws it up while trying to catch the same high?

    Shea, thanks for putting it out there and taking all the slack..