When it comes to waves, newcomers are not wanted.
In surfing, when outsiders don’t make the effort to forge connection to the established community, or learn to respect the decades of culture and history that precede them, they are likely to get bounced off the beach. Getting to know locals is the best way to gain credibility in the lineup, and outsiders open to learning and watching at Fort will eventually earn respect in return.
This might mean going whole sessions without catching any waves. But that patience and deference towards established residents will ultimately be rewarded.
City leaders have some things to learn from these battles between surfers, if they want to offset the effects of gentrification. As less-affluent residents get priced out and vanish, so too do their businesses and cultures; in turn the city’s vibrant, colorful personality becomes tech-washed. Rather than imposing their own cultures and influences, every inhabitant of San Francisco, old and new, should embrace the established histories and characters of their respective neighborhoods. As long as elected officials continue to ignore the economic drivers of gentrification, San Franciscans are likely to take matters into their own hands to resist its consequences.
By the same token, the surfers of Fort Point could definitely learn a few things about how to be a more inclusive and welcoming community, even in the face of displacement anxieties. To see what that might look like, drive an hour south down the coast and you’ll reach Half Moon Bay, a sleepy, unassuming harbor town that’s best known for its Christmas trees farms and its surf spot, Mavericks, home to some of the biggest waves in the world. But Steve Hawk says that there’s no tension between the various surfer communities in Half Moon Bay. There, the older generation has become more peaceful as they’ve aged and introduced their children to surfing.
“You teach by example,” says Hawk, “so if a kid sees his father being polite to a stranger, then they’re more likely to follow suit.”