Why do surfers have gangs?

Other Surfer Gangs

Some say that the invention of the Boogie Board had a hand in overcrowding the ocean.
Some say that the invention of the Boogie Board had a hand in overcrowding the ocean.
Photodisc/Getty Images

Another famous surfer gang has been the subject of a documentary film narrated by actor Russell Crowe called "Bra Boys: Blood is Thicker than Water." Australia's Bra Boys, short for the beachside suburb Maroubra, has been protecting its turf since the 1960s. The film was made by Sunny Abberton, one of three brothers who are members of the notorious gang. The Bra Boys gang members have used intimidation and violence to keep nonlocals from invading their surf. This violence has led to clashes with police and one Bra Boy, younger brother Jai Abberton, shot and killed another man in what was later ruled to be an act of self-defense. Another Abberton, Koby, has been jailed multiple times. The most recent incarceration stemmed from an assault on an off-duty police officer in a nightclub.

Gangs in Southern California include the Silver Strand Locals (SSL), the Oxnard Shores Locals (OSL) and the Pierpoint Rats, who were notorious for localism violence in the 1980s and 1990s. These gangs claim that they're only trying to enforce the unwritten code of the waves. This code has long been established and failure to follow the code is the ultimate sign of disrespect. Paparazzi in Malibu, Calif., were attacked in the summer of 2008 for taking pictures of actor Matthew McConaughey while he surfed. It seemed like the incident was less about protecting the actor's privacy than keeping the intrusive photographers off the beach. Another surfer was beaten and killed in La Jolla, Calif., in 2007 and a Hawaiian surfer was killed in a fight in 2008.

Police have a hard time controlling surfer gangs for a couple of reasons. They don't spend a lot of time patrolling beaches, and many of these crimes go unreported for fears of retribution. You don't even have to be a novice to get the rough treatment. A professional surfer from California was ejected from the waters in Hawaii and smacked around after he cut off another surfer in 2008. He didn't report it to police and would only confirm that the incident occurred.

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