Mauritius is home to a collection of world class waves, but the notorious locals dubbed ‘the white shorts’ have made things unpleasant for many surfers who have visited. Having recently returned from his ninth trip to the Indian Ocean island, Craig Jarvis shares a few rules that’ll make your next trip far more enjoyable.
THE HARD RULES – by Craig Jarvis
When it comes to localism and agro in the water, the answer is not always to eat or be eaten.
Whether we know it or not, our whole world is governed by rules. Whether they be put in place by the government, the police, society as a whole or our better half, we all have rules that we have no choice but to adhere to.
Some people think that they’re rebels and rule-breakers, and that can be noble and just, but you still need to stop at red robots to prevent yourself from killing people or getting killed. You still need to try and not steal money, to pay for the water and electricity you use, to use the bathroom and not a public place when you need to relieve yourself, to respect your elders because they have been on this planet longer than you. Basic stuff.
In a surfing perspective we have similar basics. Do not drop in. Do not paddle for the shoulder when faced with a surfer on a wave, do not be a pig in the water, do not use a SUP or a jet-board when amongst paddle surfers, do not phone all your mates when you come across a cooking line-up on the coast. Also pretty straight forward, if you understand the luck that has been gifted to you by simply being a surfer.
There is another set of laws though, and they are a bit harder to deal with. They are the localism systems in place all over the world.
One of the strictest places is Hawaii. It’s very difficult to get any waves there when the locals are out, the heaviest locals in the world. There they have a basic rule: respect the locals. In other words, don’t paddle past them, don’t hustle them, don’t drop in on them, and don’t ever take cameras when you travel east or west of the North Shore. It’s very hard to get waves there if you’re not famous. I remember showing the locals – kids and their dads – all the respect they could get at Velzyland. The net result was that I was given zero waves as everyone paddled past me with a grunt. I eventually went over to FreddyLand and got a few.
It’s similar in Bali, especially if you’re going to surf congested line-ups like Bingin, Padang or Keramas. There are locals who surf there, all day, every day. They do not want you to paddle past them and they do not want you to hustle them on small take off zones. At Keramas they go one step further and block for surfers who have paid them to get a few waves. The rule is to identify such a local surfer blocking, and not get in his way. He sees you as a rich traveller, interfering with the job he is doing to get food on the table for his wife and kids. See, it gets a bit harder…
Ever been to JBay to surf recently? It’s an amazing place, incredible waves, and rules. Same as other destinations that attract a throng of locals and hordes of travellers, the rules are to be aware of the local surfers, give them some room, and not be a pig in the water. If you paddle around the back and hook into a set at Boneyards and come screaming past the crew who have been waiting, it’s not seen as cool. If you paddle up the point and paddle past the locals, you will most likely get addressed or dropped in on. If you decide to wait further down the point and take a chance and drop-in on someone coming down the line, you will be dealt with. Simple point-break rules, with the locals getting precedence. We all know this stuff.
Ever surfed Off The Wall in Sea Point when the boys are out? How about Kalk Bay Reef? Even the Hoek can be a challenge when a few of the hardcore locals are out. Llandudno is another case in point for local surfers and their rules. As a surfer there is no excuse for not knowing the rules.
One of the destinations that have received loads of negativity with regard to locals and localism is Mauritius. There are constant reports of agro in the south, and around Tamarin.
Many people have encountered hostility in Mauritius, and there’s no denying. Yet many people have scored firing waves with nothing but hooting and waving from locals and travellers alike. While it’s always going to be an inexact science, the rules in Mauritius work something like this:
Monday morning to Friday lunchtime is usually cool to surf wherever. Most of the locals, who are sometimes loosely referred to as The White Shorts, all work and have jobs and responsibilities. They knock off at about lunchtime on Friday, and head out to hit the waves with vigour and some sense of frustration after a week of slaving for the man. They paddle out with entitlement, and it’s best to not be around. To be safe, finish your last surf down there at about 2:00pm in the afternoon.
Avoid the two main spots from Friday 2:00pm until Monday morning. They become pretty intense during that time. There is an outlet at the next pass up from One Eyes, for a bit less agro in the water, but there are still locals.
If an aggressive local confronts you, go in, no matter how difficult it is. If you get into a fight and get injured, the legal ramifications of getting it dealt with will be endless and costly. It’ll also ruin your holiday. It’s so not worth it.
Don’t bother retaliating. They will outnumber you quickly. Don’t bother shouting and screaming in the car park. They will outnumber you.
If there are small numbers in the water, like two locals and you on your own, you can usually pull it off by sitting a little bit wide and getting the extra waves and being cool.
Do some serious Mauritian homework. There are waves in the south that don’t have to have a northerly wind to fire. There are waves in the north that don’t have to have a cyclone swell to fire. If you start getting the gist of the workings of the other waves, you will start realising that the localised spots are not that important on the grand scale, and are just the most well-known. All of this info is available on the internet. Ask Mr. Google.
We just returned from our ninth trip to the joint. Scored waves again, followed the rules, had a grand old time. Didn’t even encounter a local. Surfed to exhaustion in warm water. Total awesomeness.
Finally, let’s not ever forget that we all have local breaks; we all have our own rules, kind of. If you surf New Pier there is localism. If you surf one of the points on the south coast there are systems in place. Ever surfed Kirra? How about Duranbah? Both are heavily regimented. If you surf Victoria Bay you will most likely receive some instruction from local surfers. Paddle out on Durban’s Bluff and someone will likely tell you where to sit and which waves aren’t yours. If you surf Plett, there are local rules in place. Don’t be naïve to any of this. We are all surfers.
It’s simple, work with the rules and get a few perfect waves, or suffer the risk of getting a board to your side, a hand to your face, or spending an uncomfortable amount of time underwater that will most definitely ruin your day.
The choice is always yours to make.