In Defense of Localism
The Beachside Resident

lo•cal•ism (n)

1. a way of acting characteristic of one locality; local custom, practice, or mannerism

2. a word, meaning, expression, pronunciation, etc. peculiar to one locality

3. fondness for a particular locality

4. narrow outlook; provincialism

Warning: this article is intended for locals only. If you don’t live beachside, or at any rate, within a 15-minute drive of the beach, you should stop reading now.

I’m serious. Just go somewhere else.

Or better yet, get in your car and drive yourself back to Orlando (or Ohio, or New Jersey, or wherever the hell you came from.)

Good. Now that we’ve disposed of the riff-raff… what’s that? You’re still here? Well, I guess I can’t force you to stop reading, but don’t say I didn’t warn you... kooks.

As for my fellow beachside residents, let’s get down to it. Summer is upon us, and with it, the regular influx of drunks, clunks, and punks who come to litter these streets with an interminable clatter of beer cans and plastic cups… the tourists, spring-breakers, and weekenders who customarily plug up the drive aisles at our local banks, flick swarms of cigarette butts out their car windows, brew up all sorts of hecticness and traffic jams, and who, with their white-rimmed sunglasses, shaved chests and sideways baseball caps, generally lay seige to our otherwise peaceful oceanside villages.

Ah, summer weekends. There’s nothing quite like that helpless, closed-in feeling one gets when surrounded by inlanders. By one o’clock it’s impossible to find a parking space at your favorite café (even though the seats inside are empty) and when you decide to paddle out for a quick soul-session, it’s not uncommon to get dropped in on by a pasty New Jerseyite, who tilts his board into a weak turn, loses his balance, falls off, splashes back out to the lineup, puffing up as if he really owned that wave, and proceeds to give the stinkeye to everyone in his immediate vicinity.

On Monday morning, it’s we, the locals, who are left to pick up the trash from the dunes and curse the ignorant bastards who left it there. The more congested beaches –– like the Pier, 2nd light, or the Boardwalk –– still smell like ashtrays from the day before, and the amount of litter that visiting surfers leave in their wake (you would think surfers would have more respect) is astounding. Breakfast at Juice-N-Java reveals a parking lot glittering with broken glass and reeking like a urinal from the Inner Room’s debaucherous late-night runoff.

What's wrong here? Would these guests act this way if we were Hawaiians instead of Brevardians? No… I can assure you if these kooks displayed this kind of behavior on the North Shore, they would be given a prompt lesson in the meaning of respect.

Respect. That’s what localism is all about, really. Respecting the beach, the ocean, the community, and the people who live here.

As permanent residents of this barrier island, we need to step up and protect our hometown. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not calling for a Cocoa Beach branch of Da Hui, or an Indialantic Wolfpak. Not every Orlando peacock who swaggers into town and acts like a dumbass deserves a punch in the jaw. There is a time and place for fighting, especially at life-threatening reef breaks like Pipe. In Florida, there are plenty of waves to go around, and if you get cut off in two-foot mush, it’s really not the end of the world. You won’t be walking around like Gerry Lopez, who, after getting dropped in on by a Haole, had to keep a colonoscopy bag in his pants for six months.

Rather, we need to force the respect issue without reverting to physical violence. The kind of localism we need here is what you see on the island of Kauai, a pride that the locals take in their home beach, an Aloha spirit coupled with a collective disdain for those who would despoil it. As residents here, we need to band together, to be more vocal when we see someone leaving their trash on the beach, or pissing in a parking lot, or sauntering across the street in the middle of traffic, or dropping in on someone, or simply being a loudmouthed jerk.

As far as car break-ins and stolen boards, in Kauai, you can leave your board on your car anywhere on the island, and it will never be touched. Why? Because the locals are watching you, and they won’t tolerate it. And if you get caught? You’re done. They’ll beat you senseless and drop you off in Lihue. Explain to me how cars get broken into at 2nd Light or the Pier, two of the most bustling parking lots around, with regularity? Because these fools have no fear. Locals: step up and enforce!

We need to take our beaches back. We're the ones who maintain the public beaches. We're the ones who voted for the open liquor policy. We pushed the issue of height restrictions for beachside development. Why did we do it? For us! Orlando doesn’t vote on these issues. And it’s not like the average Orange County fool is bringing a glut of business into town anyway. The drive isn’t long enough to melt ice, so the majority of them are packing up their beers and snacks in the morning, laying out all day, sucking down their Parliament lights, buying nothing while they’re here, and dumping their cans and wrappers for us to clean up when they leave. These kooks need to appreciate what they have here. They need to show some Respect.

As for the Orlando people who are still reading this, instead of getting offended, why don’t you step it up next time you’re on the beach? Pick up some trash, or get in the face of someone who’s disrespecting the community? Remember, these kooks represent all of you.

If you’re worried about confrontation, there are other, more civilized options. Take a picture of the offender and post it online, or just ask the person nicely to pick up their mess. Sometimes that’s all it takes. If nothing else works, go and find someone who’s willing to enforce the issue for you.

The term “localism” often gets a bad rap by associating itself with gangs of aggro, head-smacking surfers who try to thin out crowds at their point breaks, but it’s not a term that should be used exclusively for surfers. No, I think the essence of localism is best captured by definition number three above: “fondness for a particular locality.” Anyone who loves the open, endless horizon of our beaches, the coolness of the water when you first dip your shins into shorebreak, the sparkling sunrises, the whispering, starry nights, the tranquility of the river at dusk, or the calmness of a bike ride on the beach at low tide, should understand what I’m talking about.

This is a call to all surfers, fishermen, joggers, bikers, and snowbirds… to the local Surfrider branch, the City Commissioners, condo associations, shopkeepers, bartenders, waitresses, retirees, and even to those inlanders who cared enough to have kept reading this article. Let’s start treating this place with the same watchfulness and awe that the Hawaiians treat their own islands.

Locals, let’s start doing as Da Hui says: “Stick out your chests, and not your asses.”