Wave Wars: Surfing's Violent Subculture

Surfers have an image of being laid back and relaxed, but set foot onto their beaches or try to ride their waves uninvited and you might see that mellow, Zen-like mentality melt away in an instant. You may even become the next victim of surf rage.

Just last weekend, a celebrity photographer experienced this firsthand as he tried to capture actor Matthew McConaughey on film while he surfed at a beach in Malibu, Calif. Within minutes, more than a dozen surfers surrounded the photographer and began screaming at him and his fellow paparazzi to leave the beach.

"Nobody wants you here," a surfer was heard screaming at the cameraman on a videotape recording, just moments before the encounter escalated into a full-fledged brawl.

The fight, which continued off and on throughout the weekend, resulted in several photogs getting punched in the face, and one even showed off his bloody face to the camera.

Photographers and surfers alike are now arguing back and forth online, some even suggesting the two sides meet this Saturday for a beach rumble.

But, despite the threats, the Malibu police department told ABCNEWS.com that no additional enforcement -- other than the beach patrol that is always present -- will be deployed.

Though the video and subsequent cyber-threats were jarring to watch, the incident was not altogether uncommon. At the best surf beaches, the limited number of waves and occasional pack mentality of local surfers, who feel entitled to the territory, can mean bad news for newcomers.

There have been several recent examples of surfers taking violent exception to the intrusion of outsiders.

Last spring, a surfer was beaten and killed by what some considered a "surfer gang" in La Jolla, Calif., and earlier this year, a local Hawaiian surfer was killed during an early morning fight, according to local reports.

Documentaries, such as Russell Crowe's 2007 "Bra Boys," which boasted a tagline that read "blood is thicker than water," and the 2005 film "Lords of Dogtown," both illustrated how violent surfer life can get. In "Dogtown," for example, one surfer, who feels threatened by intruders, goes so far as to drop another's carburetor into the ocean.

'They Wanted Me Out of Their Sandbox'

Sam George, a Malibu-based surf guide and documentary filmmaker, said he's been dealing with "localism," the term surfers use to describe surf rage, since he began surfing more than 39 years ago.

"I was once surfing out in a break near Santa Barbara, and the surfers there wanted me and my friends to get out of the water because the sleeves on my wetsuit were blue," said George, who believes he was asked to leave because his suit didn't fit the "code of that spot."

"They started yelling," recalled George, the former editor of Surfer magazine. "They wanted us out of their waves, their break and their point.

"They wanted me out of their sandbox," George said, adding that fights sparked by territorialism usually occur in areas with the higher quality waves.

The territorialism seen among surfers is the result of the elusive nature of the sport, according to Stacy Peralta, a surfer and filmmaker, who wrote the screenplay for "Lords of Dogtown."

"You're dealing with a situation where there are limited resources," said Peralta, who declined to elaborate on his own run-ins with angry surfers, although he did confirm that he's had plenty. "There are only so many waves in a set and so many in a session, and the spots get really, really crowded.

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