Territorial Surfing in San Diego

14 min readDec 25, 2018
  • Overpopulation of surfers results in “heavy localism”
  • Conflict results in territorial reinforcement, “kook” vs “local”
  • Question answered by surfers. Who owns the ocean?

Nestled on the edge of North County, Trestles beach ranks number twelve on the 50 best surf spots in the world according to CNN Travel. Contravene to the Aloha of surfing, a dark side of territoriality and localism abide in many of San Diego’s most coveted surf breaks, experts said.

Cautionary words mark the path to Trestles, “Death to Invaders, Locals Only,” “If you don’t live here, don’t surf here,” “The Surf Is Good but The Crowd Isn’t,” “Go Back.” From the border of Mexico to the edge of North County, familiar warnings fringe parking lots, signs and cement walls surrounding San Diego’s best breaks.

Warning on the path to Trestles beach. Photo by Steven Buriek.

San Diego is home to thousands of surfers with varying levels of skill and surfing prowess. Essentially, localism and territoriality exist for one of two reasons — to maintain the exclusivity and integrity of a break or to protect others from the hazards of inexperienced and aggressive surfers, past surf instructor and local surfer, Chase Ryan said.

“Localism is protecting against overpopulation, for one. There are these secret spots that come up and now and then and people don’t want anyone to know about them,” local surfer Charlie Musser, 32, said.

“If you can have perfect waves all to yourself, that’s why people want to protect it. I guess localism exist to keep out people who might hurt you. You don’t want people who don’t know what they’re doing out there


Co-Founder at Sdundercurrents | Digital Freelance Writer & Producer |Food&Cocktail Blogger | Photographer | Journalist | Memiorist | Featured in KnowledgeForMen