When the risks of surfing come to mind, things like a gnarly surf rash, getting dumped, or having your toes nibbled by fish seem the worst of it. But for a Te Awamutu father, son and friend, theirs is now getting shot at.
The terrified group escaped uninjured after being shot at while surfing off Te Maika peak last Thursday, with some bullets hitting the water just 2m away from the 14-year-old boy.
Waikato Police have launched an investigation but believe the shooters are locals defending “their” waters from “strangers”—a phenomenon known as "localism"—as the break is only accessible by boat or private land. And it’s not the first time it’s happened.
A Waikato fisherman told the NZ Herald he was also fired at from shore while sitting in his boat as a friend free dived. Another long-time surfer said he had learnt the break is “invite only”, unless you don’t mind your property vandalised, harassment, or getting chased off the beach.
In an interview with RNZ Jhan Galava, who is doing a PhD on surf rage, said in all his research and experience surfing he had never heard of intimidation tactics this extreme. "There are urban legends in Hawaii, stories of guns being wielded but never fired," he said.
Locals across the world use similar intimidation tactics to “protect” their breaks, including the infamous “Bay Boys” who have monopolised Lunada Bay in California for decades by harassing outsiders. The Guardian captured these verbal imitation tactics on hidden camera in 2015, but even these men said violence was a last resort—mostly because of potential criminal charges and expensive lawyers.