No surfing destination on earth gets the variety of surfers from countries all around the world as Bali does. So I am going to engage in a bit of very politically incorrect cultural stereotyping and personal generalization here, while admitting numerous biases–for example, not knowing German, I have no way of knowing if two Germans yakking away are being funny or not (“I over-the-fallen-went”; “Ja, you looked like an Englishman who his bottom-is-being-spanken”; “Nein, nein, it was not enjoyable one-little-totten”).
Anyway, here goes:
The most polite: Japanese
Although don’t be fooled. The spirit of the samurai is still there. In the Mentawais, those of us chilling on the boats witnessed a Japanese surfer, with skills just enough there to handle fairly solid Lance’s Lefts, get burned time and again by one of the “regulars.” Finally the long-suffering Japanese dropped in on the jerk, the jerk proceeded to lose his cool which the Japanese hadn’t done, and the Japanese guy went at the bigger fellow, got him in a headlock and held him under water. I don’t think anybody likes seeing violence in the water, but this time everybody watching on the boats applauded.
The most aggressive: Brazilians.
Although once a friend badly shattered a leg falling out of a rain forest tree, and when he was lying in the Medan hospital, who should make the effort to pay him a visit but a Brazilian surfer, from a crew we met out in the islands.
The funniest and friendliest: Australians.
The loudest and friendliest: Americans. (Italians can also be exuberant).
The ones with the most sense of entitlement: Hawaiians.
Although I’ve also found that there is nobody as hospitable as a Hawaiian.
The most clueless: young Europeans from landlocked countries.
The ones who smell strongest of perfumed sunscreen: Italians.
The mellowest: all those who simply enjoy being out there, happy with what comes
The most bizarre: the assortment of surf school students, but look, we were all once kooks ourselves (except for the groms who hung ten, or for this generation alley-ooped an aerial, out of their mother’s womb).
The most tolerant: who else but the local island surfers, the whole world beating a path to their surf spots?
The most obnoxious: in my experience, the most obnoxious surfers are the foreign insta-locals, who’ve lived in Bali for a few years, often on a seasonal basis, and think they own the joint. Not all, or even most of them, but enough of ’em.
Okay, this was just in fun, folks. Next week a more serious effort: The Degradation of Surfing. A good starting place is Kevin Naughton’s thought provoking post at Surfline, “Dispatch from Cloudbreak.