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Star-Bulletin Features

Friday, January 26, 2001

Photo from "Surf Rage"
More than one surfer on the same wave is potential disaster
as these surfers at Rocky Point on Oahu will find out.

All the RAGE

Championship surfer Nat Young
exposes the dark side of surfing
in his new book 'Surf Rage'

By Tim Ryan

SEVERAL years ago in the surf off Diamond Head, a visiting Brazilian dropped in front of a professional surfer known for his short temper.

The Brazilian fell on the local man who promptly snapped off the fins of the offender's board, then started to throw a punch before someone yelled that such action is assault. The angry surfer then ordered the Brazilian out of the water, yelling racist remarks.

Road rage, office rage, now surf rage is the subject of an anthology by former four-time world champion surfer Australian Nat Young following his brutal beating last year, which required seven hours of facial reconstructive surgery. Young, who is in Hawaii for book signings Saturday, calls war in the surf "nothing new."

Bullet In 1995, local professional surfer Lance Hookano was found guilty of battery and assault for attacking a body boarder in Malibu surf a year earlier. Along with another defendant, Hookano was sentenced to three years probation and ordered to perform 300 hours of community service.

Bullet At Chun's Reef in 1997, professional surfer Johnny Boy Gomes broke the nose of another surfer when he punched him.

"Surf rage has existed for a long, long time," said Young, 53. "But no one has wanted to expose the dirty underside of what's supposed to be a very glamorous sport."



Bullet Who: Nat Young, author of "Surf Rage -- A Surfer's Guide to Turning Negatives Into Positives" (Nymbodia Press), $22.95
Bullet Where and when: Waldenbooks, Ala Moana Center; 1 p.m. tomorrow; Waldenbooks, Kahala Mall Shopping Center, 3 p.m. tomorrow.
Bullet Admission: Free

Young was attacked at his home break at Angourie Beach in New South Wales, Australia, suffering two broken eye sockets, cracked cheekbones and sinuses that no longer work the way they should. But Young, known worldwide for his own aggression, ego and ambition, admits he had a hand in provoking the attack when he slapped the face of the son of a rival surfer for "bad behavior." When Young left the water, the father attacked.

"I was wrong; I shouldn't have done what I did," Young says. "But no one deserves a beating for such an action. There are other ways to handle anger."

And that's the message of "Surf Rage," which chronicles violent incidents at dozens of major surf spots around the world.

Photo from "Surf Rage"
A young man shows the consequence of surf rage
after a surfer incident in Australia.

There's the surfer sent to jail for assault with a deadly weapon when he attacked another surfer with the fins of his surfboard, and another tale about a group of young surfers arrested for stoning an older man who paddled out at their home break on his long board.

While most of the pieces name names, the chapter "Localism in Hawaii" written by Carol Anne Philips, a professional bodyboarder, doesn't name some of the local surfers involved in surf rage "out of respect for them and their careers," she said.

"But if you've heard the stories already, just do the math and you'll know who I'm talking about," said Philips, 34, who interviewed several surfers about incidents here, including:

Bullet A "local heavy" takes off in front of a "haole" surfer causing both men to wipe out. The local surfer rips the fins off the other guy's board, then dunks him "30 times," nearly drowning him;

Bullet A "heavy local" hires some guy named "Alvin" to beat up Australian surfer Ian Cairns over comments he made about Hawaii in an Australian surfing magazine;

Bullet During the 1970s Australian invasion of the North Shore, Aussies reportedly had to hire personal bodyguards to be able to surf in contests;

Bullet Australian surfing star Jodie Cooper gets slapped in the face recently after criticizing a local surfer for trying to hit someone with his surfboard.

"The reason for surf rage is simple to understand like it is for road rage," Young said. "It's overcrowding, but it has to be dealt with by every surfer if they want to continue surfing. The solution is to understand that anger in itself is not a bad thing, but knowing that violence and aggression are totally unacceptable."

There are several ways surfers can take control of their rage or that of others.

"We all need to do something within ourselves," Young said. "If something going on in the water really pisses you off, then get out. Take control."

Photo from "Surf Rage"
The outcome of overcrowding.

The time he spent writing the book was therapy for Young. He enjoined Derek Rielly, an Australian surf journalist who had written about "Surf Rage" in 1989 when he was editor of Australian Surfing Life magazine.

The pair drew up a short list of surfing writers to contribute chapters, including Drew Kamplon, an elder statesman of sorts of surf journalism, surfer Nick Carroll who's been editor of numerous surfing magazines in Australia and the United States; Gunter Swoboda, a surfing psychologist; and Gordon Stammers, an attorney with the Victorian State Governments Justice Department.

The prime motivation in writing the book was "to turn a negative into a positive," and to confront that surf rage exists worldwide.

"What really (angers) me about many major surfing sponsors is they support stars who are often involved in surf rage," he said. "You need to make people within the surfing fraternity feel that this is unacceptable behavior.

"Even the ones involved in publicized surf rage incidents like Lance and Johnny Boy must feel pretty alone and crappy about what happened, considering the problems it caused them personally," Young said. "That sort of anger won't get you anywhere in the long run."

Photo from "Surf Rage"
More tolerance is needed as various watercraft share the
waves. Above, surfboarder and bodyboarder crash.

Young believes competition in surfing creates an aggressive environment.

"I know that's ironic for me to say, someone who has benefited tremendously from competition, but it's taken me a long time to understand it," he said.

Perhaps the biggest effect of Young's beating is his decision to leave Australia in December with his wife and children to reside in Sun Valley, Idaho. Young says media reports of his beating unfairly placed a large part of the responsibility on him. He's also tired of what he believes is the Australian media's attempts "to cut someone down who has made a success of himself."

"It's one of the things about Australia I hate," said Young, a successful book publisher and hotel owner. "We've done it with Greg Norman and our great swimmers."

Young will continue to surf on "those occasional odd" trips to Hawaii and Costa Rica, but said more of his time will be spent snowboarding which he can do as a family activity.

"America is far less aggressive and hateful than Australia," he said.

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