On the other side of the spectrum were the Stoke Reporters–equally as, well, stoked as the Saffas, but completely lacking in skill and etiquette. Stoke Report is a regional website that encourages Bay Area surfers to upload real-time, user-generated surf reports via their cell phones. The result is a Twitter-esque stream of claiming from tech-savvy kooks who see Ocean Beach as a free ski resort (slowest surfer in front has right of way). They stroll up to the dunes, take a photo, and upload it for all the desk-bound world to see, along with feel-good claims like "Sloat is going OFF right now! Get down here dude!!!"
Needless to say, the Stoke Reporters' sense of naïve entitlement is not sitting well with the aforementioned ex-con, old-school locals. The more patient among these detractors have attempted to educate the Stoke Reporters in the complexities of surf culture via polite posts on the site's message board. "The search is part of the fun! Even Surfline doesn't condone spot-specific real-time reports!" No matter how gentle and reasonable the persuasion, all detractors have been permanently banned from Stoke Report. As a result, the natives are getting restless. The most prolific Stoke Reporters have reportedly been identified, and the next step seems to be a more physical brand of offline, parking-lot persuasion.
Yikes! I'll avoid responding in kind; Lewis Samuels (the BSNYC of surf) is a fairly trollish writer (which is why I enjoy his work), and it would behoove me to not try to argue with him, despite the fact that he's gotten a few things wrong. Stoke Reporters typically post after-the-fact reports (not really "real-time"), and the ongoing fight between locals and reporters is, for the most part, over reporting on a handful of more sensitive spots. Most of us don't really have a dog in this fight, though now that our precious little site has gotten some (un?)deserved notoriety, it's worth it to at least share my thoughts on the matter.
I'm pretty new to surfing myself. A lot of people on SR are. There's a fundamental culture clash when a bunch of new people join an existing activity or scene, and this is particularly heightened in a city like San Francisco, whose demographics have changed pretty dramatically over the last few decades. A lot of the guys out in the avenues who surf look like the type of San Franciscan who has, for the most part, decamped to the suburbs: white, working class, Irish... Your typical Stoke Reporter is more likely to be part of the new guard of dot-com yuppies who populate the northeast corner of town, where Priuses and iPhones hold court. I might as well be the poster child for outsider-newcomer-SF-surfer: I'm not only a Jewish dot-com yuppie; I'm also a homo! For your typical, embattled Sunset District holdout, I'd probably sit right up on the grudge list next to Asians, Google, and onshores.
Needless to say, I try to practice respect. Most of us do. Samuels has painted us with a broad brush, but I'm inclined to forgive him, given that the incessant flagellation over the reporting issue has engulfed the site, and almost everyone (including myself) has at some point engaged in the debate. You'd be hard-pressed not to conclude that we're collectively advocating the inclusion of "Report on Any Break at Any Time" in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. I'm of the belief that it's actually a handful of people pushing this. Likewise, a few locals have insisted on debating the opposite, to the extent that the site is nearly ruined by the constant back-and-forth over something that, for the most part, regular users don't care about, except that it go away. Things have escalated to the degree that physical threats have been made. A close friend of mine, who turned me on to surfing last year and has progressed enough in the sport that he's hitting some of the more sensitive spots in SF, has felt compelled to delete his account due to fears of stepping on the wrong toes. This is fucked.
I honestly don't know if the site will survive this drama. I'll be bummed if it goes away. Stoke Report has not only introduced me to a whole slew of people whom I now call my friends; it's also kept me going on the days when I'm "desk-bound" (as Samuels would put it) and allows me to share the joy of participation in a truly sublime activity. Some days when I paddle out I am practically overcome with gratitude for how lucky I am. I'd hate to slink into the mire of paranoia and fear that seems poised to grip our hardy clan of iPhone-wielding kooks with graduate degrees (as one commenter so kindly described us). I'll continue practicing the same brand of healthy respect that I've practiced thus far. Not only will I not report on a place like Fort Point, I won't even surf it (at least not yet)! I can barely negotiate the lineup, let alone handle the waves when they come in. I stay away, as I ought to, and stick to the places where I belong, based on my abilities. Those places include Bolinas, the Princeton Jetty (when it's not too crowded), Cowell's (I think the only thing disqualifying one from Cowell's is being too skilled), and even Ocean Beach when it's small and manageable. I will also practice good ethics in the lineup, not be a dickish wave hog, and send good vibes wherever possible. One thing I won't do, however, is be cowed into staying home, or not being who I am, because a bunch of people resent newcomers on their turf. I'm here, I'm queer, I use Linux, and I'm going to surf (poorly) whether you like it or not. I'd appreciate the only beatings that come my way be from the ocean.