SURF GANGS: THE WAR OVER WAVES

Surf gangs often form to preserve cultural identity through the protection of beach towns and shorelines. If known territory is trespassed by members of another surf gang, violence usually occurs. Long Beach is home to one of the oldest and biggest surf gangs, called “Longos.” Some surf gangs have been known to not only claim land territory, but also claim specific surfing waves as territory. Surf gangs have gained notoriety over the years, especially with the production of Bra Boys.

Wolfpak
The Wolfpak is so named “because we run in a pack, working together. When you mess with one of us, you mess with all of us.” –Kala Alexander”

236632_525_350_wThe Wolfpak was originally composed of a few select surfers from Kauai, Hawaii who believed in respecting localism. Kauai, according to a Wolfpak member, is a place where one is raised to honor the value of respect. If you don’t show respect, then you can’t expect anyone to return the favor. This value is what led to the group’s effort to manage the chaos associated with North Shore surfing. Some notable members have been pro surfers Andy Irons and Bruce Irons, as well as the reality show 808 star and Blue Crush actor, Kala Alexander.

Wolfpak began in 2001 when leader Kala Alexander moved to North Shore in search for job opportunities, and found disorganization and lack of respect in the surf lineup at surf reef break, Pipeline. Alexander found it necessary to dictate some sort of organization in who would surf the Pipeline to both preserve the value of showing respect to one’s elders, i.e. those who were native to the land and had been surfing for many years, and also protect surfers from the reef’s potentially life threatening waves.

The waves at Pipeline can reach over 20 feet and its powerful disposition has taken the lives of professional surfers. If a visiting surfer dropped in on another surfer, unknowing of the wave’s nature, he could cause serious harm or death to the former. On a related note, some surfers aren’t ready to handle Pipeline. These observations led to the Wolfpak’s proactive enforcement on the North Shore.

race2-600x400The Wolfpak’s ways of preventing the aforementioned consequences of Pipeline popularity have gotten attention through their violent means. In an incident where a tourist cut off a friend of Alexander’s in a dangerous six-foot swell, the Wolfpak leader beat up the visitor for his poor decision and later reflected on the positive outcomes native enforcement could bring. Comments from anonymous locals show that the presence of Wolfpak is well perceived, if not intimidating. Though, some locals who hold similar values of cultural respect support what the members are trying to do.

Alexander doesn’t view Wolfpak as a gang, but says they look out for every local Hawaiian. Embedded in the brotherhood’s philosophy is respect for others. They attempt to preserve this way of life and realize the implications that a lack of respect can have on Hawaiian culture.

“I don’t care if it’s Kauai or Brooklyn. And I believe wherever you go, locals have the right of way. That’s how it should be, and how it used to be here.”- Kala Alexander

Bra Boys
Bra Boys movie posterThe Bra Boys are a popular surf gang founded in Maroubra, a beachside suburb in the Eastern Suburbs of Sydney, Australia. They established international fame and attention in 2007 with the release of Bra Boys: Blood is Thicker than Water, a documentary about the bonds and struggles of the many gang members. The Bra Boys name originates both from the slang word for brother, and as a reference to the gang’s home suburb, Maroubra. Gang members tattoo “My Brothers Keeper” across the front of their chests and the Maroubra area code across their back.
Many of the Bra Boys came from impoverished homes and families torn apart by drug use. Brothers Sunny, Jai, Koby and Dakota Abberton, came from an especially difficult upbringing. To them the Bra Boys were much more than a gang, they were a group of friends, a family of their own that loved to surf and always stood up for each other. The documentary, written and directed by the gang members themselves, showed the raw gritty side of a surf life previously glamorized by Hollywood.