Being a Japanese Surfer on the Gold Coast

I just got back from my home turf of the Gold Coast. Once again I couldn’t help notice how this stretch of coast remains a very White enclave. Anglo blokes dominate the surfing “mecca”, and tend to marginalise other race and ethnic performances in the lineups. Maybe not intentionally, but it is noticeable. You won’t hear much about anyone other than White blokes in the region’s surfing folklore. But there are many histories of surfers of different races, ethnicities, and histories on the Gold Coast. Stories about the perfection of the points have spread throughout the surfing world.

Japanese surfers who visit and reside on the Gold Coast en mass seem to sit on the lowest rungs of the pecking order. Some Japanese surfers are highly skilled and will be given some freedom in the line-up, but an Anglo Gold Coast surfer with even limited ability will tend to claim priority over them – racism is added to localism? When line-ups are crowded people will sometimes even seem to use race to establish a place in the pecking order and Asian surfers are seemingly placed at the bottom of the hierarchy. It’s simply assumed that they’re tourists. The assumption: “he looks Japanese, he can’t be local, so I’ll catch this wave anyway”. My mates with Japanese heritage explained to me they feel this is the case, sometimes. While some Japanese surfers gain acceptance and become good friends with many Anglo surfers on the Gold Coast it’s not easy for them. Many other surfers make little effort, by and large, to get to know their world or life. Some Japanese surfers have now lived on the Gold Coast for decades. And longer than many “locals” on the Gold Coast, which tends to have a transient population. Some Japanese crew I surf with are now Australian citizens and their children are second generation Gold Coast surfers. Interestingly, the Japanese surfers learn to negotiate the line-ups by adopting the slang, riding the local boards, playing local sports, and acting according to Anglo male surfer’s expectations. Maybe it is safer? You can see the uptake of Anglo Australian culture in this clip.

Bondi Tsunami (2004) by Rachael Lucas is a Japanese road surfing movie that documents Japanese surfers as they travel the East Coast of Australia surfing and partying until they reach the Gold Coast. Using an iconic Australian surf car, the 1961 EK Holden, the characters camp, surf, and undertake adventures.

There is never adaptation by the Anglo surfers to accommodate how the Japanese surfers may do or see things differently, besides saying that they have good food and eating at the many Sushi restaurants.

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