The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has added to social media upheaval as more and more new surfers paddle through local queues without learning local etiquette. The exploration and rites of passage it took to find these places, their secrecy or their access maintained through generations of internet users in some cases, can vanish with an over-eager Instagram post. And one geotagged Instagram post begets another and another.
“There are people who feel like they’ve tended a garden for years, and then you come in with a dirt bike and donuts and peel it, kicking the dirt in their face,” said Devon Howard, the former editor. of Longboard magazine and a leading figure in surfing.
Dropbox, a fun and once-quiet spot near Mulcoy’s Tofino home, is now so crowded he doesn’t bother surfing there anymore. If someone shares a photo of the wave pulling one day, the break is filled with new surfers the next, he said.
Some photographers have redirected their careers to respect local breaks. Chris Burkard, an outdoor photographer with 3.8 million Instagram followers, has become famous for his photographs of extremely remote locations. It wasn’t his original plan: the central coast of California, where he’s from, is full of big waves – but ill will towards anyone photographing them.
“One of the reasons I was drawn to remote and wild places was that I was so tired of taking care of things at home,” Burkard said, using an expletive, in citing having his car vandalized and receiving death threats.
He and other photographers see no reason to name a place, even if it is photographed.
“For me, the mystery and anonymity of the surfing experience is key,” Burkard continued. “When I grew up seeing these secluded beaches on the cover of Surfer, and all you got was the name of a country, it was so cool. Which made me want to make it a career is literally this lack of information.