Hipster, Big Wave Or Yuppie: What Kind Of Surfer Are You?

Everyone knows someone who fits into these categories

Photo: The Surfing Tribe

Like all members of the human population, surfers split easily into tribes.

Surfers will tend to attach to other surfers that have the same attitudes, lifestyle and type of surfboard.

Sure, there are some blurred lines around the edges and unlike, say the highlands of Papua New Guinea, the surfing tribes don’t hunt and roast each other over fires.

Here are just a few of the better known tribes. The question is: which tribe belongs to you?

The Hipster

Photo: Andy Solo

Defining a hipster is like trying to teach a jellyfish the offside rule in football.

In Rob Horning’s article “The Death of the Hipster” he states that the hipster might be the “embodiment of post-modernism as a spent force, revealing what happens when pastiche and irony exhaust themselves as aesthetics.” So, that clears that up.

The main problem with identification is that no hipster will ever come close to calling himself a hipster.

“No hipster will ever come close to calling himself a hipster”

“Hipster, I hate that term, it doesn’t define who or what I am,” says Aussie surfer Harrison Roach, who, nonetheless can’t walk down the street with his 7’6’ singlefin and short ‘60s era boardshorts without people yelling it at him.

Dane Reynolds might be one. Alex Knost? Maybe. In surfing the hipster prides himself on riding a variety of surfcraft, most with links to the past and of which 95 per cent don’t work.

They will wear charity shop style clothes that cost a bomb and cultivate a just thrown together look that takes forever to put together. Personal blogs, check shirts and beards complete the hipster checklist. At current rates, they will be extinct by 2016.

The Anti-Hipster

The anti-hipster tribe may not know what they like, but they sure as hell know what they don’t like. And that’s a hipster.

The tribe’s antipathy to any board that isn’t a standard thruster can border on the psychotic and the very sight of a modern retro longboard can make him foam at the mouth with rabid fury.

“The very sight of a modern retro longboard can make him foam at the mouth with rabid fury”

They fail to understand why any proper surfer would wear any other brand than the major surf labels, with a typical wardrobe acting as a time capsule for Quiksilver, Billabong and Rip Curl catalogues from 2004.

Clean shaven and with a safe-like memory of professional surfing, he would rather see Mick Fanning do a thousand wraps at Bells Beach than watch a single wave ridden by Rasta on an Alaia.

An anti-hipster is both confused and threatened by the hipster. The fun they once had on a borrowed 5’6” fish is, like masturbating over a step sister, a secret they will take to the grave.

The Competitor

Photo: Red Bull

The competitor tribe believe surfing is not just a pastime to be enjoyed on your own, but within a set framework of rules and timeframes.

They prefer to allocate each wave a score and determine enjoyment levels by wins and losses, not unquantifiable measures like stoke.

The competitor tribe usually congregate on weekends, setting up mobile structures that act as churches for their competitive zeal.

“They determine enjoyment by wins and losses, not unquantifiable measures like stoke”

They will then strata themselves in various ranks of age, ability and board size and mark each other on their various strengths and weaknesses.

It is a fairly joyless experience for the majority, as surfing substandard conditions and then losing is commonplace.

A small group of military trained workers run the whole operation, a two per cent that do 98 per cent of the work. The rewards though can be substantial; a bronze trophy and an almighty end of year piss up is not something you can get by simply going surfing on your tod.

The Local

Photo via. I Am Wok

The local travelled abroad once, when he was 19. It is a trip that he recounts on any given opportunity to both push his well-rounded credentials and to prove that the waves at his local beach are better than any other place in the world.

While you have to admire the local’s devotion to their break – they know every nook and cranny, every bit of moss, every rip on every ten centimetre of the tide – it is hard to admire their inability to share their beloved waves.

“The local travelled abroad once… when he was 19”

They take any visitors to “their” wave as a personal affront, failing to understand why anyone would want to travel to surf the waves they so fervently worship. This confusion is often expressed crudely, with a range of welcome that veers from frosty silence to violent intimidation.

Out of the water, the locals seems fairly well-adjusted, maintaining relations, jobs and social norms that is at odds with the sense of entitlement and ignorant fury that they surf their break with.

The Urban or Landlocked Surfer


Despite often having a six hour round trip to get to any type of breaking wave, perhaps no other tribe shows the level of enthusiasm for surfing like the Urban or Landlocked surfer.

This tribe tend to fit into two camps. Their members were either forced inland by work or a relationship or they have discovered the sport late in life.

“They keep threatening to leave their wife/job/husband/home and move to the coast. They never do.”

As such they desperately try to fill the geographical distance and surfing void by soaking up as much as of the surfing culture in any way possible.

They spend around 45 full days a year watching the surfing competition webcasts and slightly less online shopping for all the latest gear.

However, most of their dedication and time is spent on researching their one week surfing holiday each year, a process that ends up as an equation of six hours internet research per actual wave caught on the holiday.

They keep threatening to leave the wife/job/husband/home and move to the coast. Sadly, they never do.

The Big Wave Surfer


The big-wave guy (or girl), strangely enough, likes big waves.

As a child, they were the kids that climbed the highest, fell the hardest and generally showed an abnormal disregard for their own health and safety.

Upon finding surfing, they quickly discovered a relatively healthy outlet for their overworked adrenalin valve.

“They were the kids that showed an abnormal disregard for their own healthy and safety”

They also discovered that having relatively little talent for the sport was no hindrance once the waves started getting large enough to sort the men from the boys (or the women from the girls).

The big wave guy is often not seen for months at a time, only to surface zombie-like once the waves get over six foot.

Then he will dust off one of the oversized surfboards that lie stacked in his garage and emerge with a steely eye and crazed, masochistic grin.

In his element, he makes no bones about exercising his slightly unhinged superiority, taking his beatings and his giant waves with a calm, freaky assurance.

Surf Yuppies

Photo: Louis Vuitton

You can usually tell a member of the surf yuppie tribe.

The thousand pound roof racks attached to the 4WD Audi V8 stacked with an eight board quiver of 10 foot mals in mint condition and the three never been ridden SUPs is a bit of a giveaway.

“They may splash cash on a French villa or Hawaiian guesthouse depending on this year’s bonus”

You might just see lead weighted tow board wedged in the middle, a perfect accompaniment to the four-stroke jetski that is getting towed behind.

The Yuppie tribes’ holidays of choice are boat trips in the Mentawais or Maldives, although they may splash some cash on a French villa or Hawaiian guesthouse depending on this year’s bonus.

Wet wetsuits are for poor people. Their houses are adorned with a variety of surfboards, mostly bought at auction and destined to never touch the salty ocean ever again.

The Indo Veteran

Photo: Surfer Dude

Indonesia is home to a more perfect waves than any other destination on the planet. As such, it is an obvious drawcard to any surfer that wants to ride fantastic waves in boardshorts.

Many surfers visit, many more go back a few times, but some get addicted. The odd holiday turns into an annual trip, which gets longer and longer each year.

“They would rather wear underpants made of killer bees than a wetsuit”

For around two months, the Indo veteran will put all such trivial matters like partners, children, pets, dying mothers and jobs and hunker down in the warm tropical climes of the archipelago.

They come back from the sojourn with a flaky tan, advanced melanomas and the inability to bring themselves to surf any type of wave that doesn’t exist in Indonesia.

They would rather wear underpants made of killer bees than a wetsuit and can often be heard comparing the price of a sausage roll to that of a three course meal overlooking a perfect left in Indonesia (that comes with a free massage).

You Might Also Like:

How To Surf… With Your Boobs

Gangs, Jail Time And Girl-On-Girl Fist Fights: The World’s Hardest Surfers Have Some Incredible Stories…

Newsletter Terms & Conditions

Please enter your email so we can keep you updated with news, features and the latest offers. If you are not interested you can unsubscribe at any time. We will never sell your data and you'll only get messages from us and our partners whose products and services we think you'll enjoy.

Read our full Privacy Policy as well as Terms & Conditions.