Anonymous Tough Guys on Humanity

“Remember, the top 30+ are real people..” This is the message, or something like that,  I received after blogging about the online world of surfing and the proliferation of ‘trolling’. I was told to investigate the ‘trolls’. Some kind of, NOW, YOU WILL FIGHT US ALL mentality.

fight them on the beaches

Naturally, I was contacted via an anonymous profile that was subsequently deactivated. Wouldn’t want your comments to be published elsewhere, would we, Mr Anonymous Tough Guy Defending the Industry? Oh, irony.

Sorry I had to paraphrase. But even if it’s an anonymous account, meaning it’s probably someone ‘important’ giving their opinion, this brings up a few great questions. First, I’m wondering whether I need to be MORE DIRECT. When I argue about sexism, I’m adamant that top surfers are human. I’m saying the Roxy Teaser is dehumanising for both the person in it, and the people watching it. Dehumanising means that it treats the person as an object, which is objectifying someone, which is… Never mind.

ecard patronising

The other question is why the “surfers are human” argument has come up quite a bit. It makes me wonder if people assume we see these athletes as minor deities.  I think we can all safely agree that Andy Irons was human. So are his fans, his friends, his family. Consequently, the ramifications of pretending recreational drugs are harmless fun and nobody’s business are, well, dehumanising. The Inertia has already covered this when Inertia editor Tetsuhiko Endo said:

I don’t, however, want to be part of a culture than churns out young addicts. Surfing does not have a drug problem; it has an accountability problem. It is so opaque, so enamored with its own stars and legends while at the same time so uncomfortable with self-criticism that one of its brightest lights was able to self-destruct in full view of the entire population. No one was responsible and everyone was responsible. That is a problem that is far deeper than drug tests.

It is a problem far deeper than drug tests. We’ve seen people wading through discussions about sexism, sexuality and discrimination without any consideration of their ability to do so. Some of them have faced real life consequences. Before you comment, look it up. If you don’t know what key words to look up, you really shouldn’t be commenting any time soon. Not without compassion, respect and tolerance anyway. Turning up in my feed with insults and scorn only underlines why people have respect for identities even more anonymous than you.

People have also quite rightly spoken up in defence of those who have been scapegoated, to ensure people know they are a good person. We get it. We know everyone is human. Compassion and vulnerability are two strengths overlooked in this debate, particularly when someone has made a mistake. But people are questioning the ASP turning a blind eye for that same reason. Likewise, the marketing and some of the responses to these issues are dehumanising in the first place.

If we want to talk about being human, let’s talk about those drug tests though. Fred Pawle, in The Australian, reported:

Slater seemed to defend the rights of surfers to indulge in recreational substances while not competing: “Should I come to your house and test you? I mean, these are people and real lives. These are private matters for people. I don’t think anyone has the right to intrude on someone’s life unasked. I’m just getting bombarded here with drug questions. It’s just silly..”

Yes, Kelly, they should come to your house and test you. This is what I had to do YEARS AGO as an AMATEUR ATHLETE in a MINORITY SPORT never televised, where nobody even cares. 19 hours a week training for competition, three part time jobs, no money.

They knock on your door at night when you’re shifting house.

“Are you from Drug Free Sport NZ?” I say.

They look at me suspiciously. Like, how would I know? Well, I’m an athlete on the register. The other month or so your organisation surveyed me to see if I thought I would ever be tested. I said no. Now two people in non-brand sportswear  are on my doorstep, looking extremely suspicious. Pretty sure it’s not a parking ticket.

So I walk into my soon to be ex-kitchen in front of my ex-flatmates and go through the paperwork. I can’t pee, I think, so they offer me drinks. I’m advised not to drink tap water. I have to check the drinks are sealed. I have to select the sample containers. I have to sit in the bathroom with the door open, shirt up to my chest, container beneath me, the female drug tester watching me. Dehumanising enough for ya?

I got tested ONCE in years. Clean as a whistle. If I can say that, why can’t anybody in surfing?

I’m an anonymous nobody watching the carnage, getting in the ocean when I can manage it around my real life. Human? Hell yes. If by real people, you mean someone will confront me about my opinions in person? I doubt they care what I think. Meanwhile, if your opinions are likely to embarrass you and your employer in real life, why are you doing that in the first place? Don’t turn up on Twitter like a tough guy, feigning anonymity while you assert your superior status, and assume nobody has the right to call you on it.


There’s a tradition on Twitter now of the audience creating ‘anonymous’ surfing identities and it exists for a purpose. Partly it’s because the backlash from within the industry can be narrow minded and vicious.

But it’s not solely out of personal interest. The job of remembering that surfers are people does not fall solely on the audience. It is also incumbent on the industry. The ‘trolls’ don’t trust the industry to do the job. That’s not a reflection on the inhumanity of the audience.


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