A Surfer’s Hidden Transcript – Hawaiian Surf Tradition, Localism, and Illustration

James C. Scott’s formulation, from his guide Domination and the Arts of Resistance, of the “infrapolitics of subordinate teams,” is particularly fascinating in fascinated about one in every of Hawaii’s biggest cultural and social exports, the artwork of browsing. When you surf, you’re undoubtedly conscious of the assorted unstated codes and guidelines that govern the tribe. These codes and guidelines exist, partially, as each a form of self-policing within the lineups in addition to warning to outsiders, or “non-locals.” (“Native,” particularly in Hawaii, is kind of a loaded time period, nevertheless we will restrict it in our dialogue to face in for surfers who aren’t from the realm/surf spot.) When you don’t surf, then what you suppose you realize about these codes or guidelines is vastly filtered by way of the general public transcript. Nevertheless, the truth that there are, to various levels, totally different representations of the “surfer’s code” in each the general public and hidden transcript, provides us an fascinating window into how the hidden and the general public collide.

As Scott explains, infrapolitics “is a politics of disguise and anonymity that takes place in public view however is designed to have a double that means or to defend the id of the actors.” Surfers are infamous for rubbing wax on windshields, slashing tires, eradicating distributor caps and spark plug strains, siphoning fuel, and numerous others acts surf terrorism to vehicles that they don’t acknowledge as “from” the place they surf the entire time. For example a pal and I acquired out of the water at Lahilahi, a sharky, deep water break simply down the highway from Makaha one afternoon and located that the entire vehicles parked alongside the facet of the highway (besides ours) had “haole go residence” written on them. My buddy grew up on the Westside of Oahu so we had been spared attempting to clean off everlasting marker (or no matter it was). Likewise, “warning” indicators abound on the best way to some surf breaks. Crudely spray-painted or drawn on partitions, indicators, sidewalks, or garbage cans, markers signify who’s allowed to surf, and who just isn’t. Once more, when you ever occur to surf China Partitions, a surf break off of Portlock on the East facet of Oahu, hop the fence (which was put there for public security, thanks Linda Lingle) and make your method down the trail to the steps that lead right down to the “Finger” (a selected part of the wave at China’s) and also you’ll see warnings resembling “when you don’t reside right here, don’t surf right here,” (which is ironic as a result of who can afford to reside in Portlock?) “go residence,” and “beat it haole.”

Earlier than the mainstream appropriated and disseminated it to the plenty, surfer discourse can also be a very good instance of the hidden transcript. Phrases resembling “rad,” tubular,” “gnarly,” and “bitchin” had been used inside the general public transcript to each mark the id of the subordinate group (when you knew how and why these phrases had been used you had been aware about the membership), and alienate the elite (I’m pondering right here of Sean Penn’s character “Jeff Spicoli” matching wits with “Mr. Hand” in Quick Instances at Ridgemont Excessive.) Today, what isn’t mentioned appears to hold extra weight. For example, all surfers know that if the waves are nice at your native seashore, you don’t inform anybody about it. There’s nothing worse than a carload of surfers piling out into the lineup as a result of one of many “bro’s” spilled the beans a couple of new swell. The “secret spot” is one other glorious instance of this discourse of silence, as surfers go to nice lengths to make sure that hidden spots stay hidden. For instance, I hitched a trip on a pal’s boat throughout the channel to Molokai to surf a “secret spot,” solely to discover a half a dozen different boats there as we arrived. My pal was visibly irritated. He acknowledged a few mates in among the different boats and proceeded to curse at them for bringing folks to the break (when he was responsible of the identical crime).

Inevitably, these codes and guidelines result in confrontations with the general public transcript. Nevertheless, these incarnations of the hidden transcript inside the general public sphere are, as Scott posits, not meant to “defend the id of the actors,” as a substitute, the actors are very a lot within the public eye. So whereas the occasions that led as much as the formation of surfer teams like The Hui, Wolfpack, and the Bra Boys discover their origins within the hidden transcript, their institution, and ensuing reign, are very a lot part of the general public transcript (as evident in movies like North Shore, Blue Crush, Bra Boys, tv exhibits like The 808, and the entire Da Hui and Wolfpack merchandise out there at your native Costco.) I discover it ironic that these teams complain about how they’re perceived in public given their pre-revolutionary tough and tumble antics. Watch any of the aforementioned exhibits or movies and these teams (actually, the blokes, Kala Alexander, Quick Eddie, Makuakai Rothman, and so on) act in the identical stereotypical “gangster” style. Positive, these are common representations, mediated by company {dollars} and gross sales predictions, however attempt to catch a wave wherever between Off the Wall and Ehukai anytime between November and February and also you’ll get the identical angle from these sorts of jokers, no matter how nicely versed you’re within the hidden transcript. It makes me surprise if, on the very second of its introduction to the general public narrative, the hidden transcript can not assist however be subverted not directly. At what level does the hidden transcript turn into “the self-portrait of dominant elites as they’d have themselves seen?” It seems as if these inherent codes and guidelines, as soon as codified right into a consultant id, learn very very similar to the narrative of the elite. It’s, in some ways, “designed to be spectacular, to affirm and naturalize the ability of dominant elites, and to hide or euphemize the soiled linen of their rule.” What then will we make of Scott’s formulation? Is his object of research liberating, or is it akin to Althusser’s “metal entice,” wherein we simply merely commerce grasp ideologies for different grasp ideologies?

Works Cited:

Scott, James C. Domination and the Arts of Resistance: Hidden Transcripts. Yale Univ. Press, 1990. Print.