The Ghost of Waxed Windshields Past

“This is the road where locals would move cars,” said Leroy, as he crossed a winding, two-way street overlooking the ocean. Leroy, a second generation surfer at one of the most notoriously-localized spots in the U.S., told me about how, when he was younger, older locals would occasionally grab the bumpers of an unwelcome visitor’s car, lift the vehicle off the ground and carry it into the middle of the road where we now stood.

“Non-locals would come back from surfing and be like, ‘Why is my car sideways in the middle of the road?’” Leroy told me, throwing his hands in the air to imitate one of the thoroughly-confused victims.

It was such a narrow road that even one of those cartoonishly-small Smart cars would have seriously impeded the flow of traffic. I wondered how many unlucky, dripping wet surfers once stood where I did, fumbling with their hide-a-keys while getting angrily honked at by a line of irate drivers—and all for paddling out at a spot they were not welcome.

As we reached the other side of the street, Leroy scanned the waves. Leroy—which isn’t his real name—has spent the majority of his life surfing a wave we’ll call Spot A, located just a short distance from where we were standing. Growing up, he acted the part of what most people would think of as a typical “aggro local.” He’d throw rocks and yell vulgarities at visitors, wax the windshields of unfamiliar cars and even fight with non-locals over their real or perceived missteps in the lineup. He did all this in the name of protecting, in his eyes, the best wave in the area from becoming overcrowded or generally “disrespected.”

Admittedly, I was nervous about meeting up with Leroy. For some reason, when picturing an aggressive local, my mind conjures images of hulking, brawny men with shaved heads and Tyson-esque face tattoos. But Leroy didn’t look at all like a tax-evading ex-boxer who once served prison time. He was just an average-sized guy who seemed pretty friendly to me—on land, at least.

Over the past few weeks, I’d managed to track down surfers, like Leroy, who frequent some of the West Coast’s

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