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Surf Journalism: How Much is Too Much?

Empty Surf LineupAs I’ve gone about my “on assignment” coverage of the enchanting country that is Nicaragua and the rapidly progressing surf community found here, I’ve been faced with a dilemma that many others throughout the industry encounter when sharing the good news of surfing from various areas around the world. For those who cover surfing, whether it be through writing, photography, film-making, or any other type of media, there is an all too common and ever-present issue we face each time we give love to the places we visit: How much is too much? And where do we draw the line in hopes of preserving the unique ambiance and pristine environment found at many of the relatively unknown breaks held throughout the world?

While sitting down to write a recent article on Playa Colorado, I had not even made it half-way through the first paragraph before one of the very special locals here, as well as a newfound great friend of 5ones, peeped over my shoulder and proceeded to give me a verbal-lashing after absorbing the opening lines. “No!” Allan scolded, “don’t write about that! then even more people will come and where are we going to surf then?” He had a point. I explained to him that I had actually wrestled with this issue for quite some time. Not just with that particular story either, but with all of the coverage we would be doing while having the privilege of visiting this magical land. I did my best to share my point of view that, as far as Playa Colorado in particular goes, the word has been out on this wave for quite some time. This is evidenced by the large number of surfers, both locals and visitors, found at this wave on any given day. He seemed to somewhat understand where I was coming from, or was at least making a concerted effort to do so.

As we continued our conversation we both realized that his concern, as well as the concern of so many others here, is with a much bigger picture and an all too common scenario. He agreed that Colorados was a cat that had already been let out of it’s bag. And with that agreement, he truly opened my eyes to his legitimate concern. It was not that long ago that Playa Colorado used to be a world-class wave that was for the most part secluded from the rest of the world. Now, in large part due to the coverage given to it and surrounding breaks via the world wide web, it is fairly well-known throughout the surfing community and a common target of those who make surf travel a regular part of their lives. In fact, my first venture to Playa Colorado was shared with 40 or so other surfers. That was about 35 more than I had anticipated sharing that session with. I was now beginning to empathize with my dear friend’s plight. If we, or any other publications, share the stories of lesser-known breaks with the rest of the world, will they end up sharing the same fate as Playa Colorado?

This issue comes with a double-edged sword. You see, as is very common with many of the locals here, the way Allan makes his living and supports his family has become dependent upon steadily increasing flow of visitors who have set out to experience the Nicaragua they have been reading about for so long. Through surf transportation, surf lessons, and other surf-related business he does quite well, especially given the overall state of the economy here. Take those same visitors that are overcrowding those once secluded waves away and you take away a lot of the means by which people here make their ends meet.

So where do we draw the line when covering foreign lands and sharing the majesty of these far away places? I guess for each publication it will differ. At 5ones, we try to look at a story from all angles before deciding to go with it or not. While the desire to share the stories of the unimaginable and unknown waves here is always present, it’s crucial that we do what we can to preserve the pristine nature of much of the Nicaragua coastline. Hopefully we don’t ever go too far or reveal too much out of respect to those who truly call Nicaragua home. If we do, we can damn sure count on the friends of 5’s to tug on our ear and let us know.

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Posted by Shaun on Friday, August 22nd, 2008 in Surfing.


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5 Responses to “Surf Journalism: How Much is Too Much?”

  • Jeff Bollock Says:

    in my opinion, if the break has already been exposed it’s fair game… if not then keep it a secret.

  • Andrew Says:

    Here’s a radical idea. All media is too much. Breaks only get exposed by surfers eager to cash in on what they find, ignoring the long secret history of breaks like this. Nicaragua had been surfed for years by a quiet few who came, surfed, camped on the beach or stayed with locals, and kept their mouths shut. Today surfers are more than eager to post photos, write articles, and blab on and on about places they visit. Then are shocked when they paddle out with 40 other surfers. An appropriate quote from a song by Ween, “Don’t shit where you eat my friend.”

  • Scott T Says:

    Shaun,
    As a journalist in relatively undiscovered locations like San Juan Del Sur you certainly face a conflict in what to cover. I had the privilege of experiencing the Nica breaks that you have been writing about (and some you haven’t). Unfortunately as visitors, our presence on these pristine beaches diminishes the simplicity and beauty that we traveled there for. As more people venture down “unbeaten paths” they leave a trail that’s easier for the next person to follow.

    I think that as a surf journalist you must resign to the understanding that a consequence of your work is the inevitable spoiling of “unspoiled gems”. To me this doesn’t mean that you should stop writing. Instead keep doing what 5ones is good for which is raising awareness about camps such as Al-Campo and issues such as the detrimental environmental effects of tourism.

  • Kai Helay Says:

    This garbage post is too much surf journalism. Why call this journalism? Listen to those that tell you to keep your mouth shut they know what they speak of. You surfed with 40 other guys…what’s the point? More exposure? Trying contributing to humanity through positive creation. Pointing a camera lens expecting to get rich where others have respectfully tread is garbage culture. Get a life, build a house or dig a well. if you want to do “surf journalism” go to journalism school first please.

  • David Taht Says:

    You can write all you want about surf breaks – but: roll your own name for them, make them mystical, thus preserving the break for the locals and those willing to invest time into the scene.

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