Nat Young on a San Francisco treat. Photo: Ryan Craig
Nat Young on a San Francisco treat. Photo: Ryan Craig

“Fort Point as Old San Francisco’s Alamo”

San Francisco surfer/journalist wonders: Is localism last stand against gentrification?

San Francisco’s Fort Point is perfectly fine as a wave. It’s fine. It’s often real real fat, it’s difficult to get in and out off the massive boulders lining the break unless you’re Alex Honnold, and there’s a tight-knit pack that tends to ration waves on good days, which, unless you’ve got 415 tattoed somewhere on your body, you’re probably not part of, and, if you ain’t from here, are a bit intimidated by. On small lifeless days, anybody can get a wave. When it’s actually proper Fort? Good luck if you weren’t born at SF General.

Jack Persons, a name that might indicate this dude is part of a witness protection program, is a surfer here in SF and a journalist and he’s wondering something I’ve never even thought about--is localism at Fort Point a kind of last stand against the wave of tech gentrification that’s taken over this city in the past, say, decade? He wrote about it eloquently for something called CityLab recently, and there’s been a little bit of a buzz about it up here beyond the fog curtain.

This idea has never occurred to me, and shame on me for that, as a professional surf culture thinker-abouter, but hell, maybe?

These days, Ocean Beach, on head high and under days without a gale force wind blowing, can make North County San Diego lineups look positively deserted. Whole lotta Audi SUVs and people toting brand-spanking new Slater Designs boards pour over the dunes, more and more seemingly every weekend, never stopping, an endless flow of surfers coming from who knows where.

But that horde tends to stop short at a couple localized waves in SF, like Fort Point. These are some of the only places left in town where the nouveau riche can’t buy their way in.

Let’s read a little from Persons’ piece:

“This standoff between Bay Area locals and newcomers has acquired a particular resonance lately, because there's a somewhat similar struggle ensuing on dry land nearby. San Francisco has become a case study in the impacts of gentrification, as well-compensated tech industry workers have surged into the city, often from other areas. The influx of newcomers has transformed the city's character, driving up prices and driving away longtime residents. The city is grappling with a critical shortage of affordable housing: Between 2010 and 2015, the number of jobs created in San Francisco outnumbered the number of houses built by a ratio of more than eight to one. In the new, gentrified City by the Bay, the tech sector and its riches reign supreme. But there's one place, at least, where its powers are limited: the ocean.

The culture of instant gratification has made its way into the water, as luxury surfing clubs and high-end surfboard rental programs have started to build a market in the Bay Area. It's Silicon Valley solutionism at its finest. ‘[Newer surfers] want to go down and have a quick surf, and get a couple of good waves, and go back to their normal life,’ says Andy Olive, a 38-year-old surfer who worked at Wise [Surfboards] in the 1990s. "Which is fine, but if you think about Fort Point, no one takes the time to understand who's actually putting in the hard work there, or who's been surfing there for 40 years."

And it's not just the waves these locals care about: They connect with the place in a way outsiders cannot. It's home, and everyone else is intruding. And while their defensive techniques may be less-than-civil, they symbolize a fight bigger than two surfers and one wave. They represent the protective nature of every longtime resident toward their city and its past.

And they have succeeded. Fort Point is Old San Francisco's Alamo: This is the last stand, and so far, the locals have held off the attackers.”

Huh, kind of an unfortunate analogy if you’re of the mind that Fort Point, or San Francisco locals, in general, are indeed under attack, BUT! – Will Fort Point locals succeed where the Alamo’s defenders failed? Or is this just another case of a small group of surfers clinging desperately to the one thing they have control over in a chaotic, unpredictable world? Who’s in the right here?

Read the whole piece here.

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