In San Diego’s surfing turf wars, tempers heat up as the waves become more crowded. Are the skirmishes a solution or a symptom?
By Adam Elder / San Diego Magazine / January 2010
I’m not violent, but I have had some times where we’ve had to do some breath-holding exercises, me and another guy,” deadpans Nate Cintas. “That’s just part of it.” Part of waterboarding? No. Part of surfing? Yes—if you surf at Cintas’ spot at Sunset Cliffs and don’t obey the locals’ rules.
Cintas, known to many as Irate Nate, has for years been one of the heaviest enforcers at his home break—a wave surf magazines won’t run photos of, much less mention—solid, powerful, with close-cropped hair and in great shape for a man in his 40s. Born and raised less than a mile from the Cliffs, he’s a local in every sense of the word. When Cintas talks about breath-holding exercises with other surfers, you get the feeling he’s not the one holding his breath.
It doesn’t stop with being held underwater. How does surfing—which, to an outsider, means simply riding waves toward shore, then repeating—reconcile throwing rocks at “kooks” before they enter the water, cutting them off, breaking fins, harassing, drawing blood or vandalizing property?
For years, locals have fiercely protected what’s theirs—or what they perceive as theirs—from Sunset Cliffs to the South Mission Beach jetty to La Jolla’s many reefs. Some contend this at-times-brutal defense maintains safety in the water and preserves the integrity of surfing against those who endanger others or don’t abide by the implicit rules.
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