THE OPTIMUM POPULATION IS LESS THAN THE MAXIMUM
This tube was owned by everyone, perhaps, but went under the sole occupancy of one monsieur Lacomare. Photo: Timo
Res Communis (Owned by Everyone)
The one key factor Res Communis relates to, one thing you take for granted is that we perform our act (sport) on common land (sea).
No private entity owns title to the waves or the area they break on, so they can’t be regulated like private property or resources would.
If you really want to get all weird, what we’re actually talking about in terms of the resource, what we’re seeking to exploit is the opportunity to priority position yourself at the physical incidence where pulses of wind energy, (themselves a product of the sun’s incoming radiation from space) that have travelled along the surface of the sea as wave motion become moving water in the form of breaking waves.
What surfers are arguing over (or if you prefer, what surfers are sharing…) is the opportunity to harness a few seconds of motion.
You book a squash court, pay to play there for an agreed period of time and respect the rules or face the consequences.
The management enforce the rules to ensure the resource is maintained, so that it remains a resource.
Same with a ski lift, swimming pool, gym, footie pitch, indoor skatepark and so on.
Not so with our sport, which is a key to the liberating appeal of the life of a surfer, yet alas also a constant source of our problems.
The Optimum Population Is Less Than The Maximum
Surfers first realized this quite some time ago.
In its most rudimentary form, they realized the optimum population per wave was one.
Rather than six people all ride six waves, they realized it’s better if they each got one of the six to themselves, and quickly established surfing’s most rudimentary codes of priority.
As surfing became more and more popular, it became apparent that more surfers meant fewer waves for existing ones, and the idea of crowds as a bad thing was quickly born.
If we agree that the number of surf spots in the world is a finite resource, as in, the number resulting wave-catching opportunities at any give time (although new discoveries are being made all the time, the number of spots accessible within the reasonable resources and desire of the majority of surfers within a region has a limit) then the scenario of ever-increasing crowds and finite breaks are irreconcilable, and we move towards Hardin’s concept of an optimum number of users of the resource.
While nobody would ever try to define that numerically, you might struggle to find many surfers that didn’t think the number had already been passed (deep in the subconscious, it might not be wholly unreasonable to generalise that many surfers, without the faintest touches of irony, believe the optimum population was reached shortly after they themselves picked up the sport).