Revistes Catalanes amb Accés Obert (RACO)

The Distributive Justice of Waves for Surfing

Jasper Von Alemann


Who is entitled to surf a wave? Despite its boom, surfing has seen little formal regulation of ocean waves, the scarce and precious resource at the heart of the sport. Among the few best practices that have emerged, surfers either wait their turn or take off on a wave when they are closer to the breaking point than others. However, three informal doctrines tacitly rule the sport and challenge the authority of such formal rules. Around the globe, surfers claim special rights to waves on behalf of their local affiliation to a spot, their better skills or their longer experience. This paper examines the moral plausibility of these informal doctrines – localism, performance, and seniority –, confronting them with theories of distributive justice. The analysis suggests that none of the three matters intrinsically, but that we need to add additional criteria to the local, high performing, or experienced surfer’s claim to make it plausible.

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