Local surfers jealously guard the best breaks by intimidating non-local interlopers.  Here is a paper by Daniel Kaffine that analyzes “localism” as a solution to a commons problem.

I use a unique cross-sectional data set covering 86 surf breaks along the California coast from San Diego to Big Sur to estimate the impact of exogenous wave quality on the strength of informal property rights. In the surfing context, groups of users known as “locals” enforce informal property rights, or localism, in order to reduce congestion from potential entrants, who are denoted “non- locals.” While not recognized legally, user-enforced informal property rights such as localism have features similar to those of formal property rights, such as rules on who may and may not have access to the resource. (“Localism” and “property rights” are used interchangeably throughout this paper.) Surfers in many loca- tions (including California) will tell visitors which breaks are open to anyone and which ones to steer clear of because of localism.

In theory, property rights raise the value of a common resource.  But how can this theory be verified in data?  The question is confounded by a reverse causality:  property rights are more likely to emerge when the resource was already of high value.  This data set solves the identification problem.

Unlike frequently studied resources such as fisheries, surf breaks (locations where waves are particularly conducive to surfing) have the feature that wave quality is exogenous with respect to property rights.4 The complex combination of tides, geology, and climatology that lead to high-quality waves would remain unchanged, even under private ownership. Waves do not care if they are ridden or not, which removes the feedback effects between the biophysical and social systems that are present in fisheries, for example. This natural exogeneity isolates the effect of quality in the estimation of its impact on property rights.

The finding is that higher-quality breaks are more likely to give rise to localism. The conclusion:

Thus, studies that attempt to infer the impact of property rights on quality must exercise caution in empirically attributing high resource quality to stronger prop- erty rights. The impact of property rights on resource quality may be overstated if the underlying differences in quality are not controlled for.

Panama pass:  orgtheory.net

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