Exclusionary and sometimes violent behaviours have historically been tacitly accepted in surfing under the banner of ‘localism’, or territorialism. In competition for an increasingly scarce resource (waves), vice is often celebrated and glorified within the subculture. Attempts at codifying acceptable behaviour have failed, not least because of an ingrained antipathy towards bureaucracy and formal organization. In rejecting the notion of surfing being able to operate in a special moral context, this paper proposes that the practice of virtue ethics holds the most likely chance of reversing moral decline. Virtuous action could operate in an exponential process, through replication and reciprocation, and might result in changing the current moral climate in which harmful acts of localism are tacitly accepted.