The unwritten bylaws of surfing
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Whether you’re a beginner, intermediate, or in your own mind, a pro surfer, there is one unwritten bylaw that should always be in the forefront of your mind. No, it’s not “I look so cool when I surf” or “Chicks are going to dig me because I surf” or “what was that large black shadow that just passed underneath my board”. Simply put, it is COMMON COURTESY.
Common Courtesy (According to www.wso.williams.edu) - Suggestions, accumulated wisdom, and community norms for how to treat strangers considerately.
There are a few things to understand before paddling out into a “lineup” that will ensure, no matter where you are surfing, that you don’t get your leash cut or catch a fin, fist or flurry of F-bombs thrown at your face.
1) Do not drop in on a wave when someone else is already on the wave and coming your way.
Everyone in the water, regardless of their level of surfing competence, should be surfing for one reason… to enjoy the sport of surfing. And, nothing makes that more difficult than someone dropping in on you when you are already riding a wave. I tend to do this from time to time, but it is only when I am messing around with one of my buds or a jackhole cut me off first...I know I shouldn't though.
Surfing is similar to bowling. How you say? Well, let’s say you are getting ready to throw a bowling ball down the lane and you have a perfect line on your strike. You cock your arm back and start your bowling waltz towards the line. Right as you get ready to release your ball, a middle aged maniac with a mullet tucked underneath his Pabst Blue Ribbon hat, comes out of nowhere and lobs a speeding gutter ball down his lane. Before you know it, your eyes have refocused on the flailing fat guys ass crack, sporting a mullet of its’ own, as you lose all focus and pull a 7/10 split. SON OF A… (insert bad word)!!!
For both parties involved, this can be a painful lesson to learn. A guy I know, George, was recently hit in the cheek by the fin of a long board. He suffered a concussion as well as several stitches on the outside, and separate stitches on the inside, of his cheek. To make things worse, it wasn’t even that good of a wave, but it will keep George out of the water for several weeks. It could have been avoided if the other person would have simply looked to his right and seen 240lb George heading in his direction.
2) Do not paddle out and sit right in front of someone when there is a visible lineup.
There is one thing that is gluttonously more annoying than getting dropped in on. When you are sitting on your board waiting for the next set and someone paddles right in front of you and takes your position. Especially at a break like Tourmaline or Garbage, where the time between a set can seemingly take forever, this can be gut wrenching annoyance.
This can be compared to waiting in the bathroom line at PB Bar & Grill on a Friday night. You’re 2 steps away from a heavenly bowel relief session and some “tool shed”, with his sleeves pulled up showing off his tribal arm band, jumps right in front of you and steals your urinal… Again, SON OF A… (insert bad word)!!!
The term “lineup”, when used in surfing, refers to there being a pecking order when the next set comes through. Simply put, do not take a wave from someone that has been waiting for it longer than you have.
3) Apologize if you have done something wrong.
This is coming from someone that hates to admit he is wrong, but it is a necessity. If you cut someone off, take a wave from someone, almost hit someone, bump into another person’s board, or anything that could be deemed as a “jerk move”, apologize.
It really is a simple thing to do. It’s definitely much more easy than getting in a fight or losing your stoke over it. I understand it can be difficult to swallow pride and admit that you were “that guy”. However, a simple “my bad”, “sorry ‘bout that” or “you alright?” will go a million miles.
There really is nothing worse than getting dropped in on and having that person get lippy with you.
I had a middle aged guy drop in on me a few weeks ago after I had already been on the wave for about 10 seconds. The guys board hit me in the knee and recoiled with his leash. I chose to hold my tongue and just simply paddle back out to the lineup. The guy paddles out and sits right next to me. I hear this faint voice mumble “what a kook”. I looked over at him and said “I’ll take that as an apology”. All the guy did was laugh and say “this is my beach kiddo and you cut me off”. There is no reasoning with this type of person.
I later heard that this guy does the same thing every day. Poor fella. You’re supposed to find joy, peace and a sense of release from this sport. This guy just doesn’t get it.
I think most people that surf have similar stories that could be shared. Unfortunately, unlike being a doctor or lawyer, you do not need to pass a test or show your competency to a review board before you get into the ocean with a potentially lethal piece of foam.
If you have any ideas for additional topics that can be added to the Surfing Essentials series, please let me know via email firstname.lastname@example.org . Thanks for reading and surf safe.
- City: San Diego