How to Gain Respect in the Surfing Lineup

How to Gain Respect in the Surfing LineupSurf­ing is a sport with some inter­est­ing para­dox­es. If you see a fel­low surfer on the beach or park­ing lot, odds are that a friend­ly con­ver­sa­tion will ensue whilst you swap fish sto­ries about the epic waves that you have just had. At a par­ty, find­ing out that some­one you met for the first time is also a surfer will undoubt­ed­ly spark an imme­di­ate bond as you talk about the weath­er —  not from lack of oth­er con­ver­sa­tion, but with enthu­si­asm and pas­sion as you dis­cuss what waves tomor­row may bring.

In the water behind the waves, though, is anoth­er sto­ry. It’s true that every­one is there for the same rea­son, to ride epic waves. But the fact of the mat­ter is that every­one wants to ride the MOST epic wave — and they want to right now. This means that the rules of fair­ness usu­al­ly go out the door — sim­ply wait­ing your turn is not an option. In the surf­ing world, an unspo­ken social hier­ar­chy exists — one that is some­times spo­ken very loud­ly through fists. This hier­ar­chy implies that cer­tain peo­ple will get pref­er­en­tial treat­ment on the waves of their choosing.

Your First Paddle OutThis guide is for those vis­it­ing a new break for the first time — even the first dozen times. Fol­low­ing these guide­lines will help you move up an ech­e­lon or two to help you get more waves soon­er — and less black eyes.

Your First Pad­dle Out
If the par­tic­u­lar break is very local­ized, mean­ing it’s the same crew time and time again, this can be intim­i­dat­ing. When you reach the line­up, don’t be over­ly chat­ty — just smile and wait for the next wave. The impor­tant thing here is to not get over-eager for get­ting a wave — being the new­bie on the scene you’re basi­cal­ly enti­tled to what­ev­er scraps are left over after every­one else has had a good wave. If you try to pad­dle into a wave on the first set, be ready to feel the wrath. I usu­al­ly spend at least a half hour get­ting the scraps on the side, on waves too small for oth­er’s inter­est or a wave that some­one bailed on. Not only does it keep peo­ple from get­ting mad at you, but it is also a great way to learn the dynam­ics of that par­tic­u­lar spot, as every spot has dif­fer­ent nuances.

Wait­ing Your Turn
After some time on the side get­ting scraps and not get­ting in peo­ple’s way, the oth­er surfers will hope­ful­ly notice that you have been patient and wel­come you into the prop­er line­up. Yet not get­ting chased away is only half the bat­tle. Now that you are in the prime spot, I would still wait until every­one has “cycled through” — mean­ing every­one’s riden a wave in. Not only is it respect­ful but you will also get a good idea of the best place to start pad­dling, and the best place to stand up. Soon­er or lat­er you will be in the right place at the right time, and your wave will come.

The First WaveThe First Wave
You can be cer­tain that the oth­er surfers will be cri­tiquing you. If your arms are flail­ing, or heav­en for­bid you miss the wave or wipe out, you might as well pad­dle in with your tail between your legs and call it a day, because that’s the only wave that the rest of the crew will let you have. But if you get up with con­fi­dence, don’t try to show off, and do what every­one is there to do (have fun), then your sta­tus in the line­up will be accept­ed and you will be wel­comed to the pack.

Keep­ing these tips in mind will help you to trav­el with ease, seek­ing out new spots every­where you go, and hope­ful­ly mak­ing a few friends along the way — both in and out of the water.