INTRODUCTION TO SURF ETIQUETTE FOR DUMBSTERS, NEWBiES AND BUTTHEADS WHO JUST DON’T SEEM TO GET IT, PART 3
by Corky Carroll
Two weeks ago I tossed out a little story about a confrontation I saw in the water between a guy and girl surfer and opened the floor for comments. This involved the issue of surf etiquette and who has the right of way on a wave, a subject of constant controversy in todays crowded surf conditions. The root of the story was the girl felt the guy was taking too many waves and so she dropped in on him on purpose, to which he shoved her off her board. Shouting and name-calling ensued with the term “woman bashing” added in for good measure. I asked for opinions, and last week posted what came in. For the most part everyone agreed that this was NOT a male vs female issue, the girl instigated the confrontation and therefore took that out of the equation. Also, the general feeling is that everybody needs to be respectful in the water, it’s not cool for somebody to constantly paddle around everybody else who are sitting and waiting for a wave and hog way more than his or her share. And, at the same time it’s not cool to purposely drop in on somebody. Two wrongs never make a right. All that said, there is a ton of grey area in this saga. But, bottom line is the person closest to the curl has the right away in most cases.
Today I want to take this little adventure into proper surf manners a tad farther and talk about who has the right of way between surfers riding a wave and those who are paddling out. This has been a total thorn in my surf bumps forever and I have mentioned this before, but it never hurts to try and drive in the point. I can’t tell you how many times I will be riding a wave and racing down the line to make a fast section when somebody will paddle directly into my path. This results in one of three things. One is I have to pull out to avoid running them over. Two is I have to straighten out and not make the wave in order to not run them over. Three is I run them over. I never choose number three and the other two test my geezer mellow and former youthful temper. This is almost a daily thing in my surf world. Let me try and explain this and make it as clear as possible. The person riding the wave has the right of way. It is the responsibility of the person paddling out to get out of the way and not affect the rider on the wave. And this, many times, requires that the person paddling out stop and let the rider go by, or even at times move towards the breaking part of the wave to get out of the way. The problem generally arises when the person paddling out does not want to give way to the rider because they are franticly trying to get over the shoulder of the wave. Why do people think a head high wave is gonna kill them?
Here is an example of this. The rider says, “Why did you paddle right in front of me?” The paddler says, “Because I had to get over the wave.” The rider says, “You could have let me go by.” The paddler says, “But the wave would have broken on me.” The rider says, “Yeah, so what?” And there is the point. So what, having a wave break on you is not a life-threatening issue, unless you are out in zillion foot surf. And if you are good enough to be out in zillion foot surf you certainly don’t need this little tutorial. The rider has the right of way, let him or her go by. That is unless you have plenty of time to get around the shoulder without impeding the progress of the rider. The smart thing is don’t paddle out right in the middle of the surfing lanes.
Now, there is of course exceptions to this. You might have just ridden a wave and been deposited right in the of path of the next wave. And you might just be stuck right there with no way to get out of the way. This happens. If it does what you need to do is sit up on your board and raise your arms letting the rider know that you are stuck. This puts the responsibility on the rider to avoid running you down. Then you can understandably say you are sorry, but you were stuck. The rider more or less has to understand and it’s no harm, no foul. As with most of these surf rules of the road there are always exceptions. But if you follow basic golden rule kinda stuff you should be ok.
Again, I would love to hear your comments on this and it’s an open discussion.
By Corky Carroll
Last week I talked about a little incident that happened in the water where a girl surfer got angry at a guy surfer because he had been taking what she considered more than his fair share of the waves. So, in retaliation, she dropped in on his next wave in front of him on purpose. He, in retaliation to her retaliation, came up behind her and shoved her off her board. Then a whole lot of shouting and name calling ensued, the highlight of which was her accusing him of “woman bashing.” It was quite a scene. The reason I reported this little misadventure is that I am going to get into a little discussion on what is, or is not, proper “surf etiquette.” With todays crowded surf conditions this is a subject that is talked about, and debated, over and over. The problem is not enough people who are learning to surf have any idea of what the so called “rules of the waves” really are. And there are no surf police patrolling the lineups taking names and issuing tickets.
With this in mind, I offered up the concept that the person deepest in the wave, or closest to the curl, has the right of way pretty much all the time. And I offered this incident as an example and have opened the floor for comments and opinions. Here are a few responses that I got.
“Sad but great column! Back in the days riding Doheny really developed my backhand and my cutbacks. Depended on where I was on my noserider and how far into the takeoff the shoulder hopper was. I did try to cut the obvious newbies some slack. Huntington with it's closeout walls and speed was a different story. Before the leash, a dirtball could cause a long unwanted swim, possibly even hazardous. Clearing a path one way or another was gonna happen.” Scott Swineford.
“Be mellow, wait your turn. Where I live in Panama, the wave has a definite pecking order, basically locals, transplants, then the rest. You need to figure out where you fit in, then wait your turn. Locals will give waves to visitors who wait their turn. Visitors who go out of turn can expect to be dropped in on. Pretty simple really.” Richard Brady.
“Geez, tell the guy to chill and let the girl have a wave! Maybe I am not as selfish in my older years when it comes to waves!” George Lambert. (Note: George is the long time “Mayor of Main Street” and arch Huntington Beach Pier local.)
“How about opening the door (wave) for the lady? Is chivalry so freaking dead? Is a wave so important in the scheme of life that you'll shove someone out of the way?
Have people become so selfish?” Mike S. Tyson
“Two wrongs never make a right, our mamas told us that. If the girl dropped in on purpose then she was sort of asking for a problem, and the fact that she got pushed off has nothing to do with if she was a female or male. I am not saying the guy was in the right to do that, just that in this case it had nothing to do with gender. Everybody was in the wrong. The guy should have not been hogging all the waves and the girl should not have instigated the conflict with purposely taking off in front of him..” Connie Conroy.
Well, there are some interesting views on this little taste of surf carnage. I pretty much agree with the last one, they were both in the wrong. But, these things happen all the time due to the crowds. So, it’s really important that everybody realize that we are all out there to have a good time, try and be considerate of everybody else and not just be an over aggressive butthead taking every wave you can. I have to admit that, in my over aggressive butthead past, I have been that guy and I don’t like the feel of it when I think about it. We all can learn better ways.
I am going to continue talking about surf etiquette next week in a broader scope, getting into paddling out protocol and more. And the floor is still open for comments and opinions. If you would like to share your thoughts, please do.
by Corky Carroll
I was going to save this one for closer to summer when more people are getting ready to learn to surf for the first time, but then this morning there was an incident in the water that inspired me to open up this discussion now, ask for feedback for anybody who might have an opinion on the subject, and then revisit it in the spring with an update. The much-debated subject of proper surf etiquette, or “rules of the reef” as we used to call it.
What happened this morning was a girl surfer took off in front of a guy surfer and the guy surfer pushed her off her board. Then the two of them got into an extremely spirited debate that went on for quite a while, and somehow got into the subject of “woman bashing.” If you were there seeing and hearing all this it was pretty entertaining, if you are of the mindset to see humor in things, or pretty disturbing in the case you take all this stuff more seriously. On the surface this looked pretty cut and dried, but there was more to it. The guy had been taking way more than his share of waves and had paddled around the girl a couple of times to “snake” the wave. So, the girl decided to drop in on him on purpose because, in her words, “he was being a butthead.” The guy saw her start to drop in and told her, “hey, I got this one.” Soooo, it was kinda one of those cloudy deals. Fact is both of them were being a tad over aggressive in an otherwise very mellow surfing scene. This kind of thing happens a lot in crowded spots and those that are known for aggressive surfers, not so much in easy spots and those known for having a lot of beginners, intermediates, longboarders, families, et. But, the fact that these run ins do happen there should be some sort of protocol for right of way. With that in mind I am going to state a few ideas that I hold to be true and open the floor for discussion.
There is a basic rule in surfing. The person closest to the curl has right of way. This is almost always the first person to stand up and/or the person deepest in the wave. There is a gray area where a person will turn and paddle for the wave and stand up first while someone deeper will take off a second or two later. That happens mostly when the person taking off in the front is on a bigger board and can catch the wave sooner. This is where it gets gray. The person deeper still has the right of way 90% of the time. It’s only when the person in the front had clearly staked that wave out and was going for it clearly before the person deeper, and the person deeper saw clearly that the other one was going for it before he or she decided to go for it. But, for the most part, it’s the rider in the back who has priority. To make this more unclear there are those surfers who are known to “snake” people all the time. They will see somebody all lined up to go and paddle as hard as they can to get on the deeper side of them and take off. There are a lot of snakes in surfing. That said, there is a lot to be said about just getting in better position. One common comment, normally from beginners or intermediates, is, “I was sitting there for an hour waiting for a wave and that guy was riding over and over.” Well, whose fault is that? The person getting in good position or the person sitting in one spot expecting that he would get the wave just because he had waited longer? This is a good question, and one that I am sure would be answered according to how experienced the surfer is who is answering it.
At this point I realize that it is going to take more than just one column to address this subject as I am already out of space and still have a lot to talk about. So, I will get back to this next week.
I would, however, like to put out one question for you. In the case of the guy pushing the girl off her board, do you feel that this relates at all to if this was a male or female? This is a really good question for a number of reasons, and I would love to hear opinions.
by Corky Carroll
I recently had a guest that lives in upstate New York and has a river near him. He was mentioning that sometimes the standing waves in one section of the river look almost rideable. Truth is, they probably are.
Back in the early 1970’s I lived in Ketchum, Idaho for a few years. Ketchum is the town here the Sun Valley Ski Resort is, and I was spending time skiing and playing music right after I retired from professional surfing competition. We rented a house in an area called Warm Springs and had a creek that ran behind our backyard. One spring that creek turned into a pretty fast-moving small river, and low and behold there was this nice head high standing wave right there behind our house. I had a board and wetsuit with me, as I would drive over to the Oregon coast to surf at times, so I figured why not try and ride that wave. It looked so perfect and inviting.
So, I suited up and jumped in the river, a frosty 33 degrees as freshly melted snow tends to be COLD, and paddled my arms off to try and catch the wave as the rushing river was taking me past it. No dice. Then I got battered and beaten through some rapids and rocks before I could get out. I spent the afternoon fixing my board from all the dings and went to the store and bought some dishwashing gloves, a water ski rope and a foam kayak helmet. The next morning I duct taped the dishwashing gloves into the sleeves on my wetsuit as the water was so cold it hurt my hands, put on the helmet to protect my delicate head from getting bashed into the rocks and tied the water ski rope to a big dead tree on the bank of the river. I got in the water and used the speed of the rushing river to stabilize my board so I could stand up and then backed myself into the wave. Perfect, once I was riding the wave I let go of the rope and was surfing. And it was really a good wave, tons of speed and perfect shape. After about five minutes though my legs started to get tired and I caught an edge and fell. Once again I went banging down the river dinging my board on every rock. It was like being in a pin ball machine.
Not easily deterred when it comes to surfing, I spent the afternoon once again fixing my board and coming up with a better plan for the next day. This time when I had backed myself into the wave I didn’t let go of the rope. I just let it get a little slack in it, that way when my legs gave out I could just pull myself back out of the wave and ride over the bank and get out. No harm, no foul. And it might have been a great plan, if I hadn’t got a bit too cocky and overamped on a cutback. After falling off I still had ahold of the rope. The result was about the same as being pulled from behind a boat, no air and no way to get out of the situation other than to let go. So, I let go. And again, went banging down the river. Only this time I had my board go around a big rock on one side and me on the other, with my surf leash wrapped around the rock. This left me drowning in a deep spot behind held underwater. Only way out was to get my surf leash off my foot and release the board. The last I saw of my board was as it went around a bend down the river.
So, I got out of the water as fast as I could and rushed in the house to throw on some sweats before jumping in my car and heading down the river to try and find my board. The creek dumped into the Wood River, which ran all the way down to the Snake River at Twin Falls. The place Evil Knevel tried to jump the canyon, I worked on the film crew for that. I followed the river all the way out of town, until it went away from the road. No board. Then I drown down to the next town and sat on a bridge over the river for a couple of hours hoping my board would come by. Nope, no board. As far as I know it went all the way to the Snake River, then to the Columbia River and probably made its way out to sea at Astoria, Oregon. After that, who knows. Could be stuck in that giant garbage patch out in the Pacific Ocean. Or it could have washed up on some beach and become the property of some lucky passerby. But I never saw it again. That ended my river surfing.
But, the point being, river surfing is a totally viable thing and they are doing in now in many parts of the world where there isn’t an ocean. Yeah, the water is normally really cold and there are hazards, but if it’s the only wave around and you are a surfer then why not? My hats off to the river rats around the globe who brave the elements to shred a few freshwater peaks.