by Corky Carroll
When I was a tiny kid, growing up here on the shores of our beautiful Orange County, my first wave riding vehicle was a heavy-duty canvas air matt. But then I also wasn’t against trying to ride anything that would float. We made “belly boards” and “skimboards” from old pieces of plywood laying around. But once I got big enough to get an actual surfboard there was no going back, that was the holy grail for riding waves.
There were a few people who rode better versions of “belly boards,” called “paipo boards.” But, for the most part, there were only a few people doing that and mostly at places like the Wedge and some at Brooks Street in Laguna Beach. Tom Morey changed all that when he came up with the nice soft “Boogie Board.” These foamy delights opened up riding waves for zillions of people all over the world. Go to just about any beach on any day and you will see boogie boards. They pretty much took over the world of water. And then there was a brief flurry of people riding knee boards. There are still a few around, but not many. Your standard surfboard has remained the main way to “surf” through the years and still is today. But, that said, there is new surfing equipment on the scene and more of more of it is making its way into already crowded lineups as we speak.
The roots of this kinda started when boards went short and stayed that way for a number of years. Then “longboards” made their way back onto the scene and many older surfers took back to the water on bigger boards. This created a sort of off balance in the lineup. Bigger boards catch waves easier than shorter ones. All of a sudden lots of old dudes where out there catching most of the good waves while the younger, and usually better, surfers where stuck further inside and not able to get as many. This led to a lot of “snaking,” and other forms of aggressive behavior in order for everybody who was out there to surf to actually be able to get in a wave or two edgewise. There is, of course, two sides to this. And which one is right or wrong is not my subject today, I am just pointing out that this long and short board thing is what started the imbalance in the quest of waves as far as who is riding what.
Then we add to the mix the getting more popular by the day Stand Up Paddleboard, also known as the SUP. These are larger and wider boards that are big enough for the surfer to be able to paddle standing up with the use of a paddle. Surfers call the people who ride these “sweepers,” as the paddling looks kinda like a sweeping motion. It’s not always used affectionately either. The SUPs have an even bigger advantage over the shortboards than the longboards do. A person on one of those can catch the wave earlier than both. So now the longboarders feel just like the shortboarders do and call “foul,” and “unfair.”
I won’t even mention how the occasional boogie boarder feels or fits or not fits into this situation. It’s kind of like “whales’ rule” out there. Cool if you are a whale, not cool if you aren’t.
And, low and behold, now we have a new and even more deadly predator on the wave riding vehicle scene. The “Foil.” These are boards that have a huge foil sticking out the bottom of the board. A surfer can catch a swell far offshore with one of these and ride it all the way to shore, by far a bigger wave catching advantage than even the biggest SUP. I should also point out that these things are pretty dangerous, if you get hit by the foil it can really do some serious damage to you.
OK, so let me sum it up. Here is the lineup from small to big. Boogie boards, knee boards, shortboards, midsize boards, longboards, SUPs and foils. And everybody wants a wave. So, the big question is how does this work? Or does it? Just the danger element alone would more than less tell you that it might not be the best arrangement to have all of these things in the same surfing lineup. But, in many places, they are. It’s getting kind of crazy. The ONLY way this can work is if EVERYBODY out there has respect for everybody else and are careful not to put anybody else in danger. Is this really possible? Honestly, probably not.
What’s the answer? Designated surf spots probably, even though I hate to say that. Or not, just live with it and hope not too many people get hurt. I do know that the foils are really the most dangerous and people really should not ride these in crowded surf spots. SUP riders have to respect others and not take EVERY good wave, same with longboarders. This is easier said than done. It’s crowded out there and tends to be dog eat dog a lot of the time. Takes the fun out of it. And, the whole reason we are out there is to have fun. Of course, for 25k a day you can rent the Surf Ranch and have all the waves you want to yourself and your friends. I guess it you can’t afford that, learn to like the taste of dog.