It may not end well otherwise
by Corky Carroll
I have been harping on this a lot lately in my social media posts and have mentioned it here before too. But it needs saying again and maybe in a stronger tone, sometimes I gloss stuff over with trying to be glib or non-judgmental. But here it is. There are too many people in the water these days that have no clue as to the proper surf etiquette as far as who has the right of way and who needs to get out of the way. People need to be taught this stuff and I am not sure that a lot of today’s surf instructors are really paying enough attention to that part of the learning process, as well as enough safety guidance.
I watched a guy give a beginning class the other day. He did a great job of telling his group how to pop up, but that’s all he did. He gave them exactly no tips on safety. Not even to cover their head when they fall off, THAT is the one main thing that should always be taught to beginners. He did not tell them anything about what to do if somebody was riding in their direction either.
Over and over, I have mentioned that the main problem I have in the water these days is not with people taking off in front of me, although that happens all the time, but with clueless people paddling out who are so freaked out about getting over the shoulder of the wave that they paddle right directly into my path. Nobody has told them to let the rider go by. They are not gonna die if they have to eat a little white water, even though they think they are. Stop you geeks, let me go by. Argh.
This very thing came to a head at my local surf break a couple of weeks ago. Our first Women’s World Champion, Linda Benson, was visiting and out surfing. Linda is in her mid 70’s and still surfs great. Super cool chick too. She took off on a wave and two other girl surfers paddled directly into her path causing her to have to straighten out. One of the girls panicked and jumped off her board with no attempt to hold on to it. The board hit Linda in the leg causing serious damage. She had to have surgery on it and spend a night and day in the hospital. Three weeks later she is still laid up as it is a slow heal.
The girl let go of her board for no good reason, it wasn’t a giant wave. Obviously, she was not taught what to do and not do. I have had the same thing happen to me many times and it’s always the same story. “Why did you let go of your board?” “I was afraid the wave was gonna cream me.” “It was a two-foot wave, you were not gonna die.” “Well, what was I supposed to do?”
There it is right there…. They don’t know what they are supposed to do. Surf teachers out there, do your jobs. Friends of beginners, take the time to educate them before they kill somebody else.
There are more people surfing today than ever before. Way more girls for sure, many starting when covid hit and the gyms were closed. I am sure that most did not take lessons. I wish people would realize that some simple early-stage help would go a long way to not only providing themselves with a better experience but also to save others the problems caused by those out there who just don’t know what they are doing.
TAKE LESSONS. And all of you surf instructors, and so-called surf instructors too, pay attention to all phases of learning. Safety first. Etiquette too. Skills yes, but being smart is better than being hurt or hurting somebody else.
I am gonna say this one more time too. If you are paddling out and are in the path of an oncoming rider it is your responsibility to get out of the way. If you can make it over the shoulder without impeding the rider, then great. But if not then you must stop and let them go by. And by all means DO NOT let go of your board where it can hit somebody. Hold on to that sucker with all your might. The head that you cave in might be mine and that is a huge NO NO.