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.