Surfing and the culture that has evolved around surfing is unlike most other sports activities. The venues are coastal, which means that the sport is not available to those not within driving distance of the ocean. And then, not all ocean beaches produce waves that are good for surfing. The options on any given day can be very limited. And then there is the etiquette in the lineup itself. For the uninitiated this can be quite a daunting set of obstacles to overcome.
As a paddler new to surfing there are a few ideas to be aware of from the outset of your involvement in the sport of surfing. It is important to understand that the culture is not particularly tolerant of new surfers in the lineup and particularly new surfers with a brand new surf SUP. Regardless of whether you made the board yourself or went out and bought the latest and greatest, the prevailing attitude is such that the “regulars” at most surf beaches can be quite territorial in their view of “their” waves. Some of this has to do with the limited nature of potentially surf-able beaches and some of it has to do with the gear (surf SUP’s) that you show up with. Surf SUP’s tend to be bigger than the traditional surfboards many surfers ride and consequently considerably heavier. The combination of inexperience and heavy boards make for a wary pack of “locals” that may not be too friendly at first. But with caution, a safe approach to learning the sport and a friendly smile you usually can gain the trust of the others in the surf lineup.
Like it or not, most surf breaks have a “pecking order” when it come to the waves. In locations with big crowds this can be problematic for new surfers. It can be difficult to get a wave to yourself. Initially you will find it hard to just catch a wave at the right time so it’s a good idea to practice the take-off sequence in a location away from the main area where others are surfing until you learn to catch a wave and control your board. Lack of board control is one of the most dangerous conditions present in a lineup with new surfers. Boards are heavy, hard and subject to moving at high rates of speed. Leashes, which should always be worn can fail with the consequences possibly being a trip to the emergency room for an unwary “downrange” surfer. Hanging onto your board can be difficult while holding onto your paddle as well but it’s something that must be learned.
Understanding how the right-of-way “rules” work in the surf lineup is the most important thing you can do to gain acceptance. As a new participant in the sport you should have a complete understanding of the etiquette before you ever attempt to paddle out and surf. A lack of respect for or understanding of the “rules” is a sure way to become an unwanted and dangerous guest in the surf zone. How do we find this information out? A simple web search will reveal numerous websites devoted to this subject. Also, go to the beach and talk to others involved. Most people are receptive to passing along tips and advice for staying within the bounds of safe surfing.
Surfing can be one of the most rewarding experiences imaginable if you are patient. But it is an activity that comes at a price. The learning curve is steep and there are “dues” that must be paid. Once you have gained some initial experience and the trust of the other surfers in the lineup you will be on your way to an amazing experience.
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