Everybody knows or should know the “no drop-in” rule. That’s when you catch a wave that someone else is already riding. Don’t do that. It’s been around ever since “skegs” allowed surfers to go left or right. Before that, surfers just rode straight in, so any given wave could accommodate a number of surfers. Not following this rule can lead to damage to someone’s board and/or injury to another person or yourself, so it’s a pretty basic rule. Yeah, I’m always amazed at how many people either don’t know this rule or conveniently forget it. But to be honest there are times when “dropping in” occurs for a variety of reasons. Sometimes it’s pure accident, I didn’t take the time to check the peak before paddling-in or I was “sure” the guy in the better position wouldn’t catch the wave/make the drop/make the section/was going the other way/whatever. When this occurs, the right thing to do is to kick-out as soon as possible. When it’s not possible, I try to stay as far ahead of the rider behind me, constantly looking for an opportunity to kickout, and all the while maintaining control of my board. This is not the time for noserides, big cutbacks, floaters or other risky maneuvers. I realize I’m in the wrong and try to minimize my impact on the rider behind me. Once I’m able to kickout, I wait for the rider who was behind me and offer an apology. Giving respect with a simple “sorry dude” goes a long way. Take the time to learn the lineup, where people are taking-off, who’s surfing on what and where they’re sitting relative to the peak.
Here are some other rules or “guidelines”: Shortboarders take off much later than longboarders, so if you’re on a longboard and a SBer is closer to the peak (sitting deeper), don’t commit to dropping-in until you’re sure he’s not going for the wave. Better to let the wave go then to push over the edge, only to T-bone a SBer in the middle of his bottom turn. Just because you can catch the wave first on the shoulder doesn’t mean you have the right to. Be aware and show respect. If you’re riding a shortboard, don’t sit directly in front of a LBer paddling for a wave. Show respect and stay out of the way. When I ride my shorter boards, I frequently find myself sitting “inside” of the LBers. Oftentimes a wave will come and the LBer will start to paddle for it. If I think they won’t catch it, I move closer to the peak but out of their path. I’m ready to go when or if they quit paddling. By moving closer to the peak, I now have the better position. Some people contend that the person paddling from the further-est out has the right-away, or that the first person standing has the right-away. I believe that the person taking off in the most critical position has the right-away. Of course, this is a judgment call and there can be a lot of grey area when a peak is particularly wide. Letting others in the lineup know what you intend to do at these critical times can help. “Going right” or “I’ll take the left” keeps the surprises to a minimum.
The person riding the wave has the right-away. Don’t paddle in front of someone on a wave when you’re paddling back out. I hate it when people do this to me and I’m pretty sure you do too. Always paddle behind them, through the whitewater if necessary. The only exception is if you can cross in front of them without causing them to change direction. Lots of surfers try to paddle over the unbroken part of the wave instead of facing the whitewater, even if it means forcing the surfer who may be having the ride of his session, to cut-back or kick-out to avoid a collision. That’s wrong and disrespectful. Do the right thing, paddle in the opposite direction of the rider and take your beating in the whitewater behind him so that your fellow surfer can enjoy his wave. Isn’t that what you’d want someone else to do for you? As it happens, sometimes it’s not possible to avoid interfering with someone else’s wave. You wipeout, and as soon as you surface and collect your board, you realize you’re in the way of someone else. When this happens, and it will, take the time to apologize.
Another “paddling” rule is to always paddle around the impact zone or the area directly in front of the peak. Sure, it’s the long way back out, but it minimizes the possibility that you will interfere with another surfer’s ride, as well as the chances of you getting run over by someone dropping into a wave.
Here’s another: Always try to control your board, especially when it’s crowded. Just because you have a leash doesn’t mean you should just let your board fly whenever you wipeout or kick-out. Sometimes it’s impossible to hold onto your board, like on bigger days. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try, and it certainly doesn’t mean you should just bail off your board at the end of a ride instead of executing a good kick-out. Flying boards are a danger to others and are just poor style. This brings to mind the debate regarding leashes. Some people believe that the surf leash ruined surfing by eliminating one of the natural crowd-control mechanisms of surfing…the long, cold swim to the beach to retrieve your board. I’m old enough to remember those long swims and when there were days when it felt like I was swimming more than surfing (because I was). But I also remember dodging 35lb logs while paddling out on crowded days at Doheny. “Log jam” was more than a metaphor back then. I surf without a leash when it’s shoulder high or smaller. And on bigger days, when there is greater risk that I’ll be separated from my board, I wear a leash. But I still surf like I’m not wearing one and I keep my board under control at all times.
Bottom-line, it’s just like your mom taught you…treat others like you would like to be treated. Give respect to get respect, and leave your agro-I-deserve-every-wave-because-I’m-so-bitchin’ attitude on the beach.