When I first taught my sons to surf, I took them to feral spots up the coast, the uncrowded places in serene landscapes. Big mistake. A beach break thrashing or painful reef dance is quite traumatic to a young grommet. One more serious hold down could ruin them for surfing.
So I reluctantly took them to the beginner spots in town. The most obvious feature of these spots, aside from the mushy, perfect-for-learning peelers, are the crowds. Not just regular crowds, more like Monsters of Rock crowds: people dropping in and slamming into each other on almost every wave. Complete anarchy. Surfing here is more dangerous than a grinding spot up the coast. I’ve been whacked in the head with an errant Wavestorm numerous times over the past year. And the “surf instructors” are not helping the situation by pushing their red-jerseyed pupils into waves regardless of who’s coming down the line.
The lineup is a microcosm of society. In an empty lineup, it’s freedom and solitude. Do whatever you want and enjoy every minute. When a few people venture into it, there is mutual respect and joy in sharing the riches. As it gets more crowded, there are enough waves for everyone, but rules are needed to maintain order and spread the wealth. But when the crowds reach a certain tipping point, the result is complete social breakdown.
When I learned to surf there weren’t any foam boards or surf schools. My friends and I learned at the intermediate beach breaks and reefs because those were the only places we could reach by bus or, if we were lucky, a ride from one of our grumpy, scare-haired parents at six o’clock on a Saturday morning. And we learned the etiquette quickly: the veterans would yell and/or threaten to beat our asses if we dropped in or otherwise got in the way. Waiting our turn and showing respect was just common sense and basic survival.
Perhaps these are the ravings of a disgruntled codger. These damn kids today with their weird clothes and loud rock n’ roll … Blah, blah, blah.
Yeah, maybe. It’s a beginner spot and people are just trying to learn, so a bit of cluelessness comes with the territory. And, honestly, how mad can you get at a kid who, while smiling and having a blast, steamrolls you on his Wavestorm? The beginner enthusiasm is kind of infectious, actually.
But man, there needs to be some order to the chaos. Intimidation and douche-baggery are not the answer. That’s a bad idea that should remain in a past era, like neon webbed gloves. I’m not recommending any negativity in the lineup (or, for God’s sake, neon webbed gloves), but just some common sense and mutual respect. And, one thing that’s always helpful in life is to, you know, watch out where you’re going. The veterans need to educate beginners on the etiquette, set the example, and help spread the stoke. That’s the answer over the long term.
Over the short term, the answer is to get my kids good enough so we can get the hell out of there, back up the coast.