Like everyone else, I get into a pretty serious fight every time I paddle out. Our beloved and to-be-taken-very-serious-activity is rife with miscommunication, misunderstanding, and sheer selfishness all while the stakes are high. It’s akin to road rage—we get so mad because if we aren’t mindful and perfect in our actions and reactions, the consequences can be devastating. We’re turned up so we blow up. With all this in mind, below are some seriously serious, tried and true, grown-up strategies for dealing with the most common confrontations we all run into surfing around others.
1. When someone drops in on you. Paddle very close to the offender. Smile. Enthusiastically congratulate them on a wave well surfed. Joyfully mention specifics, like how you really enjoyed watching the commitment level on one of their turns. Really lay it on with lavish praise and friendliness. They’ll generally be too thrown to continue surfing at all and will likely paddle in and sell their board on Craigslist. When they try to, make an attractive offer via e-mail, one that they can’t turn down. Then, when you go meet up to “buy the board,” remind the offender who you are and how they slighted you, then put up your dukes to begin the fight. It’s the long game. Revenge is a dish best served cold.
2. When you drop in on someone. If you did it on purpose, there’s no need to waste time arguing about it like an adolescent. Just fight them like a grown man right there in the water. If you did it by accident, see if you can’t at least pretend to be a man and say you did it on purpose and fight right then and there to avoid a lengthy, tenuous, botched Craiglist-deal-turned-ambush.
3. When someone keeps back paddling you. Try this. Pretend that you don’t mind, and that surfing is just for fun anyways, and that there are plenty of waves, and that it’s all aloha with this person. Eventually, develop a begrudging respect with one another over continued shared experiences at the same surf spot. This may take years. Then, once you start to become true friends with this person and they invite you to their wedding or some analogously intimate event, you will decline and begin rolling up your shirtsleeves. When they ask “Why not? Wait, what are you doing, bro?” remind them of the session when they kept back paddling you and initiate hand to hand combat. Again, revenge is better when it’s cold.
4. When a surfer is riding a breaking wave towards you and you paddle towards the white water because you’re aware of general etiquette, but this surfer wants to do a cut back into the white water and wait for the inside to stand up. They bog the turn and slip out the back and are absolutely livid. What to do? Remind them calmly that they are mad at the situation, not at you. You were doing the right thing paddling for the whitewater, while they are just a filthy, rail-bogging kook who doesn’t know how to hold on to their own speed. Then fight. Because if you’re not surfing to fight, what are you surfing for?
5. When there is a perfect section bowling up in front of you and you’re about to just scalp it like a savage but some Joe on the inside is paddling back out and duck dives straight through your wall making you miss the section. Instead of yelling all childishly and losing your cool, just take a deep breath. Smile. Then calmly follow them back to shore, back to their home and around town, taking notes, finding out what they do for work. Train yourself in that discipline, making sure to work harder than anyone else. Try not to take any loans unless absolutely necessary, but if you have to, don’t hesitate. Eventually get yourself hired at the same company as this person (I recommend LinkedIn and networking in general. Also, a fresh, pithy cover letter and recommendation letter can do wonders). Next, nail the interview and ensure that your hard work and can-do, team player attitude ensures that you climb the ladder swiftly. Then one day, secure that big promotion over the Joe by throwing him under the bus. Once you have seniority, call them into your much nicer office. Unroll a wrestling mat as you remind this person of what they did years ago, screwing up that perfect section on the wave. Assume an athletic stance and invite them to duel. Then, when you’ve beaten them physically and your ego has been vindicated, fire them.
6. When you’re on your high-performance shortboard when it’s 2-3 ft because you’re a ripper. Meanwhile, some dick on a more appropriate, more voluminous board is catching every single wave and just having a ball out there. What to do? Create a toxic energy out there for everyone, simmer in your own self-loathing but disguise it as hate for this other person who had the foresight to bring a board that actually works for the conditions. Bitch, moan, complain, and whine like a shitty little baby. Then, once the wave hog is exhausted from surfing all of the waves, drop in on them and brawl.
7. When SUPer paddles about fifty yards over to you to steal wave you’ve been waiting for, again. Best move is to just burn them on the inside, snatch the paddle out of their hands and beat them to smithereens with it.
8. When you’re on a SUP because you left your dignity back at home. You paddle over to a peak about a football field away because you can. Some whiny little bish on the wrong board starts complaining and you get a hunch he’s about to steal the paddle out of your hands and beat you to smithereens with it because he also read this list. Try this. Ignore everyone, run over them and continue surfing all the waves because the world is yours and might is right.
9. When there are two spread out peaks, you take one of them and head right, but down the line, a guy who took the other peak is coming left and both of you are eyeing the same section. Who gets to tag it? Either you both blow it by acting like children and rueing the day the other was born, or you sack up and both generate as much speed as possible to begin the battle royale with a full-on, above the lip body tackle. Akin to a joust, but with less armour. Knights weren’t so tough.
10. When you didn’t think that guy was going to make it around the section, but he did. And he’s going fast, and he’s mad as hell at YOU. What to do? Surf the wave to the best of your ability and put on an absolute clinic for them as they get stuck behind the wave and eventually go down. Take the wave all the way into shore, rush to your car and send a Venmo invoice to the person you burned for the “surfing clinic” you just gave them. Charge whatever you think your time is worth, but be honest. Then wait for them to grasp the tone of what you’ve done and welcome the fight with an open heart. After you’ve pummeled them to smithereens, send another Venmo invoice for the “fighting clinic.” Repeat as necessary.
11. When you take off super deep, but were able to hold onto enough speed to make it around the section just to get burned by some kook, and now you’re watching them from behind the whitewater as they make an absolute cuck out of you on the wave, eventually taking it all the way in to shore and then sending you a sarcastic Venmo request for the “surfing clinic” they just put on for you. Keep your cool. And even if it’s a fair price, do not pay the Venmo request, even if you feel you got something out of it. Instead, fight this person and then send them an invoice for putting on a “fighting clinic.” Should he turn the tables and send you one first, instead send another Venmo invoice for the “Venmo invoice clinic.” Then, share a few laughs, some cold beers, then become friends and surf Topanga together all the time.