I have heard a lot of things in the water from frustrated surfers:
“Beat it, kook.”
“I grew up here and surf here every day, and I’ve never seen you.”
“Go back to where you came from.”
“It’s not fun surfing here anymore. Things used to be so much better back in the day.”
“I can’t believe how crowded it is. Where do all these people come from?”
These are among the common comments I have overheard regularly from surfers venting their frustration at the fact that surfing is indeed very popular, and the lineups today are crowded with folks of all skill levels.
It is true that today’s broad surfing community possesses variable – and sometimes questionable – understanding of surfing etiquette. Add in a few individuals suffering from a sense of entitlement and a few others who simply demonstrate a lack of common courtesy or respect for their fellow enthusiasts, and we have a recipe for a potential bummer of a surf session.
What I have witnessed in the water with greater frequency really bothers me. I am not talking about the growing crowds, new faces in the line-up, or the great influx of less experienced surfers. I’m talking about the tendency of those who seem to have forgotten the very “stoke” of what surfing is all about and have adopted a posture of negativity when they enter the surf zone.
The act of riding waves, in any fashion, regardless of skill or experience is, without question, one of the most exhilarating activities on the planet. It is a celebration of life and energy and creates a profound sense of joy. It baffles me that anyone can forget that they are indeed blessed to have the opportunity to play in the ocean, and will choose to spoil not only their own joy but the joy of others with fits of negativity and selfishness.
I was born and raised in San Clemente, and I have had the great fortune to call its beaches home for 31 years. I fully understand the frustration a crowded line-up can invoke, but I have found I can continue to have fun in a crowd without letting it affect my outlook or attitude. It’s a conscious choice. Arrogance, hostility and intimidation are conscious choices as well, but they definitely drain joy from any life experience.
With that in mind, here are a few modest thoughts that perhaps we all should consider as we share the limited quantity of waves that come our way.
1. Surfing is one of the purest forms of fun in the world. You know this… it is likely this very reason that you fell in love with the activity in the first place. Be stoked for others that have found that happiness as well.
2. At one point we were all beginners. It’s very likely that we created some frustration to a more experienced surfer. Rather than lashing out for someone’s perceived wrongdoing or error in judgment, offer some friendly advice as to how they can improve and not make the same mistake in the future. It’s really OK to talk and be friendly in the water.
3. Ditch the false sense of entitlement. Stop thinking that you are better or more deserving because you were born here or you are really competent. It doesn’t matter where you come from or how well you surf. The ocean and its resources are for everyone to enjoy.
4. How much fun you have is up to you. Even on the most crowded of days, the amount of joy you feel is entirely up to you. If you choose to focus on the negative, that is exactly how you are going to feel.
5. Fill yourself and your session up with gratitude. Remember how lucky you are to be in the water and call yourself a surfer. There are many people in this world that would give anything to trade places and experience the joy you know.
6. Surfing is more than the ride. Savor every aspect and sensation. Just being on the ocean is magic. It really isn’t a competition either. Share! Give! Talk! Smile!
7. Have patience. Being patient with and showing respect to everyone in the water (especially the new faces) will make your day better. And in turn, they will pass that on, making everyone’s day better.
8. Everyone’s surfing ability varies. But down at the roots, our desire is one and the same. We are in the ocean to experience the tremendous joy and sense of exhilaration that surfing brings us.
9. There will always be more waves. Remember, there is always another day and another swell… and maybe even some really fun waves at a spot less crowded, if you know where to look.