We’re going to be posting random excerpts from Jason’s book The Kook’s Guide to Surfing, as well as other cool stuff. With the weather getting warmer, and people flocking to the lineup, we thought we’d start with a post about dropping in on other surfers. Hope you enjoy it, and please share it with your friends, especially those who like to drop in on you.
Chapter 3 – Etiquette
Don’t Drop In”
At some surf spots, five surfers riding together on a single wave is the norm. With far more people in the water then there are waves to be ridden, some mayhem is inevitable. However, at anywhere other than the most crowded of breaks, the general rule of thumb is “One man, one wave.” (This rule is deceiving, because if the wave has a peak and peels off to the left and right, two surfers can ride without getting in each other’s way.
If you recall from “Now What?” in Chapter Two, one of the earliest objectives in surfing is to ride down-the-line, or parallel to the beach as opposed to straight towards it. When two surfers ride in the same direction on a wave, it becomes the responsibility of the surfer in front to yield to the surfer in back. A “drop in,” the most blatant violation of the surfing code, occurs when the surfer in front ignores this rule. Also known as “cutting off,” “burning,” or “snaking,” this infringement of etiquette shows the utmost lack of respect. The surfer in back, so long as he is not behind the breaking part of the wave, has “inside position” and should be allowed to ride the wave unbothered.
There are exceptions. One surfer may have inside position, but also be sitting closer to shore. The surfer who is father outside has the right of way even if he is in front of the other surfer.
Dropping in, aside from being rude, places both surfers at a heightened risk of injury. If one of the riders falls, his unmanned surfboard poses an immediate danger to the other. Surfers can be a territorial and loyal bunch, and if you are seen dropping in on someone, you may be in for more than you bargained. At the least, the offending surfer is asking to be dropped in upon on the next wave. In some cases, a drop-in will earn a verbal or even physical retaliation. Snake someone at a localized spot, and the intrusion could result in the punching out of either your fins or your teeth.
Accidents will happen. You will, even if you are careful, eventually drop in on someone. Usually, a sincere apology will diffuse any potential situation. Communication helps avoid most run-ins.
Every time you see a wave that you want to catch, even before you take the first stroke, look around and make sure another surfer is not in a better position to catch it. There may already be someone riding the wave, so look down the line to see if the coast is clear. Skilled surfers are often able to navigate across waves that others consider closeouts, so never assume the other surfer is too far back to make a section. When in doubt, pull out. There will always be another wave.