The following is sure to be a shared experience among surfers: you are all ready to surf, you finally got off work, the waves are firing, wind conditions are perfectly off-shore, you drive to your destination, paddle out and see you are in the worst crowd imaginable.
Perhaps it is the popularity of the spot, perhaps it is that everyone (like you) just got off work; whatever the case may be, crowded surf spots are no fun, especially if the crowd is aggressive and unfriendly.
You may already be at the point in your surfing journey and have had to face some gnarly conditions. This includes us humans!
Depending on the time (season, day, even hour) certain spots can get packed, and navigating the crowd is a skill and art form in and of itself. The main takeaways are to be patient, calm, respectful, and friendly, while maintaining best surf etiquette. This will ensure that you stay safe, others stay safe, and everyone has fun!
In the case of beginners, this can be a big fear factor in why many people are deterred from surfing. This is one of the biggest advantages for a beginner to book a surf lesson:
You are out with a professional coach who is guiding you and showing you the ropes, and many times surf lessons take place on the inside, away from the peak, where there are many waves to practice on without having to navigate an insane crowd. Thus, this is the best piece of advice for beginners: take a lesson!
The second best thing to do for beginner surfers, is to avoid packed lineups especially crowded with many high-level or experienced locals.
There are definitely more beginner friendly spots versus more territorial ones in existence, and being yelled at or called off a wave can be an unpleasant experience for any newbie. That being said, once you are on your own you may have to start braving the crowds.
Believe it or not, surfing crowded spots can be a great way to improve your surfing ability and progress!
The following article will provide some useful tips for engaging with lots of people in the lineup and keeping yourself safe while having fun, which is the most important thing!
First off, avoid paddling for every wave you see.
This is a sure way to a.) tire yourself out before an actual good wave comes to you, and b.) annoy fellow surfers.
Do not expect to catch as many waves during a crowded session as you would when it’s just you and a few other people. This is just the way it is and the more calm, collected, and unattached to the outcome you can remain, the better your overall experience will be.
Remember, sharing is caring! Chances are, dear readers, you are not paddling out there at the sound of the buzzer up against Kelly Slater as your competition, so you should definitely exercise patience and allow other people the opportunity to go on waves.
As much as surfing is a sport, it is a way of life, and you do not want to go through life being greedy or easily upset!
Second, after you catch a wave, or even after you wipe out, paddle left or right to the channel, before paddling back out to the lineup. Crowded surf means that many people may be potentially taking off on a wave, and with more people in the lineup, you are more prone to collisions in the water.
Wear a leash: if this even needs to be said, always always be prepared with a leash. It is very important you do not chance it, especially on a crowded day, because you can risk injuring others if you were to lose your board or wipe out.
Practice best etiquette: always yield right of way to the surfer who’s in the deeper part of the wave (meaning closer to the peak), and if you do drop in on someone, do not panic or flail, but make sure to kick out right away and get off the wave. Always apologize when you’re in the wrong – even if you’re not quite certain if you may have been in the way! Everyone makes mistakes or bad calls occasionally, and there is no shame in apologizing – in fact, it is absolutely necessary at times!
When you do wipe out, make sure you come up with your hands covering your head, and even elbows hiding your face – this will protect yourself if there are boards coming at you that you cannot see. Once you get your bearing, you can locate your board and start paddling again.
Worst case scenario, if you do find yourself in an argument or confrontation in the water, surrender your ego, be respectful, and if you need to, find a safer, more fun place to surf. As mentioned, this is a worst case scenario type of situation, and very uncommon for the most part.
Lastly, and most importantly:
Breathe, smile, enjoy this amazing thing that is surfing!
Whenever you are feeling frustrated, remember that it is an amazing blessing to be out on the water, reaping the gifts that mother nature provides!
You could be anywhere else in the world yet you are out at sea, which is a pretty amazing place to be if you ask me! Not every session can be your best, and not every wave can be yours, but in the grand scheme of things, any day on the water is a lucky one!
Remember to stop and smell the roses, so to speak, and appreciate the little things. It helps to admire the backdrop, take in the feel and smell of the ocean, and say a big thank you to mother nature! She does a lot for us!
Above all, surfing should be a fun activity that allows you to stay fit and stay connected with nature. Progress is very often made in those “bad” days, and will pay off in the long run. So what are you waiting for?! Let’s get out there!
Wanna know more about surfing? Check out this blog post!