A question of etiquette and responsibility in the modern age

| posted on November 21, 2012

When no one wants to enforce etiquette, we all pay the price. Photo: Glaser

We are often very different creatures on land than we are in the water. The same guy who once helped your grandmother load groceries into her station wagon will literally threaten to eat your children in the lineup. On the other side of that coin, I can be argumentative—hyper confrontational even—when standing on solid ground, but as soon as I enter the water I’m instantly unflappable. There are lots of waves, and more are on the way, so when I see someone screaming at another surfer, splashing water around, or generally freaking out, I feel a tinge of embarrassment for them. On land, publicly losing your cool is frowned upon, even when you’ve been wronged in some way. When someone swoops your parking spot at the beach, or a stranger spills his beer on your new Chuck Taylors at the bar, it sucks, but you keep your cool to avoid looking like a belligerent dick. In the same vein, getting dropped in on, or back paddled, or falling victim to any number of etiquette breaches at your local beach break doesn’t seem significant enough to snap. At the end of the day, does it really matter?

Southern California surfers have mellowed out since I learned to surf, or maybe it’s just a byproduct of the omnipresent American phobia of getting sued, but it seems that altercations—verbal and physical—have been on the decline for years. In general, surfers seem less concerned with enforcing etiquette than ever before. For a while I assumed this more peaceful temperament was the best thing for us—like a bold new race of wave sliding Dalai Lamas, we could ride into an aquatic utopia. But after a chance encounter in Laguna Beach, I realized the potential consequences of a non-confrontational collective.

It was a mediocre day, somewhere between knee-to-waist high. But the sun was out, the water was warm, and I clung to hope that if I sat patiently out the back for long enough, the Universe might send me a chest-high set. While I sat, a tiny freckle-faced creature paddled up next to me, and waited on the shoulder. As soon as a wave came I turned and paddled, but the tiny human paid no mind. He looked right at me and dropped in, forcing me to straighten out to avoid running him down, which, depending on Flintstone vitamin intake, may have proved fatal.

I wanted to say something, but he looked to be no older than 10 and I couldn’t bring myself to do it. “Kids,” I thought, and shook it off. Soon another set appeared on the horizon. As I stood up on the chest-high right, the kid made eye contact before burning me again. I was livid. I paddled back out, rehearsing a fiery rant in my head with each stroke, ready for his return to the peak—but I stopped. “Am I really going to yell at a 10-year-old?” I pondered, quickly losing my fire. “What if he starts crying? Can you get arrested for making a 10-year-old cry? Is that how surfers get restraining orders from surf spots?” In this most litigious age, there was no way to know anything for sure except that I had already overthought the whole situation and was now too flustered to say anything.

As I changed at my car afterward, I reflected on the situation. It’s great if surfers are becoming more amiable, accepting that people make mistakes, turning the other cheek, etc. But let’s face it, human beings are selfish creatures by nature. That’s why people loot when the power goes out, why Michael Jackson outbid Paul McCartney for all those Beatles songs, and why capitalism is the prevailing economic system on planet earth. If people don’t catch a slap on the wrist for acting in a selfish manner, they will keep doing it.

“It’s not like it used to be when I was a grom,” says Lowers regular Nate Yeomans. “If I burned some older dude, that meant I was either getting dunked or sent in. I’ve even had my fins broken before. I learned pretty quick as a grom because there were consequences. It seems like that’s changed a lot. The groms tend to get a little too arrogant these days because there is not much repercussion. I don’t think it would be wise to be physical or anything, especially considering that there are more legal consequences now, but when I got dunked as a kid it definitely taught me to respect the order of things.”

I used to think there was virtue in keeping your cool in the lineup at all times. But is that just a cop out? A fallacy that has allowed me to neglect an important civic duty? Maybe I’ve mistaken my own vanity for virtue all these years. One day that freckled little brat will be all grown up. His braces will come off, he will start riding boards over 5’0’’, and his pliable little brain will become set in its ways. If he ends up becoming an asshole in the water, what does that make me?

  • William

    Great piece Todd. A certain amount of lineup “education” is required. It serves a higher good. As I told a clueless SUP-er the other day when he dropped in on me with his dining room table, ” excuse me but when you merge onto a freeway, do you look back for other cars?”
    “Yes,” he said.
    “well we do that in the lineup too,” I said
    ” Well, you can be polite about it'” said paddle person.
    I gave him the stare that I give my kid when he continually forgets to flush his log down the toilet and leaves it for us all to see, and I paddled away hoping he’d think surfers are assholes and maybe he should recommit himself to golfing or dust off his rollerblades.
    The ocean is our sanctuary. No one gives a shit what you do on land or what car you drive or how many square feet you reside in. We care about manners, respect and humility. Its a moving medium and people can get hurt. I’m grateful for the dunkings, scoldings and shots fired across my bow when I was a grom. I fear its a lost tradition, mummified and decomposing. Smiling and good vibes are important, but so is the occasional citation when warranted.

  • One of a thousand Mike’s in H.B.

    I used to do the same, sitting outback and waiting.Playing THAT game. When aggressive assholes would try to paddle around me our just blattenly snake me, I’d paddle right at them and tell them “I’m goin’ and I hope you don’t get hurt!”
    Don’t you normally stand up for yourself on the streets? Then stand up for yourself in the lineup! If you really beleive it’s yours’, go for it.
    That kid has probably never been exposed to respect in the surf and will continue to be an arrogant little bastard until someone shows him what it’s like.
    Keep letting wave hogging jackasses come out in the line-up and push you around and surfing isn’t going to be much fun.
    If you don’t want to be the sad surfer sitting around letting idiots take YOUR waves, try surfing when no one else is out.

  • Steve L Smith

    It makes you an enabler. Gotta regulate fool!

  • Zac

    yeah it’s simple. don’t drop in on people. I usually expect a ‘sorry’ if they became aware after having done it. I think people should tell people to not drop in on others. Thou Shalt Not.

  • Jeff

    Nice write-up, but you definitely should have said something to the kid. There are ways of educating people (especially groms) on etiquette without belittling them and getting aggressive.

    Explain to him that what he has just done is not only rude, but dangerous to you and especially himself. Maybe finish by letting him know that’s it’s his responsibility to yield to you, and that next time you might not be so polite to straighten out and avoid running him down.

  • Mike

    I think Rob presented two extremes. There actually is something in the middle.

    I had a guy drop in on my the other day. I paddled up to him and just said, “Its not very cool to drop in on someone.” Instead of unloading on him, I just matter of factly stated something. He actually didn’t know and was very apologetic.

    I think the best way to approach something is to just state the wrong. And expect that you might not know all the details. If it was a mistake, let it go. If it was blatent then maybe there is ground to escalate.

  • Tony

    Its not just about staying off my wave, but also about safety. Eventually sonebody is gonna get hurt.

  • TonyG

    I am brand new to surfing even through I am a senior citizen. I am very interested in the rules that a beginner needs to know about. Can someone suggest how to go about getting myself educated regarding what is acceptable and what is not?

  • Matt

    I am a local and act like one. Not always pretty but effective. Too many kooks in too little space. I’m not here to subsidize their learning curve. It’s amazing that by going “loco” from time, said groms will actually ask my permission if the may go on a wave.

  • Dave Mailman

    There are too many people in the line-up who are new to surfing not to tell them when they do something out of line. If they get lippy about it, then a dunking, sending in or breaking of fins may be called for, but it’s always a good idea to be cordial first and a dick about it after!

  • Iddin Shah

    I ride a log. If someone drops in one me I never go straight. Either they pull back, speed up, bail or get run over. It’s the attitude I’ve had to develope since I’m one of 3 other log riders in my community surrounded by short boarders.

  • Rob M

    I usually give people one freebie, shit happens. But if the same thing happens twice in a row as you describe, I’ll say something. If the kid is looking right at me, and blatantly drops in, I’d probably start with, “I know you saw me, and decided to drop in anyways. Don’t do it again.” Nothing crazy, just let him know that I saw him, and that, “this aggression will not stand, man.”

  • Dan

    The onus does not only fall on the poor dude who got dropped-in on… there are other eyes in the line-up and education is easier to convey as the 3rd party observer (not implicated in the incident)

    When I see someone get dropped on, I figure I could be the next victim.
    This is an opportunity to calmly express the etiquette without getting aggro about it.

  • spongeboardsurfpants

    @TonyG. Welcome to the tribe. Here is a link to a great online resource. Thanks for asking and have fun.

  • Doug

    This grom didn’t need any education – he knew exactly what he was doing. I see this all the time. Look, you don’t have to be big to be a bully. This kid was simply taking advantage of the assumption that someone older, bigger, stronger wouldn’t dare do anything to the little jerk so he gets away with burning at will. That will only work for so long. At some point he will cross the “you can’t touch me I’ll tell my Mommy” size threshold and someone will run him right off his board.

  • scott

    Like William, I too am grateful for the lessons that were taught to me in the line up in the 90’s and I appreciate the severity of the consequences that were communicated to me if I didn’t fall in line. We owe it to ourselves to speak up and protect our cultural values as a community. There are no police to come out in the line up and arrest wrong doers, its up to the majority to alienate those that are out of line. I’ve been in lineups when the majority has cordially communicated to wrong doers to get a clue (without threats of violence) and the whole line up was better for it and there was certainly no embarrasment regarding the escalation. Cherish and defend our traditions and values!

  • Dan

    I’m new. Love it. Don’t know a thing, though.
    But when I was out there I wanted to catch every wave I could. Then I noticed that there would be two of us on the same wave, and I realized that the guy that had caught it first had the right of way, so I pulled off. Turns out that he was a local and after his ride he paddled out to me and said thanks. That was just as cool to me as when I figured out how to not fall off.
    After that I not only watch for the waves, but for the people “on the line”. And now it is a lot more fun, and even social.

  • Claudia

    What goes around , comes around. Easy is that. Everybody have to learn they lessons. How you act in the water is how you act in life.

  • Matt

    I agree with Mike. So the kid pulled a BS move, but are you really going to physically engage a friggin 10 year old because he pissed you off? Anyone jumping to that action immediately has serious anger issues and should seek some professional help before paddling back out. You’re an adult, act like one. Mention it to the kid, be firm but for f**k sake, don’t thrash the kid or break his fins. Honestly, I’d say the same thing for an adult doing this. Plenty of new surfin adults gettin out there too. If after pointing it out to an ADULT, he continues to do it, then do whatcha gotta do. Stand up for yourself, enjoy your wave, but if some d**k gets in your way, call him out on it first. MOST people don’t want a confrontation and frankly, there is no shortage of people that are nice enough but are just clueless. “What does it make me? -well, if you’re laying hands on a kid, I’d say immature and foolish. Enjoy your stick while you can -the kid will get it soon in a court hearing. Sad how people always give in to hate and entitlement. Everyones a victim. Yeah, maybe I’m part of a “race of wave sliding Dalai Lamas”. Sorry that helping others understand etiquette verbally, not assulting a kid, and keeping the peace (even amoung adults) is such a bad thing.

  • SaltCreekKid

    I had a grom sponger drop in a on me after having a line for about 10 seconds last year, I didn’t think twice about dunking that kid. I paddled back out and he looked at me with regret in his eyes…didn’t feel an ounce of guilt. Kids/kooks need to be taught these lessons the hard way sometimes.

  • Kent

    I yelled at a guy once, and he should have known better. I was going down the line and he dropped straight onto my wave for the second time. I let it go the first time but I yelled “HEY!” this time. When i paddled up to him after to have him appologize he got mad at me for yelling. Its like: “dude, you f-ed up just say your sorry and that you will look next time and that will be it.”
    I think the other half of the problem is that people are reluctant to admit their own faults. Why bother teaching someone who doesn’t want to learn?

  • Swimmy

    You, my friend have uncovered the key to the decline of our civilization = A lack of consequences. See OJ… Wall Street… Washington… blah blah blah. The good old fashioned ass-kicking is way underrated.

  • Terence

    For Tony G.

    Im glad you asked. maybe surf etiquette flyers should be affixed to each and every board ever sold so that no one can claim ignorance of these important rules. Then we can assume that the knowledge has been spread and any guilty parties deserve far less slack. Growing up surfing in Hawaii, people are far less litigious and more human. These rules apply to all people riding waves, from longboarder and Standup paddler to a bodysurfer in the shorebreak. I found alot of people on longboards felt fine with bullying people in the lineup because they could catch bumps easier and their boards are less maneuverable. These are big issues when you’re surfing 6 to 10 foot barrelling waves with a reef bottom. I don’t have insurance and Im taking a big risk battling nature without ALSO having to battle some rookie who is out of position/control and ignorant of the rules and the reasons for them.

  • Vadim Kowalenko

    Grab his leash before he takes off. If you dont get YOUR wave, neither should he!

  • banno

    Ahhh yanks, so scared to be sued. I myself would have given that little ginger fuck a good dunking, just so he knows who’s boss. Then if he did it again I would drag him in by the ears dig a hole, drop him in it, and shit on his head. Regulators mount up

  • chris B

    Growing up I had all sorts of things the older guys would do to me when I screwed up. As a kid in Cali in the 70s, I had my leash cut the first day I bought it since I bailed my board and the boys thought I needed to learn to hold on to my board (and I swam a lot). I’d been dunked, and told to head down to the next “peak”, BUT on the flip side, they talked my dad into letting me go on a surf trip to Trestles, SD, Malibu, Ventura, basicaly all over. They protected me when I mouthed off to Alan Sarlo after he dropped in on me at my home break and told him to go in.

    When I moved to Oahu at 16 I wasn’t yelled at much (except fucking Haole lol). I knew how to act, what not to do, and how to show respect. So, Mike Trujillo, Mike Wilson, Darrel Hall, Dave Hall, Hobie (and so many others) thanks for showing me my errors, preventing me from getting dirty lickings when I moved to Oahu and for all the great times I had tagging along as a little grem.

    Now days, I’m a bit more pragmatic here in Canada. We have a lot of new surfers, don’t know shit, paddle for the shoulder no matter who’s coming down the wave, bailing their board in 3′ slop, dropping in, paddling for waves when someone is already on it, etc, etc, etc. I can’t not say something lol. Instead of yelling (as some of the crew do) I paddle up to them and explain why it’s bad to do these things, that they may hurt someone and such. I usually get a good response, and if they continue to do it, the yelling starts.

    Places like Cali or over here, dropping in is mostly just an inconvenience, but do it at Pipe, or some shallow rock/coral infested spot and it gets dangerous. So, save someone a lot of grief and speak up.

  • Ciaran

    If you are surfing a point/reef break and someone paddles around you, blatantly skipping around everyone in the line up, are you justified in dropping in on them. Just wondering…. Haven’t done it yet, but starting to consider it…, nice article, the kid is going to get his comeuppance sooner rather than later…

  • Eric

    If its a spot you surf all the time, and someone paddles around you, they get sounded. Doesn’t need to be a fight, but if someone burns you, you have to at least let em know its not happening. In the era of ‘7 to a wave’ surf schools, and declining etiquette, I can honestly say that the 80’s taught respect, and people had more fun when there were enforcers in the water. It was just as crowded, but as a grom I was made sure that I understood respect. Like any sport, there are rules, and its up to us to pass them on, and u don’t have to be a dick to do it. Surfing does not have to become a rule less, homogenized, free for all, where people get hurt and everyone dog piles. just look at the pic above.That would be the true crime.

  • Center Line

    same story. Too many people, not enough waves.
    Who gets the waves

    1. Are you a psycho? Are you capable of hurting people easily or have some kind of weapon and/or high on ice or some other drug.

    2. Are you a regular? How much time have you put in and how long have you lived in that area

    3. How well do you surf?

  • Ciaran

    I am talking of those waves that almost never break so there are no legitimate locals, I can surf as good as most around here. I wouldn’t make a scene at my local spot, I don’t really buy into having more rights to a wave than the next guy just cause I am always at this spot, or because I live near it. There is also the ‘not shitting on your own door step’ ethic, mostly the only breach in etiquette around here is not respecting the line up. Think I’ll pass on the dropping in, will say something next time though

  • jeff

    the law of the jungle unfortunately, and it won’t change because it is, and always has been human nature. that being said, the kid (grom is a stupid word, according to Dane and I agree) will find out at some point in time he doesn’t always get his way. I don’t think age has anything to do with this. paddle away from the pack and wait, pick off one that swings wide, ride it into the bay and be stoked

  • Dirt

    There is usually no need to tell someone off in the water. If dropped in on, I will give a loud whistle or an oi !!, then back it up with a dirty look. People then get the picture. Trying to reason with people in this situation is a waste of time.

  • HMan

    Todd – the best way to cure the problem is to stuff that 10 year olds father. Just stuff his dad and when his dad yells at you say “your kid snakes me all the time. Since you to taught him to snake others. I figure it is okay to snake you.”

    After that… The kid will never snake anyone again.

  • michael ginsberg

    A grom dropping in on me deliberately will have his organs dissected and sold for my next surf trip

  • Ricky Bombora

    We had a boat load of Portuguese groms paddle into the line up from their dohnee at 10 foot Chickens in The Maldives. We had been out for about 30mins and were waiting for the bomb sets and as the sets came they just took off blatantly dropping in.
    Regulator mount up alright!
    I waited until their super coaches paddled back (probably ex-stars of Supertubos) and promptly toldd them we were going spear our boards at the next little fuckers head if any of them dropped in on any of us.
    They tried to tell me that we’re kids and they were just excited.
    So we’re we! We paid big bucks too to get perfection. Plus I was going a little pyscho by now.
    They all got back on their boat and we never saw them at any more breaks again.
    So speak up and get a result!

  • Sean

    Good points. I’ve also noticed that as the water gets more crowded the hassling is less frequent. Partly people giving up and partly them not wanting to make a scene. Generally I like it. I never hop people on purpose unless I’m making a judgement call that they are too deep or too far away to catch me or too lame or something. Shared waves is common. To me the biggest assholes, next to those who refuse to yield, are the ones that don’t split peaks but don’t communicate their hostile intentions. There is still plenty of aggression just less vocalization. Oh and those few dickheads that choose to ride SUPs in crowded choice spots. FUCK YOU!

  • bocassurf

    you burn me once thats it. I will let you know. Thats its burn everyone else. But being a local and surfing the same spot over 12 years. Also enduring all the flat spells yeah i will call you out on it. Eveyone knows the surfing rules out there. some just choose to be ignorant about it

    locally owned locally driven

  • frank

    It is the responsibility of more experienced surfers to teach all others — kids, newbies, neighborhood groms, entitled yuppies — the unwritten rules of etiquette. Most rules stem from safety. One can educate and not be an asshole. However, if I am met with backtalk, I usually become an asshole. Fire with fire. Have fun, don’t drop in, use the channels, and stay outta the way.

  • dgb

    The quickest way to end drop-ins is to bring back spearing. If someone drops-in on you, spear your board at the back of their legs for the first offence. Second, middle of the back. Third is directed at the head. It will help to remind them that surfing is a dangerous sport. The unwritten rules serve to protect all, riders and paddlers alike. A drop-in is the dangerous driver on the freeway that cuts you off and hits the brakes or other stupid act. Don’t worry about the law. Impossible to prove intent. Just another surfing accident. If everyone did this religously, drop-ins would cease. How do I know this works? I adopted this method and people know that if they drop-in on me they risk serious injury….and guess what? No one drops-in on me. And crux is that I never drop-in on anyone.

  • dontpaddlearoundme

    one thing that is equally bad or worse is some fucker who just caught three good waves to paddle right around you again for the fourth time only to yet again not make the section. share waves. know how many eachother has had and all that. Is it ok to burn those people who are wave hogs? i think so. i burn wave hogs!

  • Whamo

    Back when dinosaurs roamed the waves kick outs into the shins, shoving shoulder-droppers off their boards, and knuckle sandwiches were often served up to the thieves and scoundrels of the lineup.

  • c-boy

    just surf where the whiteys actually bite people and the manners seem to improve drastically…cause theres always the thought that this may be your last surf.

  • mike

    i know my abilities (intermediate, at best). i never drop in on anyone. ever. i’ve been dropped in on a few times, and sure it’s annoying, but what am I going to do? I’m not local, so if it’s another tourist I might give a stinkeye, and yes, I have kicked out on a repeat offender (who couldn’t even get down the line, and would instead just drop in and go straight)

  • Condog

    There’s a great music vid that some guys made a couple years ago called “I surf, but I hate surfers.” such a great vid and sums up how I feel after surfing many breaks in the Golden State.

  • Dang3rtown

    Great article, like any real life issue it’s not black and white, right or wrong. Has litigation been good for the sport or has it ruined it? I like the fact that super aggressive think twice about getting agro on someone they don’t know but maybe it has made enforcing etiquette a bit too lax. I personally have found that you don’t need to be a dick to get the point across. If I get burned by a guy more than once I’ll say something like “hey, look inside before you go next time”. Almost every time the very idea that a person has wronged you is enough to mortify the offender and they are sorry for what they have done. Surfers don’t want to be assholes, they just aren’t aware most of the time (I’ve had way more issues with boogers!).

    On the other hand, there is a safety element to line up etiquette. Part of enforcing the law of the lineup is to keep inexperienced surfers from getting in over their heads. If some kid is acting irresponsibly in waves of consequence it is the responsibility of those who know to keep that surfer from dropping in on something that might get him killed. If some tourist on a fun board paddles out to pipe or Mavericks (not realistic, I know), there’s no way anyone in the line up is gonna let that dude get a wave. On the surface it may just be because he/she’s a kook but deep down everyone knows if that person actually catches a wave it’s gonna be bad news.
    Interesting article from the other side of the fence on this very issue here. Kayakers are having a big problem with kooks paddling into dangerous situations because of advances in technology and accessibility.

  • Jeff

    DGB: an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind. Violence never solves violence.

  • Ciaran

    Dang3rtown – thanks for posting that link, its a good read and very relevant… It reminds me of the amount of guys where I live not spending a lot of time on beach breaks before going for reefs. One guy I know is pretty fearless (actually foolhardy would be a better desciption) and goes out in surf twice the size of anything he could paddle through, he calls me a pussy for not going out in stuff neither of us have any buisness being on. Funny thing is he talks a good game, but in the water he quitens right down. Just reading “playing Doc’s games” at the moment, seems like often a beach break like Ocean Beach is the real enforcer, while riding a reef or point you can cut corners, so maybe human enforcers are required. This is not an idea I am comfortable with but maybe I just have to get used to it unfortunatly…

  • Mark Angell

    The lineups are getting crowded and people no matter what age need to follow some basic rules to keep it safe and fun for all. These are posted on my website at Feel free to print off a copy and share it with anyone. This was compiled by many surfers and shapers over the years; kept in a simple format. Aloha Mark Angell


    1. The person first on the wave or closest to the peak has the right of way
    on the wave.

    2. Look right and left before you take off. Don’t drop in on someone!!

    3. If you take off in front of someone, pull out of the wave.

    4. When paddling out, look behind you before you jump off your board if
    caught in the impact zone.

    5. Paddle around the shoulder of the wave, not up through the middle. Use
    the channels.

    6. During a set, paddle out in the safest direction to avoid the rider on the
    wave. Make eye contact with the rider.

    7. Don’t always rely on your cord or leash to save you. It can break.

    8. Know your limits. Don’t go out in surf bigger than you can handle.

    9. If you cause an accident, be sure to ask if the other surfer needs help.
    “I’m sorry, are you okay?” works wonders.

    10. Be Courteous and Respectful of others in the water.

  • Ian

    If someone is doing the wrong thing it’s up to everyone in the lineup. The surfer going for the wave may have a second of or two of annoyance but if one or two of the other surfers in the line up politely inform the person of the ‘accidental’ surf etiquette indiscretion. People may understand there is a surf etiquette and a surf community. A surf community that is more aware than the ‘self’. Everyone appreciates that especially when you start surfing remote, bigger waves and reefs.

    In these locations the etiquette, priority system, letting the person inside paddle for the wave and not dropping in save injuries or worse. And it may even be one of the strangers’ that takes you to the nearest medical place 30 minutes away for medical treatment and stitches when you hit the reef/surf board that can happen even without surf etiquette indiscretions.

  • crap

    Ya, let it go. Someone burns you don’t say anything, they will just continue doing it. Unless you break their fins out send them in. People have lost respect for others a long time ago.

  • jimmy

    this fat little kid perhaps 16 and full of his own shit, the other day, presumed i was snaking him, and proceeded to inform me (after I paddled past him), that he was going to fade me on every single wave!
    So I said “go on fade me”
    he said “what?”
    I said, “fade me”
    he wasn’t too sure what to say.
    All it takes is one grouchy old dick head to be mouthing off in the lineup, and now the kids are copying them. The same dickhead who thinks he’s the only guy who surfs the break. There’s always one, in crowded spots. But then again I don’t normally surf popular spots, unless its 4+ foot. There’s a lot of beach in this world, go find your own peak. AWAY FROM THE SHEEP !

  • mysto-cliff -dweller

    Nice work Todd. I would not expect anything less. I kow your Dad, so I know you were raised right, in an area with deep traditions and rules that matter. Localism id ugly, but effective, it works. That said, the “education” should be dispensed with the minumum amount of aggression or negativity as called for under the circumstances. A polite verbal warning is a great way to start. It allows the recipient to either apologize and change his/her approach, or to escalate the interaction into a conflict. At the point,, whatever happens is on the person who escalated matters to the next level.

  • gtag


  • Peter

    Todd obviously doesn’t have kids. You can be gently firm with a 10 year old — but never get physical with someone else’s child. I might have said, as he paddled back out — nice wave, ask him how long he’s been surfing, then let him know that he dropped in on you and what to do to avoid the situation — all with a friendly smile on your face. Chances are he’ll be embarrassed and paddle away. Or, you can share waves with him and stoke him out, esp. if it’s a tiny day.

  • D

    Mark Angell i like your list of surf rules. However, rule 1 is the cause of a majority of trouble in the water – The person first on the wave OR closest to the peak has the right of way on the wave.

    The issue is that everyone is on different craft. A longboarder can be cruising out on the shoulder before shortboarders can even catch the wave.

    Gives plenty of chance to argue over shades of grey!

  • Kyle

    i grew up on long island NY and learned to surf there, when someone gets dropped in on then words will be exchanged or if someone is disrespecting people then he’s gonna run into some trouble as soon as they step on the sand. But since ive moved to southern california ive noticed the exact opposite, i see people get dropped in on and not say a word, if i get the stink eye then i ask what there looking at? 9 times out of 10 there so embarrassed i had the balls to say something that it gets so awkward they leave, ive had a guy tell me “this is a leash free zone kook” then take the next wave in, ran up the cliff to his car a left. I thought it was all gnarly and locals only but like most of these comments im reading and what the article stated that thoes were different times? i guess thats true but do you think its even worse to have these “enforcers” at local spots that don’t enforce? a big tuff guy that gives dirty looks like a chick would do to another chick? or a group a delinquents willing to mess with your car while no ones looking cause they don’t have the balls to confront someone? in my opinion, its the people I’m mentioning that need to be taught a lesson. if you don’t have the balls and are willing to make someone leave a spot, then keep your mouth shut

  • mark

    I don’t even bother yelling or wasting my breath. If I strongly feel the burn was intentional when a set rolls in I’ll return the favor. “An eye for an eye” and wait to see their reaction if they start chirping then I make sure to point how ridiculous he is considering he just did the same thing to me. Usually that’ll end as soon as you see the offender’s realization of hypocrisy.

    Best to surf spots where the locals are friendly which sets the overall tone in the water IMO. There are some spots that are getting ridiculously over-crowded like HB where you got everyone and their mother acting agro. When you go to spots like HB on the weekends even week days now or Lowers in the summer be prepared.

  • Elliot Marx

    Hmmm interesting perspective. I just went out surfing on a crowded day. Some 60 year old guy who looked like he was on steriods almost ran me over at full speed because he wasn’t looking so I yelled at him watch out! When he swam back he started yelling at me and told me to go home because I didn’t belong out there. What a prick. I tried to stay away from him but 2nd time he deliberately cut me off and made faces at me to try to intimidate me.

    I guess if people cut you off that’s one thing. But if someone puts your life in danger just to get a thrill that’s quite another.

    It’s cool what you are doing – no need to lash out at the little kid for having a big ego.

    And I guess it’s better to go surfing when it’s less crowded – less confrontation!

  • Luke

    I agree that rules are important to a safe session especially with how many people are in the water. I don’t however think the antiquated surfer aggression and entitlement attitude is warranted.

    As a relatively new surfer (only 2 years) I’ve made my fair share of mistakes, dropping in, almost running people over, to totally launching my board into a beach full of rocks. (Who hasn’t honestly made some stupid beginner mistakes) I’ve since learned how to surf better and be much more conscious of whats going on in the water, but it took a while. Mostly because when I did make a mistake someone would yell profanities, start splashing about, or tell me to get lost. I’d apologize but most wouldn’t hear it, let alone explain why I was in the wrong. It took a lot longer to understand what I was doing wrong when I was being harassed for it. So I kept screwing up.

    Regardless of the attitude I stuck with it, and sure eventually I learned, but if the real reason for upholding the rules is to maintain a civil and safe line up maybe we should understand that people make mistakes and try to educate them how not to. Yelling and screaming at folks looking to have a good time isn’t going to make them more respectful of the rules, and it’s not going to keep the ever increasing numbers people from paddling out either.

    I say if you feel you are wronged in the water go ahead and speak up, but act like an adult about it and confront that person in a respectful manner. Give them some knowledge and educate them on their mistakes so we can all enjoy the countless sets waves this world has to offer.