Standing Up For the Right of Way
The growth of standup paddle surfing is undeniable. Cutting edge shapers in Hawaii and California can’t keep up with orders, let alone design evolution. Industry hardgoods players have ramped up production boards, and the used standup boards disappear from Craigslist within hours of being listed. But if your finger isn’t on the pulse of the surf hardgoods industry all you need to do is look in the ocean. From downwind paddlers working out their core to surfers paddling into waves at your local break the growth is obvious.
And the stoke is obvious…unless you are NOT one of us.
If this is the case you generally fall into two camps: 1) curious and want to try it or 2) fearful and want to see the whole thing disappear. Either way the growth has and will create some ‘situations’ in lineups regarding etiquette.
In an effort to deflate any of these uncomfortable situations in the water I caught up with C4 Waterman’s Brian Keaulana for some general rules regarding standup paddle surfing etiquette.
“Okay Scott, but unfortunately common sense isn’t so common,” said the gracious Hawaiian recently at Makaha. “There are idiots on all kinds of different boards: shortboard, longboard, bodyboard, whatever. It’s not the arrow, it’s the indian. These rules can apply to every surfer on one level or another, no matter what you ride. What we are trying to do here is turn assholes into assets, I’m familiar with that.”
1) JUST BECAUSE YOU CAN, DOESN’T MEAN YOU SHOULD
Most SUP surfers have no problem getting their wave count. “If you are out there doing laps and not letting others get set waves, you are out of line,” explains Keaulana. “Stop hording and start enjoying.”
2) GET OUT OF DENIAL
If you think the #1 rule (above) doesn’t apply to you it probably does. “First sign of a kook is denial,” says Keaulana. “Denial is the byproduct of the ego, the bigger the ego the bigger the denial. The bigger the denial the bigger the kook.”
These boards let you surf places you might not have otherwise surfed so take advantage of that. Search out new frontiers. “Dave (Parmentar) uses the aviation analogy. The birth of aviation meant we could expand our frontiers in a peaceful manner or bomb the shit out of people,” says Keaulana. “Let’s not repeat history. Don’t bomb the shit out of people. When the opportunity arises, when a new swell lights up an out of the way spot, attack those new frontiers.”
4) KNOW YOU ABILITY/MASTER YOUR EQUIPMENT
Most surfers who try standup surfing consider themselves fairly advanced. But putting a paddle in your hands is a foreign experience. Believe it. It is not easy. “Go out on your own for a few weeks,” says Keaulana. “Even if you think you are Kelly Slater, you will be humbled. The paddle and the board should be an extension of your body. Until they are, stay out of the way.”
5) SIT IN THE CHANNEL
After catching a wave, instead of paddling back out, kick back in the channel for five minutes. The other surfers will appreciate it. “You are already sticking out like a sore thumb out there,” says Keaulana. “Chilling on the inside for a few sets will keep the swelling down.”
Call out approaching sets. Use your vertical position as a benefit to others. “Not only do I do that, says Keaulana. “Over here (Makaha) I see sharks, whales. I let others know who and what is sharing their home with us. You call out a big tiger (shark) and people are real happy you’re standing up and seeing things.”
Hopefully some of Brian’s rules will be heeded. Etiquette is such a slippery slope. Often times proper etiquette goes by unnoticed or unappreciated. I’ll let waves go by, hoping the crowd on the inside of me will appreciate my discretion, only to watch surfers with more mouth than ability stumble and grumble their way to frustration. Then they’ll misdirect their frustration born of inadequacy toward the guy having fun, me. Nevertheless, I won’t let underappreciated etiquette efforts stop me from continuing the righteous course and either should you. There are plenty of kooks, let’s not add to the mix.