All too often, we hear surfers wax lyrically about the soulful connection they share with the ocean, and about how surfing brings them closer to nature, to God, to their fellow man, or their long-lost inner self. But wouldn’t it be refreshing to hear an interview or read a quote where someone abandons the “surfing makes me a better person” yarn and tells us about what’s actually going on out there? Why doesn’t anyone just go ahead and say that surfing is one of the most hedonistic devotions known to mankind? As surfers, we derive a great deal of pleasure from riding the ocean’s waves, and, like any other addiction, once we get that feeling we endeavor to recreate it by any means necessary. Like any other junkie, we beg, borrow, and skip work to get our fix, and the average wave hog at your local break isn’t even the worst of them. If you want to put a crown on that title, you only have to look as far as the people on the pages of this magazine.
Every professional surfer that has ever lived is, in one way or another, a hustler, a wave hog, or a snake. Isn’t it true that, in order to achieve that level, you have to surf a truckload of waves? Isn’t it also safe to assume that in order to get those waves one has to do his or her fair share of hassling or hogging? To my knowledge, there is not a professional surfer out there that has suddenly appeared on the WCT after learning and perfecting their craft in an empty, peerless lineup on the outermost tip of some forgotten continent. No, they surf with lots of other surfers, and more often than not, they are the ones catching the most waves.
Of course, this does not necessarily mean that all pros are the scourge of the lineups. In fact, many professionals often come off as nice guys who simply find themselves in the right place at the right time. On a good day, you won’t know you’re getting robbed blind until you find yourself on the beach wondering why you only managed to snag a fistful of mushy insiders. The reason is simple, and that reason is that the pros have the ability to snake you without you even knowing it. Here is a handful of ways to get more than your fair share without getting all the bad publicity.
1. The Red Herring.
Balking is one of the oldest tricks in the book, and there are a number of subtle, and not so subtle ways to pull this off effectively. Yelling words of encouragement is a particularly effective way to get the people ahead of you in the pecking order to choose the wrong waves. For instance, if you want a wave that someone else is paddling for, one could always shout to him that the next wave is going to be the best one, when in fact, no such wave exists. This can work in any order you choose. If you are way down the waiting list, you can even begin paddling frantically towards the horizon as if there is a bomb on the way, without actually straying too far from the ideal take-off zone, then, turning around quickly, you can get yourself back into position. Sheep mentality, and sometimes survival instinct, dictates that the pack should follow your initial movements and you could be the only person in the right position for the wave.
2. The Drifter.
Instead of using the age-old practice of making your way far offshore in search of a “big set” and then drifting over to the inside before timing your paddle in with the arrival of a bomb set, you can use the less obvious tactic of using some kind of external force to get you to the inside, even if it doesn’t necessarily exist. A riptide, a longshore drift, or even a feigned interest in a kelp bed at the top of the point is an easy way to find yourself in the best position. If you are particularly unscrupulous, you can even pretend to paddle towards a friend down the beach with every intention of just happening to get sidetracked halfway there by the best wave of the day.
3. The Buddy System.
The most infamous and obvious way to get priority is to buddy up to the people on your inside. This technique is usually preceded by the phrase, “Hey Bro, I saw that sick wave you got earlier!” and is often followed by overly friendly chitchat aimed at distracting your newfound friend from the fact that you are actually sneaking onto his inside. Although it is an obvious technique, this method is reserved for the most unscrupulous and desperate of wave hogs.
4. The Duck Paddle.
Like a duck sitting on the water, this technique is based on the simple premise that what’s happening on the surface, is a mere veneer for what is happening below. Not only is the duck paddle the most despicable of all snaking tactics, but it takes practice and experience to execute effectively. While remaining deathly still on your board, you need to use whatever appendages or extensions you have below the surface to propel you onto the inside. The most common duck paddle method is easily spotted by noting the hand positioning on the nose of the board. What you don’t see is that the other hand is hard at work below the surface, stealthily slithering the would-be snake to your inside. But with enough practice and perseverance, such an obvious duck paddle can be substituted for another method such as the “walking feet” or “walking fingers” technique.
5. Skin To Win.
Not suitable for everyone, and only useful in certain situations, this technique appeals to one of the most basic of all marketing strategies: sex. The basic idea is to use your alarmingly good looks to get what you want. It’s a strategy that has been used by men and women for many years on land, and is equally effective in the water. This maneuver is particularly successful when implemented by women wearing small bikinis. The technique is, to a far lesser extent, useful to men who are not afraid to bare a bit of skin, but often its success is dependent on sheer revulsion to the sight of a man in a banana hammock rather than any sort of attraction. Although not exceptionally flattering, the reasons for male success are inversely proportional to your proximity to San Francisco.