If someone asked you what you think are the 10 most important "rules" of surfing to teach beginners - what would you say? We call them rules, although what we're getting at is what is generally accepted as being the appropriate way to behave when surfing.
It's actually harder to do than you think. In light of the recent debate around how to manage the influx of the summer crowds, ML got together last week with the local surf shop owner, shaper and surf club for their input on what they thought would be the 10 most important surf rules to convey to newbies.
The thinking being that if we as a surf community can educate newcomers to the sport on how the whole surf code thing works, then they'll be less likely to make those typical kook mistakes and in doing so avoid annoying the locals. Prevention is better than cure folks! So the plan is to avoid situations that can cause tempers to flare in the line-up so that we can continue to have a mellow vibe out there instead of World War 3.
We decided that a good way to get the surfers code across to beginners would be to hand out a flyer explaining the rules with every board sold to a newbie at both Surf Centre and the Boardroom. Between the two of them they probably retail 95% of all new and second hand boards in PE - so if someone is gonna start surfing, chances are they'll be getting a board from either Dave or Dennis. Which means they get the flyer.
Good spots to learn. You get to catch loads of waves whilst not getting in anyone's way!
Between all of us we came up with what we thought would be the key points for a Surf Safe flyer. It definitely isn't a definitive list - and you could probably come up with 20 or even 50 points if you wanted to. But with the short attention span of most peeps these days, short and sweet seemed a good option. So here goes:
1. Where to surf
Denvils and the middle section of King's Beach are ideal learning spots. When you're just starting out you want to be able to catch loads of waves without having to worry about getting in other people's way. It's better to avoid crowded surf spots until you can get safely to your feet, ride a green face and have some control over the direction of your board. Until you can do that, you might end up riding into someone or their board. Not cool.
2. Get surf lessons
It's a great way to get a grip on the basics quickly. You'll be able to progress much quicker if you have an instructor showing you the ropes and teaching you the rules of the line-up, rather than getting thrashed about in the foamies by yourself! You can contact Surf Centre on 041 585 6027 to book a lesson.
3. Get the right equipment
Don't start out by trying to ride what you see the pro's surfing. Normal shortboards are not ideal boards to learn on. They're hard to paddle, which means you won't catch many waves, and they're unstable - which means it's easy to fall off. Rather get a slightly longer and wider board - known as a mini-mal. You'll be able to catch lots more waves, which means you'll be getting way more practice actually standing (and surfing), instead of just paddling!
4. Don't toss your board
Boards have lots of pointy bits. And if pointy bits hit either people or other boards there's usually some damage. Hang onto your board at all times. If you're paddling out and a wave comes towards you, don't just chuck your board - there could be someone behind you. If you can't duckdive yet, just roll over onto your back whilst holding your board and let the wave wash over you. But don't let go! If you're on a wave, don't jump off your board until you're sure no-one is in front of you. Remember when you jump off your board, it will still travel at least 6ft in front of you cos that's how long your leash is.
5. Keep out of the way
When you paddle out, don't do so in the middle of the break. Paddle out wide, to either side of where you see people catching and riding waves. If a surfer is coming towards you on a wave, paddle towards the whitewash behind the surfer to get out his way. Only try paddle over the unbroken wave in front of the surfer if you're going to get over the wave long before the surfer gets to you. Otherwise you mess up his wave by getting in the way. It isn't always easy to make the right decision, and if you do make a mistake, just apologise. Also, see #1.
6. Whose turn is it?
This surfer on the inside (surfer closest to the breaking part of the wave) gets to go on the wave, provided they have got to the inside position legitimately, see #7.
7. The line-up
A bunch of surfers sitting out at a spot is called a line-up. It works a bit like a queue at the local supermarket. You can't paddle out at a spot and go sit right in the take-off area and expect to get the first wave because you are on the inside (see #6). Wait your turn. Get in the queue. Once you've had a wave and are paddling back out, don't paddle past others who have been waiting in the line-up for their turn. If you wouldn't push to the front of the queue in the Spar, don't do it in the surf.
8. Don't drop in
Dropping in means you take off in front of someone who is already up and riding on the wave. When you are paddling for a wave, remember to look to your inside (where the wave is breaking) and check that there is no-one else paddling for it or riding it. If there is, stop paddling, as it isn't your wave. If you drop in on someone by mistake, apologise.
9. Respect your elders and the locals
They've put their time in at their spots, you're just starting out. They probably know more than you do at this stage. Listen and learn, and you'll quickly become a part of the local crew. If someone points out to you you've made a mistake, apologise. Remember, you are the bottom of the food chain right now. As your surfing improves so you work your way up.
10. If in doubt, ask!
No-one knows all the in's and out's of surfing when you start out. If you're unsure of where to surf, where to paddle out, what waves you should be catching or how it all works....just ask someone. Strike up a conversation with the locals, smile, be friendly. It's harder for an ou to kak on someone they've just been chatting to!
Let's remember we were all kooks once, so be patient with the beginner surfers. They're not going to go away - so the best way to handle them is to help them understand the rules of the line-up. And to try do so nicely instead of just kakking an ou out from a dizzy height. It's easy to get annoyed with guys getting in the way on waves, or chucking their boards, but unless someone actually points out to them what they're doing wrong they won't have any idea why you're vloeking them...and will just keep making the same mistakes, and continue to annoy you! Meaning you vloek them more, and then everyone gets tense, and the whole vibe in the line-up goes to sh*te.
So take a deep breathe, count to 10, and be nice to kooks if you can. It's easier than you think! And who knows guys, maybe the ou has a hot sister!?
There's no denying that kooks must learn how the whole line-up concept works, and make sure they stay out of the way til they kinda know what they're doing - but you might find that the best way to get them to this point is being firm and informative instead of chucking a tantrum.
Note to moms and pops
Awesome that you're getting your lightie into the water. But don't just dump and run. You have a responsibility to teach your kids the basics of the line-ups as outlined above. This will keep them, and the others surfing around them, safer in the water. If you teach them how to stay out the way and where to sit - it means they're less likely to get ridden into or over. You wouldn't go let your kids run amok in the traffic - so don't let them run amok in the surf either. There are some rules out there that makes it safer for everyone, and let's everyone have a fun surf. If you have a whole van load of frothing groms, it might be a good idea to think about dropping them off at Denvils or Kings Beach - where they'll have plenty space to practice without having to worry about getting in the way of others. You can grab a copy of the Surf Safe flyer at Surf Centre on the beachfront or The Boardroom.