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Friends don’t let friends drop in.

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By Dan Colburn. But for everyone.

The buoy’s are showing 6’ @ 14 seconds, the wind is light offshore. The sun is shining and the water is warm. You grab your favorite companion, (you know … the one you got barreled on once last summer so now you ride it every time it’s good in hopes it will bring you a repeat performance) and make a beeline for your favorite watering hole.

“Crowd doesn’t look too bad,” you think to yourself as you strap on your leash and hit the water.

As you sit outside waiting for your first wave you notice a group of dolphins that seem to be having a good time in the green water a hundred feet or so from you. They have it together man; no board, no baggies, no leash, they just go as is … true soul surfers.

Your attention shifts from the playful porpoises to the peak mounding up just outside of you. You stroke out a few times just to be sure you are in good position, then as it comes to you, you dig in deep, feel the push, stand and make the drop, gliding down the nearly vertical face.

But you’re not alone.

The guy you didn’t notice back paddling you is now calling you off the wave. For the sake of peace and keeping the stoke alive you back off but not without a sour taste in your mouth.

This scene plays out time and time again in lineups all around the world. It may be the back paddler, the shoulder hopper, the loudmouth or the bailer. Regardless of how, surfers (maybe) like that can ruin the stoke of a great session and a transcendental cerulean experience.

Surfing is about as pure an activity as you can find; seeking to place man in communion with nature … but when greed and sometimes ignorance takes over, the stoke turns sour. The sad thing is that all of this is completely, 100 percent avoidable with little to no impact on one’s wave count. It simply requires a little giving. However, human nature seems to thrive more on getting; hence the problems.

Poor surfing etiquette not only ruins the stoke but it can potentially create dangerous situations yielding injuries and possibly even death. Picture sitting inside a beautiful tube, planning your exit strategy when all of a sudden someone drops in and causes the wave to section and the tube to shut down, now instead of an exit strategy you’re trying to figure out a way to not get the nose of your board or fin in the head.

In a case such as this you can elevate it to include a wave like Pipe where the result is a sound thrashing, being raked across the reef and coming up to a more than likely broken board. And maybe a couple of bones.

What it all comes down to is a few basic rules that everyone on a surfboard should follow:

  • If someone is already up and riding, back off. Give them the benefit of the doubt if you think their chances of making it are questionable. There are plenty more waves for you.

  • Don’t back paddle. This is where you paddle inside of someone to get closer to the peak and claim—falsely—priority.

  • Don’t bail your board unless absolutely necessary. Bailing your board is like launching a missile toward whomever might be within range.

  • Keep negative comments to yourself. Everyone is out there to have fun so trash talking is unacceptable.

There are other rules but these adequately encapsulate the essence of good etiquette.

The most important thing is to have fun. It doesn’t matter what you’re riding; long, short, stubby, whatever, as long as you are being courteous and having fun, we’ll all enjoy the stoke.

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