The best surfer in the lineup, biggest spray or biggest smile?

Let me begin by saying that I am surfer. Devout through and through.
I’ve said that surfing is my temple, my sanity, why I do what I do.
But from time to time, I have had the question pop into my head; are surfers the most selfish athletes in the world?
Because despite surfing being one of the best ways to connect directly with nature, it can also feel more like a battle when interacting with other surfers in the lineup.
Allow me to demonstrate…
A few weeks ago I was out with a good friend of mine, John, at well know spot in Encinitas, Ca. The sun was shining, its was hot, no wind, and being one of the first truly beautiful days of the summer, the beach and the line up was packed.

The surf however, was very meager, call it 1-3ft at best.
John and I were joined by a few of the local boys who regularly surf this spot. After a few waves, a peak pops up where I have clear priority going left. Out of nowhere, a frothed out (for the record, I hate using the word “froth{ed}” to describe surf “stoke”, but it perfectly explains this guy) maniac paddles underneath me trying to go right. We both miss the wave and I offer an very mellow,
Me: “Come on man, no need for that”.
For which I get a reply of…

Frother: “F*ck you dude! That was my wave!!”
Me: “Whoa buddy, its cool man”, I reply trying to deter any further hostility from the guy.
F’r: “F*ck you, you wanna take it to the beach!?”

What? Really? It’s like, barely waist high, and this guy wants to fight over a wave that he tried to snake?
Me: “Easy buddy, no thanks… No big deal man, we’re only surfing here, no need to get carried away, you can have all my waves if you want ‘em”.

F’r: “F*ck you man, f*ckin’ get outta here”, he yells as he spashes water at me, obviously trying to instigate an altercation.  I then sit there with a blank stare, no response.
Let me also mention that I’ve been surfing this wave fairly regularly for about 15 years and I, nor any of the locals out that day had ever seen this guy. Ever.
Ultimately, despite several of the local boys offering backup, nothing happened. Why? I wouldn’t to react to him. You can’t get in a fight if the other guy doesn’t fight back; I just stuck to that strategy.

I think inside he realized he was being an idiot because he ended up paddling away from us down the beach. John later said that he noticed him scratching around like crazy towards any tiny wave that moved, trying his hardest to win the contest that was going on inside his head. Go figure.

I used to react to guys like that, get flustered in the water and have admittedly been in my share of verbal disagreements in the past (I’ve actually had a crazy bastard jump on me after one of these verbal exchanges and literally try to drown me), but thats another story for another time…the point I’m getting at is that at my ripe ‘ol age of 35 I’ve realized its not worth getting pissed off when your surfing because…1. It’s surfing, 2. It’s not MMA, 3. ITS SURFING.
But why does stuff like this even occur?
The mainstream stereotypical archetype of a surfers is the earthy, hippy, Spicoli types stoned out of their minds looking for some deep connection with nature.

And while some are definitely stoned out of their minds, it seems few are there (consciously) for that nature fix.

So why is the guy next to you, who desperately wants that set wave as bad as you, secretly praying that you get eaten by a shark or that you’re a kook and can’t out-paddle him to it?
If you’ve ever been out in a packed lineup with really good waves and a surly crowd (think pipeline, snapper, lower trestles, j-bay, rincon, etc, etc.), you may know what I mean…it’s not exactly a love fest where everyone is best friends hooting each other into waves.

Not that it totally has to be like that, but I sometimes wonder why some guys are even out in the water. They don’t seem to do it for any of the above mentioned reasons, and they sure as hell don’t do it because they want to share their waves with the guy next to them.

So the million dollar question I would like to propose: why do surfers get so agro with each other in the lineup?
Some hard core locals will say its for crowd “kook” control, keeping people out of the lineup who shouldn’t be there. Now if you’re at Teahupoo or Pipe when its maxing over 8′-10′ then I agree, people who don’t have the skill should be out there.

But the crowd is thinned out naturally on its own by the bigger waves way before a barney on a foam board is bobbing around in a lineup endangering other surfers.

To the agro local; who are you to say who can or can’t surf any certain spot? Just because you just happened to be born in a certain area by a certain beach it gives you authority? By that line of reasoning we wouldn’t be able to travel and explore new waves…which is one of the greatest parts of being a surfer!
I call bullshit.

Personally I think agro-ism is some sort of perverse misdirected hostility.

Those assholes hate not being able to land that super awesome air reverse like Dane, or they hate their job, their parents, their roommates, that bitch who dumped them because they’re f**k’n nuts, or what ever…then it comes out in the water as anger towards other surfers who are just trying to enjoy the day.
On the other side of the coin, maybe its ego…

Some surfers are obviously more concerned with catching waves, looking rad and throwing buckets in the face of that kook on the shoulder then sharing the incredible experience of gliding down the face of a wave with anyone but themselves.

It’s quasi-ludacris when you think about how cool the whole experience actually is. Here we are, this living organism who has found a way to ride on the energy of the sun in water form. I mean, if scientist ever discovered that on another planet they would freak out!

All I know is that when ever I see or hear an asshole in the water I ignore ‘em and at the same time pity them thinking, “pour soul, they just don’t get it”.
Not that it’s my place to judge anyone, and without going into a deep diatribe of spiritual beliefs, I’ll just say that in the end we might all just realize that it wasn’t about how much spray came off that cutback or who saw us do it, but that it all might actually be about the entire experience.
Its about being out there, being alive. And most importantly, sharing that experience with those who share your passion with you.

Yet you rarely see this type of camaraderie. What a shame.
I have a proposition… if as a surfer you can relate to anything I’m saying here, then you and I should work to change those unfortunate experiences that can ruin an entire surf session, entire day, or worse.
Maybe I’m just a blissed out idiot, but I believe that if we contribute to a good time out in the water, it can become infectious and perpetuate more good experiences. But how?
My personal favorite way to spread the love is simple, give props to strangers and friends alike.
Example: Some old guy is sitting outside because he doesn’t have the stamina to compete with the pack and his patients is rewarded when he picks off a bomb, give ‘em a “that was the wave of the day man!” as he’s paddling back out.

Some newbie gets a good turn on a section and throws a nice spray, or even a little spray, say “that was sick!”
I know it sounds corny as hell, but guaranteed you’ll make their session. And it’ll make yours too…I know it always does for me.

Lastly, let me clarify that I don’t in anyway believe that all surfers are selfish arrogant assholes looking to kill anyone who dares paddle towards their waves. In fact, I’d say that most aren’t. But there are those lame few whose bad energy can permeate a lineup and ruin your day.
Don’t let ‘em.
And especially make sure that you never let ‘em get to you or EVER discourage you from doing what you love, riding a surfboard on a wave.

Sometimes it can feel like everyone in the water is a bad egg, but they’re not. And don’t let those who are fool you.

Do it because you love it, do it because its fun, because it makes you happy and because it makes you smile…then spread that fun loving, wave riding passion with a smile.
And above all, always remember that at the end of the day, the best surfer in the water is ALWAYS the one who is having the most fun.

Keep paddling, and I’ll see you in the water icon smile The Selfish Surfer....

-Jason Shurtz