In nearly every lineup, save for maybe Pipeline, Teahupoo, et al, there are at least a few people making other people cringe. By no fault of their own, they are exactly what the term “kook” was made for. Of course, the ones actually calling them kooks (me, I suppose, by writing this) are usually one of two things: either bigger kooks with more experience, or grumpy old men with nothing better to do than pick on the fresh faced newcomer like a high school jock with a tiny dick.
A little while ago, I was floating around on a longboard on a tiny day. The waves were absolute junk–sets were somewhere in the toe-to-ankle range, and it was onshore, as if that mattered with the waves the way they were. There were four other people out, one of which was a man aged somewhere around 50, who was nice (although brief) when he spoke to me, but otherwise looked permanently as though someone had just farted into his mouth. He was on something sub-6’0, full of rocker and narrow as a pencil. It was quite possibly the worst board in the world for the conditions we found ourselves in. The other three were in their early 20s, on rental boards (one of which had a GoPro stuck to the nose), and completely sucked. I have never seen anyone suck so hard, but they were laughing even harder than they were sucking. It was refreshing to see. While old fart mouth and I were aimlessly paddling around wishing the waves were better and generally being miserable, these three “kooks” were frantically flopping around in the whitewash like epileptic Michael J. Foxes, having way more fun than either of us.
Fart mouth paddled up to me, looking towards them. “Look at those fucking kooks,” he said, disdain dripping out of his fart-filled mouth. “If they get in my way, I’m going to fucking LOSE it.” Keep in mind that the waves were almost non-existent. The chances of him catching a wave that connected through to them was about the same as the chances of Donald Trump’s hairstyle catching on, or me learning all there is to know about quantum string theory in the next one minute. I just nodded at him and smiled a half smile, so as not to ruffle any old man feathers, and he paddled off the sit outside and wait for the “big one”, alone with his misery and his giant, hairy, old man ears. It got me thinking though: if those three guys had heard him say that, it would have probably thrown in a damper on their laughter. Watching them learning to surf was far more enjoyable than the surfing on tap. I noticed a few things (apart from just sucking, which is something we all did at some point) they could have done to avoid the wrath of old fart mouth… because as much as he sucks, he’s part of surfing, and apart from punching his dentures into his throat, there’s not much anyone can do about it. Here are three of those things:
1. Don’t bring a GoPro I like to think that I am a reasonably nice person. I try not to be judgmental (although I fail miserably, at least in my head), and I am usually pretty aware that while many things may irk me, they don’t actually affect me. This is the GoPro. They’re almost always reserved for either total flailers or total pros. Everyone else will notice which one you are and judge you accordingly. It sucks, but there’s no way around it. The excuse the newcomers generally give–if the newcomer is the type of person who goes to the gym, drinks protein shakes with no real understanding of what protein actually does and loves MMA–is that they’re using the footage “to improve their surfing.” Here’s the thing about that: there’s no way that watching a video of your feet and part of your shins will help you improve. In fact, no matter where you’re holding your GoPro, it won’t help you break down the mechanics of your surfing. If you really want to go that route, get a friend to film you from the beach. It’s much easier to see how bad you are when you can see your whole body being bad. That’s why I avoid both friends and cameras.
2. Own it When you start surfing, you’re shit at it. In fact, the vast majority of surfers, no matter how long they’ve been surfing, are shit at it. For the amount that I surf, I am shit. Own your shittiness. If you’re learning to surf, don’t buy a 5’8 performance shortboard because it’ll look good under your arm. Get a board that works for you. Be aware that you suck, and be aware that it is totally ok to suck. Just don’t pretend that you don’t, because that sucks. Get a 9 foot soft top (I’m of the opinion that longboards aren’t good for learning on), paddle out somewhere other than the point, and scratch for every wave you can. Get smashed by closeouts, belly ride all you want, and if you’re having fun doing it, fucking LAUGH about it. There are too many fart mouths out there, but they’ll be much fartier if you pretend you’re a great surfer, then drop in on them and blow the take off.
3. Do a little research Although surfing is supposed to be an anarchist sport (bullshit), there are a few rules. Most of them are to keep everyone safe, and like most rules, a lot of them are completely ignored by newcomers, and sometimes by everyone else. They’re pretty simple ones, too–it’s kind of staggering how often a learner will do something completely at odds with what would be safest. It’s like driving a car: the most important thing is to not hit anything. Everything else is secondary. Pretend you’re in a car, driving down the road. There’s a double yellow line, which legally, you’re not supposed to cross. The car in front of you jams on its brakes, and you don’t have enough time to stop. Are you going to stay in your lane and rear end it, knocking out all your teeth on the steering wheel and rupturing your bowels on your seatbelt, just because you’re not supposed to cross the double yellow? Fuck no. Just get out of the way, god damn it. By any means necessary. Everyone else will do you the same courtesy, and we’ll can all go about our lives without having someone else’s fin accidentally jammed up our butts.