Thoughts on how we get through the next few years without becoming public enemy number one…
Well, the honeymoon period is most definitely over. The first full ‘why-we-hate-SUP’ feature has appeared in the NZ Surf press. (With them even saying that they won’t take any more advertising from SUP brands. I bet that one was through clenched teeth!). Unfortunately, in all probability we’re now in for a couple of years of (at best) muttered comments and hard stares in the line-up, and sadly, at worst, more serious aggro on occasion, until we become so much part of the scenery that nobody can remember a time when we weren’t around.
To be fair to surfers, we are big. Anyone who’s been out on their surfboards when a windsurfer has whizzed through the line up will know just how terrifying that can be. And while we might not be sail-powered, our boards are even bigger. And unlike windsurfers, which disappear off out to sea every now and again, we’re always there. Because we’re almost invariably further out than them, we’re super visible – right there in their line of sight the whole time. And when we get worked (which, let’s face it, happens every now and then even to superhunks like us), our boards fly around looking huge and terrifying – on long leashes giving us an even larger ‘kill radius’.
Then there are the less legit prejudices and charges that get levelled at us (of which the mag in question is sadly all too full of). We’re old and fat, and we don’t turn hard like ‘real’ surfers do. That’s just the usual silly name-calling stuff. You’ll be old and fat too one day, ya punks! But there is also another entirely understandable reason for prejudice against us. We do get a lot of waves. Often, but most certainly not always with malice aforethought – we get more than our fair share; particularly of the juicy set ones. Because it’s so damn easy to do. So you can totally see why that is going to piss people off. Just imagine – you’re out there having a good time on your SUP with a few of your mates, and someone rocks up on their weird new hover-floater-hydrofoil-widget toy – and sits further outside in the line up than you and catches everything. Initially you’re intrigued and amused; it looks quite funky. But then next day they’re out there again. And again. And one day it comes a wee bit too close to you and it’s huge and pointy and basically scares the living shit out of you… How long before you’ve got a fully-fledged prejudice going against all hover-floater-hydrofoil-widget riders?
My point is that what’s happening right now is inevitable, because it’s also entirely understandable. And we’re not helping ourselves one bit of we don’t recognise this. Yes, for sure, there is that small yet vociferous body of regular surfers who are actually deeply fascist and reactionary and conservative with a small c and hate change, and will always despise anyone out there who is not riding a tiny stick and turning like some demented dervish (despite actually thinking that they’re extremely cool and together human beings because they’re surfers). Yet there are plenty of people in the line-up who aren’t like this – they’re actually just normal nice people. But they too will be pissed off if the new kids on the block hog all their waves and drive dangerously through the line-up.
Unfortunately, there isn’t one, other than us all going away. Which isn’t going to happen. However, we can definitely do a lot to help minimise the problem. Simply recognising that we have to tread carefully to get through the next few seasons, is, to my mind, by far and away the most important first step. Yes, we could just go out there with our chests out and our aggressive head on, and say to hell with them, we’re just as entitled to waves as anyone else out here. But it isn’t going to make us any friends at all.
So we have to police ourselves. How do we do that, in practise? Obviously, it all starts with proper surf etiquette. Don’t snake people!!! Don’t surf dangerously. On top of that, there are four simple courses of action that can easily be followed, don’t hurt, cost nothing, and will make a difference.
- Don’t Go There! Avoid crowded line-ups if there’s another option easily available. If there’s multiple peaks, head for the less busy one. If it’s a beach break with lots of peaks, find yourself your own bit of space. Even if the wave isn’t quite so quality, you’ll have more fun anyway.
- Give Way: Be really conscious as to what is your fair share of waves, and don’t take more. Especially when it comes to the set waves.
- Positive Discrimination: Make a point of giving waves to the surfers on occasion. Tell them to go. Sit out a few sets and watch the action, do a bit of hooting.
- Social Skills. Talk to the other surfers. Call the sets. Congratulate a great ride. If you get in anyone’s way, apologise. Be friendly. If you get stink-eye in return, don’t bite back – let it go. You tried. It’s all so easy to do, and it’s so well worthwhile if it changes the mood in the line-up.
Don’t get me wrong – I’m absolutely not saying we grovel or hide ourselves away. We just need to play a clever game here. The bottom line is that we simply have to ride this one out. Remember when everybody hated longboarders? Likewise spongers, goat-boaters, etc etc. We’re just the latest new addition to the line-up, and in a few years time we’ll be part of the picture – as long as we don’t screw it up too badly. We absolutely shouldn’t be ashamed of our sport, but we’re fools to ourselves if we don’t recognise that we aren’t necessarily going to be a welcome addition to the line-up.