13 January 2008

My First L.A. CityZine Article

Surf Survival 101

The purpose of this list is to help new surfers understand the often unspoken rules that exist in surf lineups throughout Los Angeles. If you plan to start surfing or have only been surfing for a short time, commit them to memory before you go back to the beach.


1. This Ain’t the “Aloha” State

Surfing in Los Angeles is a contact sport. When you paddle out, be prepared to be run over, yelled at, threatened or pushed off of a wave. No one is going to greet you in the lineup with a lei and a kiss. The fact is that there are too many bodies in the water these days. When the waves and weather work together to deliver a beautiful day, it can get downright ugly; the presence of newbies, particularly those who fail follow surf etiquette, is unappreciated, to say the least. It is best to be prepared for this by learning the rules (which one can find online) and learning your place in the surf lineup pecking order.

2. You Aren’t Kelly Slater and This Isn’t Blue Crush

Unless your skills are such that you can surf anything and everything, leave your ego at home. Neither a $700 shortboard nor the cutest Roxy wetsuit—with matching zinc oxide face paint—will miraculously transform you into the surfer you are in your dreams. The space you occupy is at the bottom of the surfing totem pole. Be patient, and take the time and humility to work your way up.

3. Nobody Cares How Much Money You Have or What Car You Drive

Money talks at The Ivy. And Spago. And wherever else the monied class chooses to congregate. Money means nothing in the water. Waves cannot be bought. Respect cannot be paid for. Your surfing and behavior speak for themselves. That $70,000 car that you arrived at the break in could be a $70,000 car with waxed windows and flattened tires by the time you and your superior attitude emerge from the water. Remember, your position on the surfing totem pole remains the same whether you are rich or poor.

4. Get Out of the Fucking Way

This one is self-explanatory. Remember to look left and look right before you paddle for a wave. More often than not, there’s someone already up and riding. All too often, a beginner or oblivious surfer will drop into a wave right in front of someone, thereby ending the first surfer’s ride. Always apologize and, more importantly, never do it again (at least not in that session). Dropping in on an experienced surfer is good way to find out the depth of someone’s hatred for you and your kind. If you are still at the point where you cannot pop-up and surf without trouble, stay in the kiddy pool and leave the better waves to those who can appreciate them.

5. No One Owns the Waves, But Squatter’s Rights Often Prevail

You will find locals at just about any break you surf. Locals lay claim to that beach and to those waves. When you step out of line by ignoring surfing etiquette or disrespecting those who surf those waves day in and day out, the locals will put you in your place. They will take your waves, curse you and your firstborn and make you run home with your tail between your legs. Remember, a good attitude is your best defense. A little civility goes a long way when dealing with the locals. (All bets are off at breaks where the “Locals Only” code is enforced. Those breaks are well-known; enter at your own risk.)

6. Stop Staring

Toto, you’re not in Kansas anymore. The stereotype of the young, blond and male surfer died a slow and painless death a long time ago. This is Los Angeles. The diversity you see on the streets is the same diversity you will see in the water. What? Never seen a black surfer before? Look to your left. There is another one over there. Yes, that guy who just dropped in on you is your grandad’s age. He also surfs better than you do. And so does that Asian woman tearing up on the longboard. Get over your preconceived notions about what a surfer should look like and remember where you are.

7. Never Underestimate the Women in the Water

While some women, particularly newer surfers, will back off when a sexist wave hog asserts himself, the more experienced women will not. Those women who have been surfing for years know what to do with the likes of you. They will take your wave and then give you the stinkeye when they paddle back out. The smart guy leaves it at that. The not-so-smart guy, the one with the bruised ego, says too much. Before he knows it, he is facing off with that woman’s (a) boyfriend/husband, (b) girlfriend/wife or (c) male friends. Give the women the same respect you give the men.

8. Treat Your Equipment With Respect

Are you one of those surfers who straps the board to the top of the car wax-side up, and then drives away with the still-attached leash swaying in the breeze? Do you see nothing wrong with jamming a nine foot longboard into the back seat of your sporty little convertible? If you are serious about surfing, prove it. Buy a board bag. Buy a vehicle that accommodates both you and your board. Stop looking like dorks! (You will thank me for this advice when you follow it and realize people no longer snicker at you when you pull up at a surf spot.)

9. It’s Not Your Trash, But Pick It Up Anyway

Our beaches are filthy. Be part of the solution. When you see trash on the beach, take a few minutes to pick it up and throw it away. Keep your eyes open for plastic refuse. Plastic does not biodegrade. It simply breaks down into smaller pieces, toxic pieces that are eventually ingested by sea life. Plastic will be the death of our oceans unless we learn to recycle. Your homework for today, class, is to read up on the “Pacific Garbage Patch”.

10. Give Respect to Get Respect

Enough said?

22 Comments:

At 1/13/08, 12:42 PM, Blogger Overhead Movies said...

Your article offers some very good advice. Surfing isn't for everyone and it's not something you can buy your way into.

Well done.

 
At 1/13/08, 5:09 PM, Blogger Bill said...

should be required reading for all newbs AND vets !

surf on...

 
At 1/13/08, 6:59 PM, Blogger Alan_M said...

AMEN!!!!

 
At 1/13/08, 8:19 PM, Blogger nm said...

excellent!

 
At 1/13/08, 10:42 PM, Blogger clayfin said...

Man, that sure makes me want to move to L.A.!

 
At 1/14/08, 8:55 AM, Blogger Daniel said...

Good stuff, Sister. I particularly like numbers 9 & 10.

 
At 1/14/08, 10:20 AM, Anonymous venicesurfergirl said...

Love it.

 
At 1/14/08, 1:25 PM, Anonymous riab said...

great article ss. love it.

 
At 1/14/08, 2:28 PM, Blogger Drew said...

Very cool..Well written..

 
At 1/15/08, 12:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes there is no aloha in the water & most of the true "Hawaiian" grown surfers know this. Come on people we created "THIS WAY OF LIFE THAT WAS RESTRICTED ORIGINALLY FOR THE ALII" so to surf is a priviledge that's earned after years. True "LOCAL" line-up in the ALOHA STATE usually DO NOT welcome outsiders - yes that means all of you. Kook out in the line-up and you'll get dealt with both on land & sea. For six weeks out the year the local people of the North Shore of Oahu allow the rest of you to attempt to surf the best waves in the world in a commercialized platform, but after all the circus is pau "Finished" for you houles, popolos and such - GO HOME & LEAVE US TO OUR LAND....... So, take heed of what is written about LA, but remember to all DA HUI you are all HOULE KOOKS.........KAPU

 
At 1/15/08, 1:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Huh? Betting this guy/gal can't do a turn.....

 
At 1/15/08, 4:52 PM, Anonymous Rick Kane said...

So Cal surfers were kind enough to teach Hawaiians how to surf and this is the thanks we get. Sheesh!

 
At 1/16/08, 2:16 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

To Kane (What think you know Hawaiian 'cause you saw KANE on one bathroom door at your hotel in Waikiki.. According to who? -According To The Houle History of Surfdom take a look at the photograph of Waikiki circa 1916 NO SO CAL HOULES IN THAT PIC only A REAL HAWAIIAN...........

 
At 1/16/08, 2:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think he meant "surf well" anon..Yeah some dude was kooking on a log in the picture you're talking about but the people from So. Cal taught you guys how to turn on the waves....Plus I'm betting you're a kook just because you're arguing in the first place....Those who surf well, rarely bother to interject and argue about it..Stay on your little island...Works for me...

 
At 1/16/08, 2:33 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Goofball Houle I'm Just Stating A Fact I Guess Your An Ultimate Waterman So I Should Shudder At Every Word You Write. Yes I'll Stay On MY ROCK and you keep your self and your mainland B.S. out of Hawaii "MY ROCK"......you are the kind of dummy that just paddles into the line up anywhere because your from SoCal and you feel entitled and you taught all of us Hawaiians how to surf.....you probably got knocked out by one local tita..you mahue.........I'm pau because anything you say is kukai.......you Houle Mahu.....

 
At 1/16/08, 2:36 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah that's exactly what I am...Actually I surf a few days a week, never messed with anyone..Any trip I've taken always stayed out of the locals way or in fact just picked a different peak..But yeah..I'm a major kook and you're not racist..Right? Yeah right...

 
At 1/17/08, 11:57 AM, Anonymous Rick Kane said...

Dear anonymous Hawaiian,

Let's see if I understand what you are trying to say:

Hawaiians do not want people visiting their island and surfing their waves.

Hawaiians are really good surfers.

Hawaiians floated on logs in 1916.

OK dude, you got me. The WTC is so crowded with hot Hawaiian surfers that there's almost no room for So Cal kooks.

If yuppies stopped coming to the islands to surf your waves, screw your girlfriends, and eat your poi, you would starve.

Your guys surfed and ate people back in the day.

While your kings were floating around Waikiki we were inventing consonants and automobiles and surfing (you know, with turns and what not).

Now if you say thank you to So Cal for all that we have given you, we might continue to come to your North Shore and give you free surfing lessons.

 
At 1/18/08, 11:34 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think rules for surfing are lame.

Surfing really is a survival-of-the-fittest sport.

Sucky kooks should fend for themselves or perish and go home.

 
At 1/20/08, 9:01 PM, Blogger surferbrat said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At 1/22/08, 4:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

To Rick Kane - You mainland yes always show your real colors - your like pesticide poison all that is good to clear a culture and dominate people not of your mind set (just like you did to all the Indian Tribes) - TOOK THEIR LAND, RAPED (WHAT YOU CALLED "SCREWED") & KILLED THEIR WOMEN & CHILDREN, STUCK THEM ON RESERVATIONS AND "TAUGHT" THEM HOW TO LIVE LIKE YOU AND YOU STILL ARE DEFENDING YOUR GREED AND GENOCIDE. Who's the one full of hate and prejudicial domination. Unfortunately what you last wrote is what kind of person you are. Drown in it Houle.........

 
At 1/23/08, 12:17 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lots O' Hate...and apparently when we invaded your island we didn't teach your kind english very well..hehe

 
At 1/24/08, 9:27 PM, Blogger Sharkbait said...

Great writing. I really enjoyed reading this!

 

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