Catching Waves: Finding Your Surf Haven

Finding that perfect wave is a very subjective hunt because skill level and personal preferences play a big part in where to go and what kind of wave you want to ride. There are some amazing places all over this ocean-filled world. With seven oceans, and innumerable seas to choose from, the most important factor is what kind of experience are you searching for?

Casual or beginner surfers may dream of the ultimate surfing experience, such as surfing Pipeline, a well known Hot Zone, where heavy and hollow waves break very close to shore. If you fit into this category, you may find yourself frustrated because of localism. Typically, this type of surf attracts professionals or expert level surfers for whom these waves are their nirvana. Injecting yourself to their line-up can result in not only feeling the stress to match their skill and speed, but they too will become resentful of your casual approach.

Conversely, if you are a highly skilled surfer and surfing is a part of your life, then finding a laid back beach, known as a Cool Zone, where it is crowded with newbies, families and weekend warriors, the experience will leave you unsated.  The waves may be mellow and crashing at a perfect angle, with that glass like glaze on the ocean, but you won't have the fulfilling adventure of chasing the wave with other like-minded members of a competitive pack.

Image1 Surf Haven

By all means, track down that rising swell, coming fast and hard towards the beach. High performance rippers will find the Hot Zones more culturally acclimated to their skill level. There are always the unspoken Bill of Rights and Lefts that should be followed no matter what level you are. Straight from www.surfline.com, here are the ten commandments that every ripper should follow.

Bill of Rights and Lefts

  1. Pick the right location. Hot Zones versus Cool Zones, depending on your skill level, should be chosen wisely. Every surfer should have the experience they desire, and certainly can accomplish this with a little research of the area they want to hit.
  2. Don't drop in or snake your fellow surfer. These are the two types of essentially taking away another surfer's wave.
    • Dropping in is when a rider has already claimed the wave, and someone else picks it up from further out on the shoulder. This may be an accidental occurrence, especially in a crowded line-up. If you do happen to drop in on someone's wave, be sure to get off as quickly as possible and apologize.
    • Snaking is a more malicious because it is intentional and though still dangerous, often happens with highly competitive surfers. Essentially, when one surfer is lined up, preparing to take a     wave, the snaker will come up behind them while the first surfer is totally focused on the wave, and follow them off the shoulder. It appears that the rightful rider of the wave dropped in on the snaker, which onlookers will know the truth.
    • Note: You may be visiting an area where you see drop-ins happen with a pack, and they are smiling and having an epic good time. They are probably friends enjoying a ride share, and by no means does this give you the a-okay to do the same. Respect the locals.
  3. While paddling out to or within a break, it is your responsibility to stay out of the way of riders on waves. Once a rider has caught a wave, it is good manners to allow them to enjoy the wave and do your best not to interfere. If you do find yourself caught in whitewater, push through it and don't frantically paddle to reach the shoulder. It is extremely bad etiquette, as well as paddling directly into a rider's take-off. Not only can this cause you or the rider to wipeout, you can get seriously injured and risk the wrath of your fellow ripper.
  4. Though shalt learn to take turns. Surfers tend to be greedy creatures, wanting all the best waves, all the time. However, unless you are surfing alone, it is a best practice to share wave-catching opportunities and keep the peace on the ocean. On occasion, hot surf spots will be packed with long line-ups and not enough waves for everyone. Surfline recommends you adjust your attitude to the situation, or find a better, less crowded spot to ride.
  5. In any surf session, respect the pre-existing vibe in the lineup. Any surfer will tell you that there is a distinct vibe in every session, and you can feel it change with new riders coming to join. The vibes may vary on the type of surf and the time of day, but ultimately the determining factor is attitude. To get a feel for the vibe, ask questions of surfers coming off the water. Ask various questions like “Get any good ones?” or “Much room out there?” This will give you an idea of whether or not it is a good spot for you to join, or move to a different area of the beach.
  6. Always aid another surfer in trouble. As with any potentially dangerous situations, you must keep your own safety at the forefront of your mind. However, surfing is a unique sport because often there are no paramedical services close-by, and riders rely on one another to stay safe. Being at the mercy of the power of the ocean proposes its own dangers, so be conscientious of your fellow surfers and be sure to help in any way you can if one is in trouble.
  7. When traveling, thou shalt respect the local surfers and their rights and customs, without forfeiting your own right to a wave. It doesn't matter if the “local” surfers grew up there or have only been surfing for a week in that location. They have more history there than you and know how the sessions roll. If you are traveling in numbers to a spot, don't immediately charge the water to catch the next set of waves. Take a little time to watch, and other riders will come in to give you space to join the session. Especially take heed when traveling to other countries to surf, as customs vary around the world as much as languages. Let the locals set the pace, and fall into their rhythm. This not only will create a positive experience for you, but leave the local surfers more open to the next rider who comes to town. Always thank them for sharing their spot and invite them to your home surf spot.
  8. Though shalt not use your surfing advantage to abuse your fellow surfers. This may seem like a complex piece of etiquette, it can be summarized in four simple words: don't be an a-hole. You may be stronger, bigger, have a longer board, better surfing skills, higher surfing fitness, and/or more knowledge of the local customs, but it doesn't mean you wield it to the detriment of your fellow riders. Surfing is all about escaping the rat race, to be able to have a physical activity one can enjoy, in the sun, on the surf, and for many it is a zen-like experience. Recognize advantages you may have over your fellow surfers and don't use them to put others at ease, or worse, in danger.
  9. At all times, be responsible for your own equipment and respectful of others'. Surfboards can be dangerous when mishandled, like letting one go in the middle of a ride. Never throw away your board, as it can injure others. Keep your board in good maintenance, free of nicks, sharp fins, or any other damage as it can cause problems out on the ocean. If you do cause damage to someone else's board, always arrange to have it repaired or agree upon a solution.
  10. Lastly, relax, have fun, and enjoy your surfing and that of your fellow surfer. Drew Kampion, famous surf writer and editor says, “Life is a wave and your attitude is your surfboard!” A good attitude goes a long way in life, and on the ocean.

Always remember your fellow surfers' experience matters just as much as yours. Creating a surf haven for everyone to enjoy is up to each individual rider. Respect each other, and keep chasing your perfect wave.

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