For beginner and even intermediate surfers, paddling out in a crowded lineup can be intimidating. At the more well known surf spots, its becoming harder and harder to surf without a crowd. These five tips will help keep both you and other surfers safe while helping maintain the impression that you deserve to be out there:
1) Paddle out down from the lineup – paddling out and duck diving can be the hardest part for beginners, especially trying to get a longboard through heavy surf. There’s nothing worse that taking off on a wave and having someone paddling out right in front of you basically blocking the wave. If you don’t feel comfortable paddling out or duck diving your board, there’s no shame in paddling out away from the lineup then paddling over. It will keep people already in the lineup for being angry with you before you even go for a wave.
2) Paddle hard – when you’re in the lineup and that set wave is coming directly for you, there nothing worse then having everyone miss the wave because you couldn’t get it. So when you turn around to go for a wave, make sure you put your head down, paddle hard, and make sure you get the wave.
3) Hold onto your board – it seems like everyone’s first instinct whether on riding and wave to if a big wave breaks right in front of you paddling back out is to ditch your board and save yourself. However, in a crowded lineup, this is the last thing to do. If you don’t feel like you have complete control over your board while on a wave and people are in the way, don’t bail your board allowing it to fly in any direction. This can damage your board or injure someone else. Do everything you can to hold onto your board, this at least give your board come control.
4) Communicate – this is one of the most important things. Communication will help make sure that wave don’t go by un-surfed, that you don’t drop it on someone or have someone drop in on you. If the wave is a peak, communicate with the other people paddle for the wave for which direction they are going to go. It’s frustrating to let a wave go by, when in the end the person ends up surfing the other direction you we’re going to go. Also, when paddling for a wave, listen for a holler that someone is already up and riding down the line toward you. All it takes is a quick hoot, to keep people from dropping in.
5) Respect the locals – if you’re paddling out at a new spot, don’t just paddle out to the peak and start taking all the set waves. Pay attention to the guys that we’re out before you, don’t drop in on people that already have the wave, and don’t act like you own the spot. There’s enough waves to go around that if you’re confident and follow the tip above you should be able to paddle out at any spot without getting hassled.
If you end up paddling out and you still feel uncomfortable, then there’s no harm in paddling down the beach a ways to a less crowded peak. It may not be as good, but it could be good enough. Especially, when you’re just learning or even trying to improve, the best thing you can do is surf a lot of waves. As the old saying goes, practice makes perfect.