Recently, we have had a discussion on our message board about getting in each others ways. Since this topic came up, I have been thinking about this off and on. So I must share some of my findings on this specific issue.
There has been quite a few (and mostly the same) etiquette written in all surfing related literature about taking off on other people etc.
So looking back, I think that the main problem that the people get into trouble with other surfers is the skill in of itself. I started surfing in the spring of 2002, so I consider myself not an expert yet, and that is the main reason why I am chronicling my progress so that I can laugh at myself later on. So please follow along with me. Next year, I might write a totally different view than this.
So, what used to happen? Well, I used to have a fair share of near-misses with other surfers, and at the same time I did not get any rides. These days, I hardly get near-misses (unless… I will write about that one later on). And I do get rides. So what has changed?
What has changed mainly is the awareness of the surrounding, and also being aware of it at all times. This is a skill that needs to be acquired. Everyone knows and would be taught that they would need to look left and right when taking off, but beyond that I think I am making and adjusting my strategies dynamically as I get into the lineup.
Nowadays, I spot other surfers in the vicinity and gauge their levels, and see if they are aggressive, or not, or some are surfing way beyond their capabilities and positioned themselves in the lineup where they should not be. Then I would adjust my position accordingly. I watch their take off pattern and also I watch how they go.
I also used to bump into other surfers when I am padding out. I know why I did that. I was completely unaware of other surfers and not where they will go next. So I would continue to paddle out straight into their lines.
So now I am starting to be standing on the other side of the coin, I also look for those surfers that are likely to be unaware and continue to paddle into my line if I were to take off.
Here is another demonstration of how more expert surfers are aware. I took a semi-private lesson last year with Richard Schmidt and when he says not to take off, a 20 second later, sure enough someone will be right in front of me zooming across the wave. These people are taking off from the Peak far and far away from the Indicators. I don’t think I can tell that yet. But when he says to take off, sure enough there isn’t anyone on the face!
Also these days, I can more confidently gauge if I was to take off I can execute a immediate turn and not hit someone straight ahead with a reasonable confidence. In fact, in such case, I would position myself during take-off that if I make a turn I would not hit someone 5-10 seconds later to the right (or left) along the line.
So being aware of the surrounding is an important skill to have in surfing, and it is a two way thing. If all of the people taking off and not taking off are well aware of what is happening, it will make even semi-crowded beaches very well surfable.