Every time an issue of surfing etiquette comes up, a lot of people are interested in it. Now that I have surfed for a few years, I have formed an opinion or two. But for those people who are reading this, please do know that it is just my opinion on it.
Going back to my first year or year and a half of surfing period, and looking back. I must say that I would have been very interested in this topic because simply I had a numerous near-misses, actual collisions and so forth, and the end result is that someone who is vocal enough in the surf to tell you a word or two about your take offs. Now that I am a bit close to their end of the fence, I understand.
For example, this morning, this short board dude obviously did not know what he was doing, and he was probably oblivious to his surrounding too. Though I still am not a good surfer by any measure, I do catch waves these days even on a rough and minus low tide situations I had to be this morning. So I catch a ride, and he probably thought that where I took off would be where it might be good to take off. That's fine, I just happened to take off from that spot and not necessarily where it should be. Now I am paddling back basically to the same spot then planning to asses the situation, this dude was ahead of me, and I was trying to avoid getting in his way, but no matter which direction I try to paddle he would paddle in the way in a manner that he would block my way. I wish I had courage to tell him: "Hey, bro, I am trying to avoid you, so don't follow me around!" Obviously this dude was kind of a poser that he was only there for 20 minutes, using a shortest board that I can think of and then when he tried to take off he was all back weighted and not really taking off. Granted that it was a difficult and messy morning though, and people that came after me left before me, basically everyone was paddling back in.
Here is another one, and my local buddy was talking about this person too on the other day, and I knew exactly who this was. But it is very interesting that after being reprimanded by so many experienced surfers that I have learned that I paddle around and not go straight out into where it is breaking. I know Curtis mentioned about paddling towards the white water and I do exercise that too, sometimes that do happen when it is crowded or it is big enough that there are many good high speed surfers cutting across the face just before you. But normally now I am assessing the situation a bit better so I do not paddle directly into people's take off lines. Also I am also extremely careful in taking off, that means I am actually looking toward the beach as well as to the horizon and if there are anyone inside I don't take off, or paddle away so that if I screw up on the take off I don't pile up on the surfer inside, unless it is small enough hat I am very confident enough to do the first turn to avoid people inside. So back to this specific surfer, this surfer is a relatively experienced (but not so experience to trust the control), but this surfer paddles directly up to the line after the ride and without any regard to anyone inside, the surfer will take off if there are any waves to be had.
Now people do talk about posting surfing etiquettes and distribute brochures etc., but I am a bit resistant to them. First of all, if you post a message like that on the beach how many people would actually follow or respect that? I can tell this because, for example, every time I go out I end up picking up some pieces of trash. The signs at the beach clearly say the etiquettes of picking up the trash don't they?
My approach up to this point have been that if I see precariously looking surfers, I would avoid them, and I am also precarious too to some extent so I don't put myself in an awkward situation. So that really helped me from running into someone or taking off into someone as much as possible. Although that kind situation do happen from time to time, as waves are often not completely predictable. This does mean that I don't get to go to the best spot at the beach, I know, and that's also a bit frustrating. But on the other hands, I am gradually moving closer and closer to be with the best people catching waves, compared to when I started surfing.
So I am actually thinking that a few gentle but reprimanding words from experienced surfers to those who are in the position not to be there in the first place might not be such a bad idea. I do ask though such a surer got be darn good in the position to say something of value. I am thankful to gone though that situation several times. It is good because I know when I was told what has happened, I got an immediate feedback. So the next time, I would avoid being in the same situation as before.
Also, I really don't want some law written about surfing. Aside from these few words that passed on from senior level surfers to a junior level ones, it ought to be and can be self regulating community. To me it is the last real free world that exists where once I am in the water there is no cops trying to catch me because I am going too fast or slow or where I can do it, or other people telling me, and I really hate to see some law posted on somewhere that tells you exactly how, when, where and what you can surf, and to me, the principle is a common sense; do not endanger others and yourself, and basically learn to share the waves and enjoy, and I am quite willing to let go of the wave or if someone coming from other directions or wading inside, I am more than happy to cut back or kick out, and paddle right back out for more, and not to argue the technical point of who would have had a wave at that very moment.