Kayaking Technique Forum

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It's all about territory
In Response To: Re: them cores ()

LeeG. You hit the nail on the head when you mentioned the word territory. And in spite of my agreement with Murray's comments about the need to know proper surf etiquette I really don’t think that the problem would be solved even if every kayaker knew the surfer’s rules by heart. There are (at least) two reasons for this:

1) The way kayakers and boarders surf a wave is fundamentally different. Board surfers usually ride a wave laterally, not straight into the shore. A good surfer can cover over a hundred yards moving almost parallel to the beach as the wave comes in. A kayaker more or less rides the wave straight into the beach (whether doing tricks or bongo sliding). So, even if a kayaker and board surfer start off 100 yards apart, they can still meet up riding the same wave. Who caught the wave first? How can you determine who has the right of way in this very common scenario?

2) This conflict is really about territory, not rules. Many board surfers simply don’t want to share the waves. Period. While in Baja, I met a guy who was an expert surfer who took up kayak surfing because it looked like fun. (Smart guy!) He said that the minute he gets in his boat he gets hassled, even if he’d just spent all morning board surfing near the same people! Don’t tell me this conflict is about rules! I also saw a newbie board surfer in Baja who had to get a couple dozen stitches in his back when a “good” surfer who didn’t want him around intentionally surfed over him and sliced him up with his fins. Again, this conflict is about territory, not rules, and it seems like there are all too many nasty surfers out there who will do anything to protect their territory.

The underlying argument you hear from board surfers is “Hey, we got here first, so bugger off.” I find this argument particularly galling since many surfers are also snowboarders who think nothing of forcing traditional skiers to share the slopes. How many times have I seen some stupid kid on a snowboard scrape all the snow off a steep pitch leaving nothing but ice? If they knew the “rules” they’d learn to turn or stick to the groomed runs.

Of course every sport attracts a wide range of folks and many surfers are nice people. It has just been my luck to encounter many of the nasty ones. I am glad to hear that surfers are starting to police their own ranks because that's about the only way the situation is going to improve. As for promoting good relations with board surfers and knowing proper surf etiquette as Murray suggests, of course this is what all surf kayakers must do. Just make sure you also watch your back and keep an eye on your car.