In Southern California, there seems to be an incessant battle for waves. Good spots are always crowded and locals know that a little intimidation can go a long way. While this may not be normal around the world (Where are you from? Is this the case at your home break? Comment below!), it is the case for many crowded areas. Catching waves is difficult enough without fierce competition from other surfers in the water. These helpful tips should get you off the shoulder and into position.
Know your ability and surf spots accordingly. If you’re not a confident surfer, paddling into the outside lineup at a super popular spot on a good day won’t do wonders for your wave count. I’m not saying to never try new spots or push your ability; I am saying that when it’s firing and there are 200 wave-hungry guys in the lineup, isn’t the best time to figure a spot out. Go down the beach a little ways. If it’s really good at a popular spot, I bet it’s pretty good at a less popular spot. Would you rather watch people catch really good waves, or catch pretty good waves all day yourself?
(a typical day at Lower Trestles)
Every popular spot has it’s different crowds of the day. There’s the dawn patrol paddle-out-before-the-sun crew, the get-wet-before-work-at-9 crew, school surf teams, the mid-morning-unemployed/self-employed crew, mid-afternoon-beach-goers who happen to own a surfboard, groms who somehow never have school, and finally, the after-work before dinner crew. Figure out when the least talented and least amount of people are out and surf accordingly. Typically, the best is paddling out in the dark, just before sunrise. I've had some amazing mornings at Trestles with only a few other guys. It’s much easier to increase your wave count when you don’t have to fight a gaggle of other surfers for every passing bump.
Observe the lineup and remember people. Notice who’s falling often and who’s ripping the face off of 2 waves a set. If a talented surfer already has the inside, don’t waist your time. Instead, get into position for the next one. If a guy fell on 2 set waves in a row, don’t give him a chance to blow the 3rd. Just go and don’t feel bad! He’ll probably just end up falling or going straight anyway. If you burn someone and they end up making the section, the easiest way to diffuse the situation is an apology with a little compliment. Ex: “Wowa! Sorry man, you took off so deep! I can’t believe you made that section, my bad.” Combined with a smile, that works every time. Enemies in the line up will hurt your wave count. Make friends.
If you are sitting outside and see a big set coming, that doesn’t necessarily mean the guys on the inside see it. Don’t immediately make a big scene and start paddling towards the set, tipping off all the guys on the inside. Wait until last minute, then go for the wave, leaving all the inside guys stuck inside!
SPLITTING THE PEAK
When surfing a crowded peak it’s always best to have a buddy. Sit in the middle of the pack next to each other and go for a wave together, paddling shoulder to shoulder. Don’t let anyone weasel between the two of you. When you catch it, split the peak, one going right, one going left. This way nobody can be deeper than the two of you and you both will have the right of way.