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    • A couple weeks ago, my younger brother organized an early morning surf session with friends and family for his 24th birthday. There were six of us who paddled out at Pleasure Point at first light, including my dad and a few friends from church who are just learning. The waves were small and gutless; mostly waist high with some chest high sets- perfect for beginners or for messing around on longboards. Everybody in our group was longboarding except for me, who was riding a 5’6” small-wave shortboard. We started off surfing 2nd peak, a softer wave that suits beginners better. I was having fun on the smaller 2nd peak waves, catching waves with family and friends; but after watching several sets roll through 1st peak that were faster and better quality waves, I couldn’t help but paddle away from my group in search of higher performance waves that were better suited for the board I was riding.

      There was a small pack of about six surfers sitting at 1st peak; a few of the men in their 60’s and a few in their 30’s. While probably more experienced than the surfers at 2nd peak, they all seemed to be average and fairly mellow surfers- certainly not your stereotypical, intimidating and protective, local shredders. So when a set wave came through, and I was positioned closest to the peak with priority, I did not expect for anyone to commit Surfing’s cardinal sin of dropping in and cutting off the surfer already on the wave and closest to the peak. I was in disbelief when one of the older, 60+ year old surfers dropped in and cut me off. Thinking he may not have seen me, I hollered so that he knew I was behind him, but he remained on the wave as my friends looked on from 2nd peak, in shock that someone would pull one of the most disrespectful moves in surfing.

      Insulted by the lack of etiquette, I remained composed and opted to take the high road, letting it slide and giving him the benefit of the glaring doubt. I paddled back out to 1st peak and waited with the same group of surfers, together with the man who had just cut me off. Another set approached, and as I paddled for one of the waves that I was in position for, I noticed that he was also paddling for the same wave. Sure enough, he cut me off a second time. This time, for the sake of maintaining any level of self-respect, I could not let this one slide. I sped up to him and pushed him off the wave, as I heard him mumble “F*** you!”. I continued to ride the rest of the wave to myself, and as I kicked out and turned to paddle back out to the peak, I could see my friends looking on with smiles on their faces, and the crusty old man sitting and waiting angrily for me to paddle back out so that he could confront me. Oh, I could not wait to hear what he had to say.

      “I dropped in on you because you burned me earlier on one of my waves,” he claimed, which was simply not true. I responded that he must have confused me for someone else, as I do not do that to other surfers. The conversation then continued in circles with him telling me not to touch him again, and me telling him not to drop in on me again. My crew of family and friends kindly paddled over from 2nd peak to defend me if needed. But he noticed and paddled off to the others at 1st peak, whining about the incident to them.

      When the next set wave came in, I caught it and was finally able to surf it alone and in peace. It was one of the best waves of the morning, and I did a couple nice turns. When I paddled back out, the etiquette-lacking surfer’s so-called “friends” complimented me on the wave, saying how nice of a wave it was. Eventually the man paddled in, not saying anything more to me after our confrontation.

      A few themes are reinforced in my mind from this experience and some can be related outside of surfing. The main takeaway is to not let people push you around. Have some self-respect. Had I not said something, that old man may have walked all over me that day, cutting me off on every wave. How can one allow that level of continual disrespect, and look at oneself in the mirror every morning? I would rather speak up and get beat up, than to be weak and submissive to such disrespectful behavior.

      My friends joked that I took a calculated risk in confronting the surfer at fault. There were six of us, and he was one older man with a couple other surfers who “questionably” had his back. I will admit that there are circumstances where, based on skill level, conditions, and the surfers who are out, one may not be in a good position to call out surfers who drop in. However, I have great respect for those who always yield to the surfer in position on the wave, no matter the skill level. You learn a lot about who a person is by the way the treat others in the lineup.

      (photo is me at Little Windansea, a few peaks north of Pleasure Point)

    • HI Brett!! Awesome to see you here. I thought of you last week when I was in Costa Rica and we were driving with a guide. I asked him who his favorite visitors were from other countries and he said Australian surfers. They come when the surf is good every year and they really know how to have a good time.

      Your post was fascinating. I wondered how you guys solved wave disputes out there. I guess the moral of the story is stay young and be the best surfer on the wave so you can push old jerks around if you need to. 😁

      I got a new battery for my skateboard so now I get 14 miles range! I remember when you came over in street clothes, hopped on and started shredding.

    • I never understood the territorial nature of surfing. Especially compared to how it’s portrayed “publicly”.

      This guy got what was more of a good natured push and took it in stride for cutting a guy off. I’ve also seen guys get punched before.

    • I think you see a similar scenario play out in lots of different arenas. When etiquette is breached, when should someone speak up? And when does speaking up constitute being rude in and of itself?

      We were in New Orleans riding the streetcar downtown a few weeks ago and it was packed so full that the driver passed the next stop up and left the people standing there to wait for the next streetcar. A man riding near me hollered something out the window that sounded like, "Better luck next time!" to the people who missed out on the ride. I was surprised to hear a woman speak up behind him who called him out on being rude. "That just wasn't very nice of you, sir," she said matter-of-factly. "You don't know how long those people might have been waiting there, and you didn't need to say that."

      I held my breath a little because I didn't know how he would take being called out publicly. His response? At the next stop, he hopped down to give an older woman his arm and personally greeted everyone who came aboard with a smile and a hand. He was markedly more pleasant for the rest of our journey.

      I loved that the woman called him out in a way that didn't condemn him but also didn't let rude behavior slide. And my favorite part was that the man was big enough to straighten up and treat people better afterwards.

    • When young "snaking" was the only way to get into the pool to skate. There was an unspoken rule, like most social engagements. These days folks just shy away or get enraged it seems. Gone is the middle of the dial.

    • Brett, I hear your frustration. Probably like you, I was born and raised surfing Santa Cruz, and I still do. I don’t know of another sport where people are more aggressive and violent.

      In June, I watched my dad get punched in the face for taking a wave in front of a sponger.

      I took my intermediate cousin to middle peak at Steamers on a small day. I got splashed and threatened while being held by my leash for bringing a “noob” out.

      I watched a “local” slice open my uncle’s arm with a wax comb for trying to surf the slot at Steamers. Everyone there is a local, but if you’re not in the in crowd, they’ll beat to death. Literally, that’s happened.

      It’s an ugly sport. The people are far more dangerous than sharks or rocks. Only solution for me has been avoiding most of Santa Cruz, surfing north on 1, and traveling to remote places like Nicaragua.

    • One of the other things I’ve seen happen is guys see you coming, wait till you head down to the water then flatten a tire or worse.

      I’ve honestly never understood why. I’ve also had people tell me not to shoot at certain places because I might “ruin their secret spot”. Like 4 mile, and near Moss Landing. Farther north as well.

    • Those are some crazy encounters! I’m actually a “Valley” but surf there quite a bit, so sometimes cruise under the radar. I’ve had a surfer follow me in at the Slot and start punching. Luckily he was like 14 and I was probably 16, so it more just tickled. The worst encounter I’ve had was at Stockton Avenue (and maybe 4-mile). Stockton was intense verbal assault while 4-mike a Meth head who tried to spear my board with the nose of his after his girlfriend dropped in on me and I stayed on the wave (sort of backward!). Stockton Ave is really the only place I am actually afraid to surf still to this day, which is a shame because it is one of the best waves in Santa Cruz IMO. Literally every time I go there I get hassled, but sometimes it is worth it!