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Surf Tips: Paddling Out At A New Spot

Surf Tips: Paddling Out At A New Spot

Anytime you paddle out at a brand new surf spot, there are considerations to keep in mind. Some of them have to do with the safety of you and others in the lineup, and others have to do with ensuring everyone has an enjoyable experience. 

The safety one will vary spot to spot, but a good rule of thumb is: 

  1. Watch where other surfers paddle out
  2. Time your paddle out for the lull

If you do those two things, you will almost certainly be putting yourself in the best position for a safe entry into the lineup.  But for as simple as those tips might sound, the excitement of paddling out very often makes us forget such basic principals. 

The easiest way to make sure you don't end up stuck on the inside is to wait and time your paddle out.  You are less likely to be in the way of someone who is up and riding, and you are less likely to take a series of set waves on the head.

With that in mind, I want to spend some more time talking about the more nuanced part of showing up at a new spot... navigating the dynamics of the lineup.

I am going to borrow some analogies from the sport of my childhood: basketball. 

Imagine you are going to the local park on a Saturday morning to participate in a some pickup basketball games. There are several courts, with one court very clearly being where the best players are playing.  

The level of play on court #1 is the highest and most competitive and the quality of the court itself is probably the best (all the rims have nets).

In the same way that you wouldn't just jump in on the game going on on court #1, when you paddle out at a brand new spot, don't expect that you are going to paddle straight to the peak and get the first good wave that rolls through. 

Best practice would be to have your equipment ready, pull up to the spot, and watch for a while.  Then, maybe find a hoop (or peak) off to the side of where the main action is occurring and get warmed up and comfortable.  You may find that the peak away from the pack is where you're happiest anyway...

After you've immersed yourself for a bit and gotten comfortable, only then should you really look to join the action.  Then paddling over to the main peak to compete for the best waves is appropriate.

Whether you are the best surfer in the water, or the most novice, taking a patient approach to inserting yourself in the lineup will benefit you and the other surfers you are sharing the water with.

Waves are a finite resource and we, as surfers, have a near infinite appetite for them... so there will always be a sense of scarcity when it comes to how the best waves are allocated amongst the interested parties. My hope is that as a thoughtful and aware member of the lineup you will get more good waves to yourself while ensuring everyone in the water is having a good time. 

When its your turn, and a good wave swings your way, dig deep and paddle hard... catch that wave early and ride it as long and as far as it will take you...

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