Backpaddling for Beginners

Of the various sins in surfing, the numerous ways in which one can breach, bend, or break etiquette, the backpaddle is the hardest to pin down, and, possibly, the toughest one to get over. Arguments and hurt feelings and judgements passed down upon the perpetrator are the backbone of many a after-surf, parking lot discussion.

Yeah, and even I have been accused of paddling around, past, or through (depending on the crowd size) surfers politely waiting for a turn, possibly giving them a greeting (“Hey, gettin’ enough waves?” for example), only to take off on a wave that fellow participant in the sport would have paddled for, possibly caught, and definitely ripped and shredded. And then, of course, I just kind of, uh, ride that purloined (reference to Edger Allen Poe intended) power pocket.

Yeah again. After a friend of mine was called out for this infraction/sin/crime during several almost successive sessions, and explained the situation to me… well, it went like this: “So, was it, like, you see the guy, paddle past him, take the very next wave?” “Yeah, and he drops in, claims it was his wave.”

Analysis: It was the timing, more than the intent. The intent is, as always, to get more waves, better waves. If someone is clearly demonstrating an intent to go for a wave, and there’s a very high likelihood that that wave will be caught… no, don’t go. If the person was actually paddling for the wave but you’re faster… worse.

It isn’t new. My friend Ray got into a deal years ago at Pipes. Someone backpaddled him, he kept going, suddenly he felt a surfboard bumping into his legs. In that instance, the disagreement was taken to the crowd of locals who control the peak most days, most of them there most days. It was discussed, the ancient precedent of ‘closest to the peak’ priority was brought out, everyone in the pack agreed.

It’s tricky shit, indeed.

It has been determined, by a jury of your peers, that you willfully and most heinously, with intent to rip, did paddle around and, in the course of this incursion, did snake the dogshit out of Wilbur. As a penalty, you will not be allowed to decorate any portion of your face or body with our cool SPF 56 sunscreen AND, because you do not show adequate remorse for your actions, and, in fact, have attempted to defend yourself with the argument, the supposedly mitigating factor that you were merely paddling to your ‘spot,’ your takeoff zone; a little farther over and a little farther out than the shoulderhoppers; and that Wilbur has a history of, and quite possibly if not surely would have blown the wave; which, really, point for you, is true; Wilbur does suck… Despite this, you will be banished to that really scary reefbreak. May the brief joy of that ride on that particular outwardly visible manifestation of the invisible energy of unseen storms be overshadowed by the shame you should feel; and, if there is justice, you will feel. Otherwise, nice ride. Did you see the one I got?

Man, if only I had some of that cool SPF 56 sunscreen.

Photos from a movie adaptation of “Lord of the Flies.” I actually read it. It made an impression.

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