assault

I came across this article this morning and it struck a nerve. First, it’s on a site that is obviously anti-paddleboarder, so the tone rose my temperature as I read. But then, it looks like the standup paddle boarder used his paddle as a weapon, was arrested and charged with assault.

According to https://surf-report.co.uk, “Stand Up Paddleboarders often get a bad rap and there is no love lost between many surfers and paddleboarders in the line up, where things can often become heated. This is highlighted by reports from Australia of an incident at Bondi Beach, where a 54 year old paddleboarder attacked a surfer with his paddle and has since been arrested and charged with assault.” (see original article here)

I don’t know the details on the assault in Bondi Beach. There’s never an excuse to assault anyone in a lineup or on the beach (or anywhere). And there’s definitely never a reason to use your paddle as a weapon to injure anyone—surfer, paddler, swimmer—anyone.

Surfer-on-surfer violence days are numbered. GoPro videos, waterproof cameras, YouTube and Facebook provide evidence for assault charges. Granted, most of the threats in lineups are just that, threats. Few are acted on. But when they are acted on, people catch them on video. People get arrested, charged, fined, put in jail. Check out this article on a localism protest against localism in LA at a spot called Lunada Bay. And another article on an assault in the shadow of the Golden Gate Bridge. We are paddleboarders in a surfing world. And change can be difficult. But not impossible.

Here are some quick tips on avoiding conflict in the lineups:

First, Understand the rules and etiquette: Here is a GREAT resource for surfing etiquette from Surfline called the Bill of Rights and Lefts. Read it. 

This sign is on Bondi beach and was posted in an article here in the Sydney News Local.

The surfer’s code is posted on sign boards along the beach. Picture: Chris Pavlich

Respect your ability. Know what your limitations are. If you are new, don’t paddle into dangerous spots or heavy conditions. You are a danger to yourself and others.

Respect the culture. Yes, these are public beaches and no one owns the waves or ocean. But the fact is that the locals have shown up day in and day out for years, if not their whole lives. A smile and a hello can go a long way. So can a little room.

Watch and learn before you drop in. This past week, I sat in the lineup for 20-30 minutes before I took a wave. I watched to see when the waves were coming. It was a long period swell (6 feet at 18 seconds) which means there is more room between waves within sets and between sets. Get an idea of when the sets were coming, how many waves were in each set, who in the lineup was taking the waves (top dogs) and what they do. Find your opening and take it.

Have a local bring you out into a new surf spot. They will know where to go, where to paddle, and the locals. They can introduce you and guide you to the new spot. This is the same for surfing and SUP surfing. Your friend can introduce you to their friends and basically say, “he/she’s with me.” I had a good friend take me out last week in a spot in California. He did the same. He told me where to sit, when to go, knew the people out there. It made me feel welcomed.

You have range. Use it. The best bet is to find an empty peak and make it your own. Find more out-of-the-way spots. SUPs can paddle to breaks most surfers wouldn’t consider because of how long it would take to paddle there. Use that to your benefit. The longer it takes to paddle to the break, the less chance of a traditional surfer heading out there. For the young guns and experienced surfers, they can hit the more popular, more competitive breaks. They most likely know the people and the culture. This is not for them.

And please, Don’t hit anyone with your paddle.

That said, how many of you have been threatened on your paddleboards and what have you learned?