Free for all in the lineup

Do the math. There are a limited number of really good waves that break in North County throughout the year. Most of those waves break at the premier surf spots: Cardiff Reef and Swami’s and the total probably doesn’t exceed a few thousand. Now, consider that there are many times more wave riders than there are good waves, many who consider these spots their home breaks and thousands more who travel from as far away as Texas, Florida and Japan to surf here. Add to that the countless campers and day-trippers, and you began to get the picture. If each of us had just one good wave per year (and we all want more than that) the wave deficit would still approach a number in the vicinity of the national debt. In short, there are not enough good waves to go around.
I suppose we could go to some sort of rationing program, where each surfer takes turns in the lineup, as the 40-plus riders sit and wait their turn between rides. That being unlikely, the wave goes to the surfer with the most paddle power.
Before you lift that poison pen, let me assure you that this is no longboard, SUP, or kayak bash, but a desperate plea for self-regulation in the lineup. One big problem in our time is that the old rule — the surfer closest to the curl gets the wave — does not apply when a surfer with a 10-foot board and a paddle can catch a wave while it’s still a swell and someone on sub-six flyers needs to wait until a wave is nearly breaking on them, before they can drop in. Everyone knows that quiet and sometimes not so quiet resentment is building in the surf community — so, what to do?
To my knowledge there are three options on the board: 1) An outright ban on the use of paddle vehicles from the surf. I don’t like this idea, since it seems like a restriction on the pursuit of happiness, requires outside enforcement and restricts the fun of an entire caste of wave riders.
2) Assign designated spots for paddle surfers. This one also has difficulties, since the out-of-the-way surf spots will be the spots designated for paddlers. This will turn overflow parking areas into standing-room-only surf spots, and put even more pressure on North County’s main breaks: Cardiff and Swami’s.
3) Any paddle-driven vehicle will be required to stay a certain number of feet away from non-paddle-driven vehicles. Works for me, but I don’t ride a paddle-driven vehicle.
None of the above solutions work for everybody, but something should be done before violence erupts in the lineup. My hope would be for a meeting between city and state officials, paddle proponents and those opposing their use. Rodney King’s famous question echoes in my head and hopefully it will be answered in the affirmative, once the spray clears. In the meantime, sharing waves with those on smaller surf craft will go a long ways toward mending hurt feelings.


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