Sea Notes

A history of crowds in the lineup

I guess I have to risk you thinking I’m guilty of the new and exclusively male sin of being angry. So be it. Anyway, nothing against anyone in particular, but here goes what should be obvious to everyone: There are too many surfers and too few waves.
I began surfing as a response to the movie “Gidget” in 1958. A few years later, the Beach Boys fueled what Sandra Dee put in motion, and surfing, which hundreds had practiced when my dad did it in the ‘40s, became a cult of a few hundred thousand.
In 1966, Bruce Brown’s “Endless Summer” broke over middle America and things moved forward again. Then came shorter boards, which slowed it all down, until leashes and better wetsuits made surfing easier.
As a response to crowds and the consistently tiny waves in our area, I moved to Australia for two years, then began longboarding in the mid ‘70s. This worked well until the longboard became the vehicle of choice for many, simply as a way to catch more waves. Longboarding eventually regulated itself, as it was realized that longboards worked better for smaller waves and shortboards for bigger, steeper, faster waves. Smart surfers did both. I inadvertently promoted longboarding by directing the first modern longboard film and working as the editor of the first exclusively longboarding magazine. Mea maxima culpa.
Pressure was added to our already crowded spots with the introduction of the surf video camera. “Blue Crush,” which was mainly guys dressed like girls at Pipeline, took women off the beach and into the lineup, which is mostly a good thing, right? Then came another Midwest invasion, as surf fashion, goofy TV shows and movie stars claiming to be surfers were seen on late night TV. Then came those men’s magazines, making surfing some sort of rite of passage for kids and a bucket list for the elderly. Then came magazines telling the world that North County was the best place to be a surfer. Then came everyone and everything, a million dead buffalo in one day, and what had been regulated by years of working together, became a free for all, with anyone who owned a surfboard paddling out. Then came the Jet Ski, taking the incompetent back in the lineup, after they had killed themselves and others. Then came an increase of kayaks in the lineup. Then came standup paddleboards, SUP. Then came SUP instructors, teaching the masses to out maneuver those far more skilled, with far less paddle power. Now, I am a body boarder, trying to find a corner to surf without being run over. I really don’t want to be a body boarder.
Stand up paddling looks like fun and I think it has its place. It is, however, too much for the rest of us to compete with. A friend of mine who practices SUP suggested that there be a law that anyone using a paddle in the surf be required to stay 100 feet away from a surfer without a paddle. That sounds a lot more reasonable to me than the possibility of an escalating paddle war in the lineup.
I recently heard that there were plans to move the Cardiff statue affectionately known as “The Cardiff Kook.” But where would it not be a source of ridicule? Omaha, Neb.? But, hey, why not leave it where it is? It has become a place to make a statement for some and for the rest, really quite amusing.