Uneven Playing Field -- 6/7/03

Beware the kayakers!

Date: June 7, 2003
Time: 0600--0800
Spot(s): Somewhere on the South Shore
Conditions: Light offshores, funky crowd
Swell: Inconsistent and declining SSW swell
Surf: 2-4' Haw'n, when they came

Words: Finally woke up early and drove out to the Westside, hoping that the declining south would be working out there. It wasn't really happening. Buzzed Buddy and found that they were already heading towards Town (email miscommunication). Took me a while, but I decided to drive back and hook up with them, essentially negating my early rise.

While I was heading back, Buddy and Rich suggested this out of the way spot that we hadn't visited for a while. I was game. At the beach, we were stoked to find it empty and decent.

In the lineup, it was inconsistent, but had some size, with sweet conditions. We were happy. But it didn't last for long.

Suddenly, a gaggle of eight kayakers descended on the lineup (or rather outside of our lineup). They came, seemingly with a fair attitude, wanting to share the lineup. One guy said that he longboarded out there too and understood what it was like with kayakers in the lineup. Another was the designated photographer and offered to take our pictures when we were riding. Apprehension was an understatement.

But that wasn't all. A 20' boat puttered just outside the lineup, and dropped off three longboarders. Not a problem until we realized that the boat remained as a shuttle service to these guys, pulling them back into the lineup after their rides. The boat of course, created a wake every time it drove past, essentially ruining the waves.

Well, waves came through and we were essentially barred from every opportunity. The paddling and planing advantage of the kayaks were just too great, even for a longboarder (which is what I was also on). Still, we were hoping that they'd eventually be more accommodating. The longboarders were beginners who didn't really play into the equation--they were actually friendly and pretty cool.

The defining moment for me was on this cherry left. In the spirit of sharing (and since they had no hesitancy in dropping in on me earlier), I decided to take off with (in front of) a kayaker. I got to my feet as the guy continued to paddle into the wave behind me. Always the opportunist, I thought it would be cool for me to reciprocate the offer of taking pictures. I yelled at the guy to stay high, as I was going to cross in front and get behind to get a frontlit shot of him.

He must've panicked, because the moment I got in front, he released his paddle (which he was stalling with in the wave face) and plowed his bow right into my shin. We both were taken out, tumbling in the whitewater.

After we recovered and got back on our boards, this guy started berating me on being dangerous and watching where I was going. I apologized, but firmly told him that my intent was to get a photo. Mind you, this was the same guy who initially told us he understood what it was like with kayakers in the lineup. And he wasn't the one with bodily damage--my shin was bleeding and totally numb from the collision.

Forget brotherhood. It was obvious that these guys just didn't care about anyone else in the lineup. While most of the other surfers went to another break, I made it a point to sit outside and challenge them. But it was a losing proposition. They obviously had a huge advantage.

One of the older guys on a kayak talked to me a little bit and I expressed my frustration. There was no parity, I told him, especially since they took every single rideable wave. He was sympathetic and told me not to take it personally. I couldn't help but think about road rage, with drivers who incessantly cutting off the same person over and over again. Taking it personal is just a part of human nature.

However, there was another reason why I stayed with the kayakers. The disparity of surf vehicles got me thinking about myself. I was riding a longboard and using paddling gloves. Buddy and Rich were on their shortboards. I couldn't help but reflect on the advantage that I had, regardless of whether it was real or perceived.

When I finally gave up on the lineup and met up with Buddy and Rich at the other break, we actually had fun at the smaller wave. We established a good rotation and passed waves off to each other, laughing off the ridiculousness of the situation across the channel.

Level playing field? Sometimes it has to be established through respect and friendship.

Rich, laughing

Aloha from Paradise,