The snake, and the solution

What is it that causes certain surfers to believe that they honestly deserve a greater share than anyone else of the pleasure, as waveriders, we are fortunate enough to derive from our oceans?

Simply, it is greed. Whilst greed is intrinsic to human nature, being the mechanism that has enabled us to become the alpha species on planet Earth, it has to be checked in order for society to function in a smooth and lawful manner. If an individual living within a society consistently takes more than their share of the available resources (especially by stealing), this will always result in feelings of resentment and hostility from the rest of the community.

Check the end bit, it’s never pretty.

So, I like to think that the creatures who feel they deserve, or have the right, to take more than their share of waves in the line-up by dropping in are either a) plain greedy (and know it) or b) sociopaths who are incapable of understanding concepts such as respect and sharing, amongst other complexities of societal integration.

Today I was surfing at The Pass in Byron Bay, one of the most picturesque settings in which I have witnessed our fragile forms intermingling with the majesty and power of the ocean. The late afternoon sunshine cast us as silhouettes on a tangerine canvas, every moment beautiful enough to provide a meaning as to why we surf, if not for greater things. The full moon sliced through the steel blue sky and the clouds turned red. The afternoon stillness whispered to the waves, transforming them into satin mirrors, which peaked up from around the rocks and spilt forth, each carrying a surfer along a wall of oneness with time and nature. The only distraction came from the fins of a pod of dolphins who meandered amongst us.

Sitting on the inside, it was my turn and a wall rose up before me. I paddled and melted into my stance, racing to keep ahead of the section.

And then the same individual (edited) who had knowingly dropped in on at least four other surfers during this one brief session looked left towards me, paddled and wedged himself directly in my line. I believe in sharing and often call friends (even new ones) into my waves, relishing moments spent harnessing and enjoying the same energy source and moment. But this creature on his vintage-style orange fish knowingly disrupted the flow, stole something that he knew another person was cherishing, succumbed to pure greed. I stood only inches behind him chuckling loudly at the nature (or nurture?) that possesses someone to act in such a base manner. He actually turned around, seeing me on his tail and proceeded to flap his way down the line. I contemplated my instinctive impulse to race, a reaction that would likely instigate a high-speed collision: boards, bodies and legropes intertwined in a grotesque underwater embrace. Instead I chose the peaceful option and pulled off, paddling with a smile back to the line-up. Yes he is a local and perhaps he wasn’t flapping (he has some skill). His retro short-leg boardies and vintage board actually evoke images of a Donavon Frankenreiter or Rasta-inspired soul surfer, but in this case, certainly one without the soul. Surfing, for most of us, has a lot to do with feelings of happiness. And for most of us, happiness is best shared. But if you are dropping in on other surfers to satisfy a need for greater happiness or to satiate a desire to increase an already overinflated wave quota, then I daresay you are not happy, possibly not even enjoying your waveriding and certainly experiencing issues in your life. But the question is: how does the community create order in what is one of the last unregimented frontiers? We all understand surfing etiquette but if an individual is consistently greedy, how do we curb this behaviour? How do we initiate change?

Aggression is not the answer. When dropping in intentionally the snake (for want of a better description) is prepared, perhaps hoping, for aggression, and is always aware of the risk that they may provoke outrage in those he has burned. Far more effective would be to develop a mutual understanding between the rest of the community, a silent cooperation aiming to subtly ensure that the offender is alienated, treated as one who is not welcome in the water at this time. This is possible by ensuring that the inside is always covered and by actively encouraging others, calling them into waves, showing that eyes are watching every wave that is caught. I would love to say that we should shower the snake with love and respect and hope for some sort of holistic cure, but I’m just not that hippy (yet).

So, to surf within a community, an individual has to learn to exist as a member of it. For, importantly, one day that individual may be in need of help (read: large shark attacks surfer or collision renders surfer incapacitated) and their cries of distress may fall upon ears not deaf, but certainly ones not hasty in their desire to provide aid.

That’s my rant for the day. And to you, the snake, I truly hope you find what is missing in your life.

Perhaps I am an optimist, thinking that the community will band together in the ways I have suggested above? So, I thought I’d share another solution that just came to mind. Instead of feeling angry and wounded when someone drops in on your wave, turn your emotions into ones of sarcastic joy. Howl with delight rather than anger, hoot and cheer, turn it into a party wave and make a scene. For the snake then knows all attention will be on him. It will also confuse him, for one can’t be aggressive when confronted with delight. Plus he may think you are more of a sociopath than he is and get a little scared. Try it. Aloha.