Summertime. San Diego. They’re all around you…
You paddle out into the lineup at your favorite local surf-break seeking to shred some waves. You give a head nod to a familiar face then throw a shaka to that one dude whose name you don’t know but you recognize because he’s always in the water—and he annihalates waves on the daily. As you glance around you start to notice them.
Over there, that guy with the brand-new surfboard, brand-new wetsuit to match, wearing booties, a neoprene hood, gloves, and what look like goggles? Three teenagers on Costco brand, Wavestorm foamboards paddling furiously for (and missing) every wave that comes through. Someone in boardshorts, with a body builder’s physique, windmilling his over-sized biceps, paddles toward you with the nose of his surfboard pointed at the sky. You pretend that they don’t exist as you roll your eyes.
A kook is someone who by lacking general ocean safety knowledge and basic surf etiquette becomes a danger to themselves and others. A kook can also be anyone who overestimates their own ability or who has a lack of respect for the ocean and its inhabitants—surfers! Kooks are oblivious. Be informed before you paddle out. Don’t be a kook. Here’s how…
- Surf, surf, surf then surf some more. Surfing has a life-long, learning curve. Paddle out into the ocean as frequently as possible, allowing your own experiences to teach you. Over time you’ll feel more comfortable in the water. KOOK-NOTE: keep reading, kooks!
- Respect the beach and Ocean. All surfers must respect and fear the Ocean. If the waves are big and you aren’t ready for it, then don’t put yourself and everyone else in danger. Know your limits. Surf another day. KOOK-NOTE: beach clean-ups are cool, set-wave clean-ups are not (well, sort of, if you’re the only one left in the line-up!)
- Study the lineup before you paddle out. This is so important. Every surfer worth their salt will take a moment to observe the following: wind, tide, swell direction, where the waves are breaking, where other surfers are sitting in the lineup, bathymetry, etc. Look for channels or rip currents for easier paddle outs. KOOK-NOTE: unless you live within walking/skating distance to the beach do not put your wetsuit on before you arrive at your desired surf destination, kooks.
- Paddle around the break to get out…not through it! Keep your head up as you paddle, stay arched like a cobra snake. Paddle over open-faced waves; duck your board under rumbling, whitewater waves that have already broke. If a surfer riding a wave is on a crash course for you, don’t panic, keep your line and paddle hard, allow the rider to make an evasive maneuver. KOOK-NOTE: keep your chin off your board; legs together as you paddle.
- Honor the hierarchy. This helps govern the surf traffic at a crowded break. In general, the better you surf the higher up the hierarchy you are. But also, if you are new to a spot (or to the sport) nobody in the lineup will acknowledge your surfing prowess until it is demonstrated by you. A typical surf hierarchy breaks down like this: Locals>Veterans>Pros>Shredders>NeverSeenYouBeforeButYouRip>Intermediate>Groms>Novices>Beginners>Spongers>Kooks KOOK-NOTE: don’t be a wave hog, follow the rules, show respect and some of the shredders will probably even give you a few pointers
- First surfer up closest to the curl has the right of way. One surfer per wave, or two if it’s an A-frame peak. If you drop in on someone, immediately and safely exit the wave, acknowledge your mistake and apologize or paddle away in shame. Novices should stay off to the side and only attempt to catch waves that pass through unridden. KOOK-NOTE: as you’re crouched low in your stance riding those whitewater rollers all the way to the beach, try not to drive your fins into the sand, kooks.
- Hang onto your board, look out for other surfers. Losing your board is a major offense. You are responsible for any damages or injury to others if you let it go, be prepared to suffer the consequences. A surfboard can maim or even kill. Be aware, not only of your actions but of other surfers as well! Be decisive, get out of the way! KOOK-NOTE: wrestle the alligator, when you wipe out, give your surfboard a big ‘ole bear hug and hang on for dear life!
- Help other surfers in trouble. Surfing is fun unless someone dies. The Ocean is more powerful than all of us. Surfers are a global tribe belonging to the Sea. Use your unique knowledge and strengths to assist those in need. KOOK-NOTE: the life you save could be your own, kook 🙂
If you or anyone you know suffers from kook-like symptoms, please seek help immediately. Symptoms may include:
- forgetting to wax surfboard
- wearing boardshorts over or under the wetsuit
- putting fins in reversed
- neglecting to take wetsuit off after a two-hour surf session before going to lunch
- the use of a life jacket or helmet at a 2ft beach break
If a friend, family member, or loved one exhibits any of these behaviors he or she may be a kook and it could be an early warning sign of a more serious problem. To avoid future complications please have them read, www.thewaldenword.com before its too late.