Surfing: The Essence Of Exploration

My typical destination to go surfing is Mermaid Beach. Regardless of whether or not the waves are the best the Gold Coast has to offer (which they’re not close to being), I frequent the area to be able to surf with a bit of elbow-room instead of jammed into a pack. It’s funny, the relationship between surfing as a sport and crowds as a social phenomenon: no surfer out there will confess to loving surfing in a crowd, though all the same surfers in general tend to behave like sheep when hitting the beach (the “follow the leader” syndrome).

A typical day at Mermaid Beach offers surfers roughly 3 or 4 peaks, though usually only one is being ridden, and by a ton of surfers. Before jumping in and paddling to a certain spot, I always have a good look to make a smart choice. My ultimate decision is always influenced both by how good the waves are and by how many surfers are already there. Usually, I’ll sacrifice a bit of quality to have more room for myself, but that’s a personal preference not everyone shares.

I’ll also often walk up to a kilometer in either direction to find the wave I’d like to surf. As soon as I catch a wave though, someone from the pack surfing the other wave will paddle over to join me. Heaven knows why they were not there already, the wave had been breaking all day. Obviously they just didn’t have the imagination or intelligence to realize the wave was there, until they saw me catch one.

I’m constantly amazed by the number of surfers who arrive at the beach and do not look for a wave. Rather they just paddle out to the closest group of surfers assuming that will be where the best waves are.

Often I am out surfing on days where ideal conditions exist all up and down the beach, with nobody else on their board except for me. Then another person gets into the surf and ends up at precisely the same area of the water where I am surfing. Of all the places they had at their disposal, they decide to compete with me at my break. In these cases, I just paddle off to catch the next wave down the beach and keep surfing, pondering in the process about the other person’s intelligence.

In sum, all of this brings me to the reflection: what in the world ended up happening to the spirit of exploration that used to define surfing? Where did it go? At what point did this flock mentality usurp its place within surfing culture? Maybe I am just the odd one out with regards to my predisposition for spacious, uninterrupted surfing? Perhaps the crowd surf is what people really enjoy now? I can’t make heads or tails of it in the end, but it definitely strikes me as odd.

Some food for thought though: each time you hit the beach for some quality surf, take a minute or three on the beach to really observe the waves before paddling out. There will probably be a better option than the most crowded one and you will definitely get to catch more waves.