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If you can't take the wave, stay out
This morning I was surfing at my favorite surf break and there was a very good swell running that was producing some great overhead and double overhead waves. It wasn't really very crowded either.
I was having a great session and basking in the long open walls. Sometime around mid morning it started to fill in with some questionably skilled surfers for the conditions.
Case in point: A large outside set came in and I was in great position for a deep takeoff. As I dropped down the face of the wave there was a guy paddling out in front of me. The correct thing to do would have been for him to paddle behind where I had to go. This would have caused him to have to eat the white-water, but would have given me a clear shot at making the lined up wave.
But, as it is with most beginners or even some intermediates that are in over their heads, this dude paddled right in my path so he could make it over the wave. Problem was that he paddled up the face and jumped off half way. Just panicked and bailed out. His board got taken by the lip and came over right at me.
I saw this and had to dive for my life as the board was coming right at my head. To make matters worse, his surf leash broke and his board was launched like an unguided missile. I was lucky to not get hit or have my board damaged in the debacle.
The guy was very sorry and all that. But his actions could have gone very bad. During the morning I witnessed several other guys doing the same sort of things -- jumping off and letting go of their boards. This is a really lame thing to do when you are in the middle of a pack or hindering somebody's path that is riding the wave.
I can understand if you are caught inside on a really big wave and have no chance at all of holding on and there is nobody around to get hit by your board. But in medium-sized waves when there are other surfers in the area, it's a real dangerous and wrong thing to do.
HOLD ON TO YOUR BOARD. If somebody is coming down the wave, give them the right of way and let them go by. Do not paddle right in their way to save yourself from having to eat a little white-water. It's not gonna kill you. But your board might kill them or somebody else paddling out inside of you.
If you cannot hold onto your board then YOU SHOULD NOT be in that situation in the first place.
We live in the age of the surf leash. This is a wonderful thing for the most part and saves all of us many long swims. It also keeps loose boards from flying around unattended in the surf.
But it is a mistake to take the leash for granted and think that it can never break or come unattached to your ankle. They break sometimes. I have seen people sitting right in the way of an oncoming board totally taking it for granted that the leash will stop the board before it gets to them. If it breaks they are dead meat, and that happens sometimes.
Bottom line is if the surf is big enough that you do not feel that you can hold on to your board, don't go out. You are putting yourself and everybody else in the water in danger.