Crowded Surf: Am I Turning Into a Jaded, Salty Dog?

This past mid-July (2009) we had a great overhead swell with sets pushing 8-10 feet. Naturally, being summer and a solid swell, it was more crowded than in fall or winter, but seemingly, overnight, my beloved reef break that I’ve been surfing for 10 years, looked like a seal breeding colony.

I counted 85 guys in the water. I never have seen a crowd this large. In the last six months since that July swell, my break has been noticeably more crowded with every decent swell. Overnight is no exaggeration. Eighty-five frickin’ guys in the water. In the past, maybe 30 tops on a great swell.

What’s happened? Has there been a population boom? Is surfing trendier now than it was, say 5 years ago? Can surfing possibly be any trendier? My favorite, yet fickle, right peak I love up until this past summer was nearly devoid of surfers; now, it’s getting too uncomfortably close to resembling the adjacent famous point break, which today resembles more of an Indy 500 racetrack.

Compared to the famous break next door, I still have it relatively good. This isn’t Australia or Brazil, thank God!  (I have, though, seen a few more Brazil Nuts, as they’re affectionately known, in the water lately. So far, they are behaving themselves.)

Yet, I still, at times, feel angry: Aren’t I entitled to enjoying my breaks with a minimal crowd, as I’ve done peacefully for the last 10 years?

Now I know how the longtime surfers, those bitter salty dogs feel, when newcomers like myself invaded the lineup a decade ago. The changing of the guard has occurred and now it is me who feels like the bitter salty dog.

What can I do besides bitch about it? There are two alternatives: One is to form a lineup posse and regulate the newbies and aggressive surfers who have  invaded this serene surf dream of mine. I know at least a few long-time surfers that I share these breaks with who would love to have a waterproof Howitzer and mow down the kooks. Actually, one beloved, yet perhaps unemotionally-stable local pretends he’s firing a machine gun at the various surfers who are making him feel claustrophobic. He has a frenetic energy and can shred on an expert level, so when he’s mocking mowing the crowd down, surfers usually paddle away from him.

The second option, the antithesis of being a negative, angry surfer, is to take it all in stride, smile at people in the lineup, or at least have a neutral facial expression. I realize sometimes, that I look more like a prize fighter just before a MMA cage match.

I often have to remind myself to smile. “Smiling is godly,” I tell myself. Godly meaning rising above animalistic tendencies and raising the consciousness to a higher plane.

I’ll just have to face the facts that I’m not going to catch as many waves as I have per session when it’s a great swell. I’ll have to surf more during non-prime time conditions. I’ll have to paddle over to my own peak. Maybe it won’t be as consistent, but I’ll continue to have peaceful, spiritually-purifying sessions.

In the past, I’ve decided not to go on surf trips that I’ve been invited to go on, because if I did go, I feared, I would either get skunked with no good waves, or I’d end up at some primo surf destination with 100 people in the lineup. Not my idea of fun.

Is there a silver lining to more crowded surf for myself? Maybe tiring of jockeying for position at my local break will propel me to tap into my more adventurous side and seek out uncrowded surf locales.

Until then, I declare that from now on, before every session, as I warm up on shore, I will do some spiritual energy work, placing a vortex, or bubble as it were, around me, thereby using quantum physics to attract into my life, only courteous and positive people in the lineup near me.

And hopefully that energy work will keep the crowds down.

I still live in paradise. I get to surf everyday. Yes, it’s gotten more crowded, but that’s a reality I’m just going to have to deal with the best I can.  I don’t want to be a bitter salty dog.

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