Do Surfers Hate Beginners?

When I first started surfing I would go to the surf spots that I knew other surfers frequented. I was brand new to surfing, and wanted to make sure that I was around other surfers. This was partly because I assumed that if surfers were in the water then there must be waves. Secondly, I felt more comfortable knowing other people were in the water in case I got knocked out by a rogue wave.

While in the line up of surfers I was received with a variety of attitudes. Sometimes other surfers were friendly and nice to me, but it wasn’t uncommon for others to be rude, mean, and downright nasty to me. Which led me to wonder…

Do surfers hate beginners? Over time I have found that not all surfers hate beginners, but there are some that hate beginners. Some of the reasons that surfers hate beginners are because they don’t like new surfers taking their waves or they’re worried that a beginner’s surfboard may hit them.

One of the more unpleasant memories I have while surfing is when I was a beginner. I was brand new to surfing and an older surfer made his way to me in the water. I had just paddled out to the waves, and this was one of the first times I was going to surf this break. I was excited to try this new spot, and continue to get better.

As the older surfer got closer I could tell that he was angry. He quickly told me that this spot wasn’t for beginners, and pointed to another spot 200 yards down the beach. According to him, that was the spot for beginners like me. The spot he pointed to didn’t have a good break, and I told him so. I also told him that he didn’t own the beach, and that I was going to stay.

While he didn’t bother me anymore it did ruin the remainder of the surf session for me. I wondered why he was so angry and mad at me. It wasn’t until years later that I realized he probably hated me for one or a few different reasons.

In the remainder of this article I will explore some of the reasons why surfers hate those who are just starting to surf.

4 Reasons Why Some Surfers Hate Beginners

1) Beginners Lack Control

There’s a few times in which a beginner in the water can actually be dangerous. Surfing requires control while riding a wave and control while paddling in the surf. It’s not uncommon for a beginner to lose control of their board while on a wave or while paddling. If a loose board strikes another surfer it could cause serious damage. Even with a leash a board can move 10-12 feet away from the surfer it’s attached to.

Many times I have watched new surfers lose control of their surfboard and see their board go straight into another surfer. With the power of the wave behind a surfboard it could hurt someone. The tips and fins of surfboards are sharp enough to pierce and cut. The weight of a surfboard can bruise and break. I have seen surfboards cut wetsuits and people.

In addition, if a loose surfboard hits another board it can damage it. No one wants their precious surfboard to receive a ding from another surfer’s board. A new surfer can apologize if their board damages another surfer’s surfboard, but a damaged board can be expensive.

It can also be downright scary if a new surfer is riding a wave towards the shore and lacks the ability to steer themself away from surfers paddling out. No one wants to be paddling out to see a novice surfer unable to steer away from them.

While not always merited some veteran surfers hate beginners, because they are worried that the beginners will hurt them or someone else in the water.

2) Surfers Don’t Like to Share

Some surfers have a problem sharing waves. They’re out there to catch as many waves as possible, and don’t want anyone else in the water with them. The more surfers at their spot makes them angry. The only thing that’s more upsetting to them is having beginners come in to take their waves. They’ve been surfing this spot for the past 20 years, and now all of a sudden there’s a new surfer in the water stealing their waves!

This is a stupid reason to hate someone, but I have seen it time and time again. Surfers can be territorial, and don’t want to share their waves with a newbie. They’ll yell at beginners, be passive aggressive in the line up, and even snake waves from beginners.

3) New Surfers Can’t Always Catch Waves

There’s a system to catching waves. The surfer closest to the initial wave break has priority to the wave. If that surfer is paddling for the wave you typically assume that they are going to catch it. The problem is that many new surfers go for waves that they can’t catch or miss. Other surfers in the water don’t go for the wave, because it looks like the beginner is about to catch it. When the beginner misses the wave it can be frustrating to see it go by.

It’s not the end of the world to see a wave go by unridden, but angrier surfers will hate beginners because of it.

4) New Surfers Sometimes Get on Waves They Shouldn’t

While not the case everywhere, in most surf spots once one surfer is on a wave it is there’s to ride. Few things are worse than catching a wave and seeing a beginner hop on your wave in front of you and ruin it. They may crash into you or just not give you the freedom to really let loose on the wave.

When a surfer gets on a wave that’s already being ridden by another it is called “snaking” a wave. They’ve dropped in a wave that’s already spoken for. Sometimes newer surfers do this accidentally, and it can be extremely upsetting. No one wants a wave ruined by a beginner who drops in on their wave.

Not all Surfers Hate Beginners

It’s true that there are some surfers who hate beginners. But this isn’t everyone. I have been surfing for over 15 years and while some beginners can be annoying in the water I don’t hold a grudge towards them or hate them. I know plenty of surfers who harbor no hate, but only the best for new surfers.

Surfing is a wonderful thing, and it makes me happy knowing that there’s beginners out there who are trying it out. Surfing has been such a positive activity in my life, and my hope is that beginners can have a lifetime of surfing too.

Newer surfers can act and surf in a way that is dangerous or frustrating to advanced surfers. Instead of yelling or being hateful towards beginners let’s be encouraging and instruct them in the way of surfing.

We all started somewhere. None of us picked up a surfboard and automatically became an expert. Be kind to new surfers. It can be intimidating early on, and it only makes it worse when others surfers are hateful, rude, and mean.

Tyler Smith

Tyler Smith started surfing in Carmel, California with no wetsuit and a board he traded for. Since then he's gotten a wetsuit and more surfboards than his wife approves of. He's been surfing for over 15 years, and is friends with beginners, kooks, and old salty surfers too.

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