SANTA CRUZ, California – In a town where you are born with a surfboard in one hand, and a skateboard in the other, the surf culture in Santa Cruz California runs like a main artery through the heart of this small Northern California town.
When Stand Up Paddle Boarding arrived on the scene in the fall of 2008, the sur?ng population in this Northern California town gave the ?edgling sport about as much welcome as an outbreak of the Bubonic Plague.
For me sur?ng was “Nirvana,” and harking back I have no idea why on earth I would want to stand on a SUP while wielding a paddle in one hand. However I did, and even though I fell a thousand times, as I teetered back and forth on a pencil width soft top, the sport consumed me enough to never surf again on a regular surf board, a decision that really had no rhyme, nor reason.
Having surfed for over twenty years at most surf breaks throughout Santa Cruz, I felt over time I had garnished the respect of others, especially at my local break at Pleasure Point on the east side of Santa Cruz, as well as locations throughout the county.
Then add to the equation that I author the weekly surf column for the local Santa Cruz Sentinel newspaper, I believed that I was ?rmly entrenched within the surf community of this important small town in sur?ng lore.
Like it was yesterday, I remember the fateful warm August day that I proudly paddled out on my 11? 6” SUP, amongst my friends in the lineup to show everyone this incredible new sport.
However, I recognized immediately that the welcome wagon was not out, and continued not to be out for about a year, and that if I was not riding a surfboard no one cared how entrenched I was, in fact, I was now quite the opposite.
Rather than give up and go back to regular sur?ng, I decided to take on a thick skin, which worked well in bouncing every derogatory remark written and spoken that I heard on a daily basis off into the sunset, and I continued to paddle surf making sure that I was respectful in using only the ?nest of etiquette.
The comments eventually dwindled, and as the months wore I stood quietly in the wings, and watched, as many of the “haters” themselves began to paddle board. The playing ?eld was becoming more level every day, I could only wryly smile.
We all have seen the sport spread like wild?re, with an ever increasing number of people learning to stand on a board for the ?rst time. Inevitably it leads to wanting to take to the waves now that many are ready to get off the ?at water, however, those not living at the coast are completely unaware of the rules of etiquette that are ?rmly in place, especially at the strong localized surf breaks that exist on the California coast.
Whose responsibility is it to tell someone new to the sport to pay heed to the rules of a surf break? Is it the paddle board manufacturer? Is it the retail outlet that sold the board? Is it the owner of the board? Or, is it mine, the fellow paddle surfer, should I run down the rules with him or her, before the “yard sale” in the line up?
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