With the first south swell of 2017 on its way, and the re-opening of Trestles coming with it, it’s just about time to wax up your favorite summertime sled for a skate through San Clemente’s famed lineup. With the reboot of this lineup comes a heavy crowd, and there's no denying that surfing Lowers on a crowded day is the ultimate hassle-fest. It's like running a 50-yard-dash with ten aggressive sprinters, while ten other aggressive sprinters are still running, all narrowed down to two lanes. Between the two clustered paths is a shot at a glorious peeling wall, right or left. But how will you get it? Tactics. Explained below are a few that might help during your next sprint at crowded Lowers:
Left-to-Right Swoop. As you paddle your way into a swarm of wave-hungry humans, start by sitting to the far left. When an approaching set catches your eye, put your head down, and whip your arms into high gear. Due to your position on the opposite side of the peak, you will be the deepest. Technically speaking, the wave is now yours. Note: works mirrored for Right-to-Left Swoop.
Sit Out Back and Wait. It doesn't feel that awesome to be sitting out the back with the crustiest old goats in the lineup, but when a cleanup set comes and it's your fresh arms versus "Johnny Full Suit, Booties, and Hood," you’re probably going to come out on top, screaming down the line. Literally, hoot those bastards off your wave and send it through the slalom. Good luck dodging, weaving, and wiggling your way to an obstacle-less section.
The Buddy System. For this tactic to be most effective, a pre-mediated plan is needed, in which one surfer prefers the right and the other prefers the left (Regular-goofy is a match made in heaven). As you and your buddy stake out a position in the lineup, you'll perform a synchronized paddle when your wave approaches. Hoot, holler, or whistle as you paddle through the pack and you become the peak around which the cluster revolves. You'll eventually be splitting more waves than you could have ever imagined. For you theatrical tacticians out there, act as though you've never met your buddy to curb any form of crowd suspicion.
Local Pro. This one's simple, but it does require local status and a sticker on the nose of your surfboard (a smile doesn't hurt either). While this tactic doesn't ensure that you won't get burned, it does instill a sense of entitlement, because "I grew up here and you didn’t." Paddle hard in your bright wetsuit and keep your head down, only to peer up with the face of sheer determination or to brandish a blinding Gudang smile. Make sure your nose decal is glistening for all to see and now you're ready for the money shot. It’s your wave.
Wide and Outside. Call me all the names you want when you see me sitting off in No-Man's Land. When a wide set comes and I'm in the perfect position, just imagine that I’m laughing back in your direction while taking off. This tactic is an investment of time, but it will have you on some of the biggest waves of the day. The catch here is that the biggest waves aren't necessarily the best. But, since they swing outside of the peak, you won't necessarily get burned every wave.
Bait and Switch. Don't feel bad for throwing a fake-out to the surfer next to you. Hey, I've got 20/20 vision and can see that the next wave is going to be sick. The only problem is the three people closer to the peak than me. This is where mind control comes in. Paddle as hard as possible while keeping your hands in fist-form as they drop beneath the water. You won't move an inch. Once you’ve baited the crowd, hit the breaks and bust a 180-degree turn as if you knew you wouldn't stand a chance against their superior paddle strength. Voilà, mind control. The next wave is coming straight to you and all those dodo birds are fighting for that shitty shoulder behind you. A Leonardo DiCaprio-esque performance, and you get the Oscar to show for it.
Inside Attack. If you think you're above moving to the inside to scrap it out with the groms, think again. Lowers will humble you and have you sitting like a buoy more often than not. Shed that thought – and your (wo)manhood – and move inside to battle it out with the 15-and-under crowd. The funny thing is, these groms will run you around until your out-of-shape body is so tired and they end up catching all the waves anyways. At a mere 4'6", the majority of these kids have their tactical game on lock: Look innocent and take all of your waves. Worst-case scenario, you end up snaking one of the San Clem cronies on the inside and become "that guy." Not so bad, right?
Act Crazy. Nobody wants to be sitting next to the crazy guy talking to himself. If you can muster up your inner crazy eyes and transfer discomforting energy throughout the lineup, you've got yourself a foolproof tactic. The key is holding your character throughout. Sell it to the herd with an insanity-ridden argument with yourself as you notice your wave is approaching. "I'm going right!" "NO, I'M GOING RIGHT!" One of your personalities will end up going right if you play this card correctly. It will undoubtedly feel weird to act crazy, but you're already surfing crowded Lowers, so you might as well catch a few waves.
[Editor's note: "Corndogging" is a satirical column in which we take serious surf issues, dunk 'em in the ocean, and roll them around in the sand for awhile.]
[Title Photo: Van Swae]