Managing a Lineup

Because somebody has to maintain order

It's not yours to manage, but you'll for sure need to be on your best behavior in Malibu's lineup. Photo: Lowe-White
It’s not yours to manage, but you’ll for sure need to be on your best behavior in Malibu’s lineup. Photo: Lowe-White

One of our recent issues addressed the tensions present in the surf world’s ever-expanding lineups. From an argument for localism, to the market costs of living near good waves, to a hallucinatory take-a-number positioning system fantasy, plenty of coping mechanisms are on offer in the October mag. And, although screaming at kooks and drop-ins can certainly be useful at times—Lord knows it would work wonders on me—doing the little things to help manage a lineup may precipitate the need for any aggressive encounters.

Teaching newcomers and enforcing the unwritten (until now, I suppose) rules of the lineup ought to be a part of surf culture everywhere. Here’s a list of crucial teachable moments.

1. The Proper Paddle Out
You know what sucks? When you look behind you, shoreward, and see a guy or two paddling directly out through the break, right to the peak, instead of walking up or down the beach and paddling out around the break. This is of course much worse at a spot with a super-defined takeoff zone. Don’t do this, and, equally important, don’t let others get away with this. Just like in the NYC subway system: if you see something, say something.

2. Johnny Paddle-For-Every-Wave
In a busy lineup, just because one can catch a wave, doesn’t mean one should always paddle for it. If it’s the inside surfer’s turn to catch a wave, those on the shoulder SHOULD NOT PADDLE FOR IT. The rider with inside position ought to be allowed to catch the wave without the hassle. If they blow it, alright, next time go ahead and be a bit more aggressive. But it’s hugely disrespectful to paddle for a wave while looking back inside toward the peak to see if the inside surfer will catch it. The peak doesn’t need to get any more competitive than it already is. When this happens to you, go ahead and be a jerk about it. We aren’t trying to make heats here; if you can surf, you deserve the dignity of paddling into a wave unmolested.

3. Take Turns
If somebody is paddling back out after just catching a wave—it’s not their turn. If you’re stroking out to the peak at the very beginning of your session and there are already people out—it’s not your turn. If you just windmill-paddled for a wave but didn’t catch it—you’ve lost your turn. Beginners have no idea how a rotation works. Many long-time surfers don’t either. The only way they will learn is if you tell them. It may get uncomfortable. That’s just fine. Often a terse “don’t even think about” is all it takes.

4. The Shadow
It’s so nice to finally find an uncrowded peak, especially if you just paddled 50 yards to earn yourself some elbow room. Then along comes a solo paddler, who, for whatever reason, decides to sit five yards away from you. This is often extremely irritating. Nothing at all wrong with telling your new friend to keep it moving. Nobody likes clingy paddlers.

5. Lineup Magnets
At big, open beachbreaks, there’s often hundreds of yards of empty lineup. Sometimes, you just want to be by yourself, or with a friend or two. But then, you turn to the beach and see a couple surfers stroking out to say hi and sit on your peak. What the fuck? There’s plenty of room for them to find their own bar. You know what? Tell ‘em.

6. The Ceaseless Kicking
Kicking isn’t really necessary unless you’re scratching into the wave of your life at Rifles. Especially when it’s crowded, kicking like Michael Phelps trying to out-touch somebody at the wall is infuriatingly annoying to your fellow paddlers. It splashes everybody, and worse, makes you look like a single-minded dolt. How about you just get into position earlier? It’s only fair to send buckets of water at somebody if they’ve just drenched you while kicking their way into a two-foot mushburger.

What pisses you off in the lineup? Have at it in the comments below.