"You say something?" "No, did you?" Photo: Glaser
"You say something?" "No, did you?" Photo: Glaser

Question: Do You Greet Strangers in the Lineup?

We say hi on the trail, but not in the water, and it seems weird

If you're sitting by yourself in a lineup somewhere, absentmindedly waiting out a lull between sets, and an unknown surfer paddles within a few yards of you—do you say hello? Or greet them in some other friendly way? How about unfriendly—the stinkeye? Straight coldshoulder maybe?

Or flip it around. You're the one paddling from one peak to the next, or fleeing a newly-formed rip for smoother waters a few dozen yards over. When you paddle past a surfer or two, do you give a little nod as you pass? A smile? Or keep your head down and ignore their humanity altogether?

Is there a right answer?

I have struggled with this for years. Decades even. How long have I been a surfer anyway…[checks math]…25 years-ish. Holy hell. You'd think I'd be better.

Anyway, there are long stretches of my surferdom when I happily greet fellow lineup bobbers. Seems strange not to. Especially as I paddle past just feet away. To say nothing, to not even offer a nod feels cold, remote. To reduce the next surfer over as a mere impediment to be paddled around is, at the very least, unkind, and at worst, feels like pure assholery.  I often make eye contact and then give a little eyebrow raise. I'm not sure what I'm trying to communicate here. But it's better than nothing.

Those stretches of wanting to engage with fellow surfers, however, are few.

Most of the time I do, in fact, paddle past people in the lineup with an air of total disdain, as though they rare obstacles to be avoided, or simply don’t exist at all, and not fellow human beings with feelings.

Why?

Wishing them away, perhaps. If I don't see them, they ain't there. How childish.

Interestingly, when hiking, you ALWAYS say hi to a person encountered on the trail. Or at least give the little nod thing. Maybe a low-key “hey” while looking down at your shoes, but it’s extremely rare to hear nothing from a passerby in the wilderness. I can’t even imagine ignoring somebody in that situation, but in the ocean…most of the time, I’d rather just keep to myself, thanks.

So what is the proper etiquette? To greet or not to greet? A wave hello or a tight-lipped grimace? What's your move?