Surfing is easily one of the most insular and cliquish of pop sub-cultures. This is partly due to its beginnings as an indigenous past time in Hawaii, where it was first frowned upon by puritanical white missionaries in the 1700s—and eventually bestowed an almost outlawed, outsider status when it spread to the American mainland in the early part of the 20th century. Throw in the fact that there's only a finite amount of quality, surfable waves breaking at any one spot at any one time, and it's no surprise that surfers guard both their sport and its spots jealously from newcomers.
But if the call of the lineup is one you can't resist, there are ways to learn how to surf without looking like a kook. CityBeat has rounded up three expert sources to help the initiated paddle out with dignity on even your first day in the water: Surf Diva surf camp founder Izzy Tihanyi, singer-songwriter / amateur surfer / former Roxy model Tristan Prettyman and longtime Pacific Beach local Jeff Pirsig.1. Be humble: “It's nearly impossible to avoid looking like a kook at the beginning,” Prettyman warns. “I think the main thing is just to remain humble. You can't let your ego get in the way when you are learning. You can't act like a surfer right away. The best attitude to have is one acknowledging that you are learning and you are OK with sucking.” 2. Take lessons: Not surprisingly, Tihanyi recommends “taking a surf lesson from a legitimate surf school. They'll teach you all about surf etiquette—where and when to surf, what equipment to ride and when to drop in when you're in a lineup.”
Prettyman agrees: “I was pretty fortunate that my dad taught me, so we would go every weekend. But when my mom learned, she signed herself up for surf school! Good call.”
Pirsig adds: “Having a friend or mentor who's an experienced local goes a long way towards boosting your confidence. Plus, it'll keep you grounded when you get frustrated.”
Thiyani is shameless in her further advice. She suggests reading her book, A Girl's Guide to Getting Good Waves. 3. Avoid “localized” or “heavy” surf spots: While none of our experts wanted to name any particular spots (an unwritten rule among surfers), there are some obvious, expert breaks that beginners should probably wait to tackle: Black's Beach near Torrey Pines, Swami's in Encinitas and (despite its world-renowned beach) Windansea in La Jolla. However, longboarder spots like Tourmaline in Pacific Beach and even the “Churches” and “Middles” sections of Trestles in San Onofre are especially beginner-friendly waves.
As far as not pissing off the locals, Prettyman advises: “Be mindful of other surfers. Know your limits. Learn the etiquette of paddling out, who's got the right of way. Cutting people off and going straight into the white wash is not good!”
Pirsig suggests: “Always spend time on the sand learning not just the tendencies of the waves at a certain break, but the patterns of the locals, too. Pay attention to what they do and follow suit.”
Prettyman sums it up: “The main thing is to not show up at the beach thinking you're cooler than a turd covered in sand.”