Surfing with Debra Rose

Surfing, On the Rocks

Montauk has seen a fair share of injuries this summer, boards to the knee and head of a few local surfers causing injuries and sidelining them for months.  Then there are the smaller, everyday injuries.  Cutting your foot on a rock coming in, crashing into someone dropping in on you, or hitting yourself with your own board after wiping out.  Most times it is unavoidable, and there is only so much you can do when beginner or reckless surfers are in the line up.  One thing you can control is your own conduct in the water.  If you are skilled, cautious and aware, you are less likely to injure yourself or someone else.

Your Board:   No matter what, try your best to hang on to your board.  Unless it its Hurricane Bill and you are about to be pummeled by a fourteen-foot wave, do your best to prevent your board from flying out and potentially injuring someone around you.  On a nine-foot long board with a nine-foot leash, you have an eighteen-foot radius in which to seriously harm someone.  There are times when you will fall and cannot catch your board, and you will have to kick it out to create distance between you and the foam and glass weapon hitting you while tossing around in the water.  Cover your head and use one arm to reach around the water as you resurface to make sure your board (or fin) is not firing at you at close range.

Rocks:   This may not be the Pipeline, but its good practice to start falling flat and avoiding rocks beneath the surface.  The few spots in Montauk that are famous for having boulders the size of Volkswagens in the break are blatant reminders of what to avoid.  Try not to take it for granted that the rocks you see are the ones to worry about.  You may still lose control on and hit one or the jetty anyway.  Falling flat, staying on your board at the end of a wave, and fighting the instinct to touch the bottom to push yourself to the surface are good ways to avoid rocks and eventually reef.  Surf trips are a must in the off-season, and the better you are at avoiding the rocks, the safer you will be in breaks full of sharp reef.

Surfers:   We all wish experienced surfers filled the line up (not too full, because it will be too crowded, and not too experienced, or else it is harder to get waves).  And here lies the dilemma.  We have no control over who paddles out, the skill level of other surfers or how many people decide to surf that day.  So we have to give up on (and probably stop complaining about) being territorial over the waves.  While we are all here, let’s figure out a way to all get along.  And that includes looking out for one another.  Paddle hard for every wave, but pull back if someone is already on it.  If you pop-up and have the right of way but someone drops in on you, decide if it is worth it to risk injury and be right, or if it is better to move off and try again for a happier wave?  You may still get blindsided by someone that does not know what they are doing, or blatantly avoids the rules, but you can control your level of awareness and how you choose to proceed.  While we are ok with less surfers in the water, no one wants to be injured our see injuries happen to our friends and surfing community.  Happy Fall Surfing!