The Coast News Group
Sea Notes

Crowds, kooks and sea creatures

I never thought I’d see the day when I was among the best surfers in the water. Of course I don’t mean when the waves are pumping and North County’s finest are out, but during the summer doldrums when the surf rarely exceeds three feet and turns are required to avoid the masses of drug store surfboards that clog the lineup. Even then, there are those who exceed my average ability. But I am not a kook, nor have I been for quite a few decades.It’s no secret that every lineup from Oceanside to Del Mar is cluttered with kooks. And that really doesn’t bother me, since I (and you) was once among them. The word kook that can be used in a derogatory fashion really means nothing more than beginner. Since we’ve all been kooks, let’s take it easy on them.

Not all kooks are created equal. Some obviously learn quicker than others. (It takes at least two years of continuous surfing for a teenager to become adequate at surfing. Add about 2 percent per year to that time for every year you begin after the age of 18.)

And while some can ride a wave to shore before the two-year minimum, few look good doing so. But style, or more likely lack of it, is not what really differentiates one kook from another. That’s a matter of attitude. A kook fresh out of surf school attempting to assert themselves among the elite in the lineup by using a massive board, an offence that can be compounded by paddle gloves or an actual paddle, will probably achieve nothing but scorn.

Conversely, a kook who humbly paddles out and observes the unwritten rules of the road, not dropping in on anyone and asking for advice from those more experienced, will generally find most willing to help out.

While neither crowds, nor bad surf, nor cold water, nor abusive remarks can deter a kook from paddling into the best lineups during the summer, sharks can. Of course the sight of a 1-ton aquatic pit bull should keep every sane person out of the water, kook or not.

It may be because of the increase of offshore paddling that sharks reports have increased. Still, it seems that not a week goes by without a report of one of those massive denizens trolling our coast. And while shark reports can stem the tide of the invading hoards for a moment, a shark attack clears the water quicker than anything I can think of. It’s been a few years since the first and last attack in Solana Beach, but each time I surf in that area, I keep my feet up, especially after dark.

While sharks are rare, stingrays are plentiful and deliver a shot more painful than anything but a shark bite. I have only been stung twice, and now vow to shuffle over the sand for the remainder of my days. Stingrays will remove someone from the lineup for an entire day or more; jellyfish, a few hours at most.

But these words are not meant to discourage anyone from paddling out. On the contrary, all are welcome, despite ability. Paddle out, share a wave, bring your best manners, shuffle over the sand, make a friend and enjoy the summer as only a kook can.