It would be nice to think the sum total of surf etiquette could be neatly distilled into a few pictures on a beach notice board. You know, the ones that warn of ‘strong undertows’ alongside complex diagrams involving stick figures and lots of arrows that supposedly teach newbies how not to snake.
Unfortunately, the unwritten rules that regulate a real-life lineup are a little more complex.
Let’s take drop-ins as an example. Many believe them to be surfing’s most heinous crime, unacceptable under all circumstances. However, others have caveats that permit them on rare occasions. Like as a teaching aid for those being too greedy with their wave count, or a retaliation to those not surrendering the best set waves to the locals. Or to deal with a surfer who repeatedly takes off too deep and salmon flops into the white water from way behind the section, as a way to ensure no more waves are wasted.
On Friday, a debate on the subject flared up on Instagram after media darling Nic Von Rupp posted a clip of him chipping into a throaty one at his favourite semi-secret Portuguese slab. As usual, he rode the wave perfectly. The only problem though, was that there was someone already on it.
Addressing the issue, Nic wrote the following in his caption: “Dropping in sucks, hate having to do it.. but in this case I’d had been waiting more then (sic) anyone.”
As we see, his defence invoked a turn-taking violation, which he believed temporarily voided the drop-in rule. While some agreed he was in the right, his explanation was insufficient to prevent a barrage of finger wagging from the global jury.
“Privileged pampered pro surfer, thinks he can take any wave he wants,” went the general chorus of keyboard warriors that piled on as the clip took flight across the web.
After Nic spent a long day being dressed-down the snakee, Matheus Botelho, finally popped up with his side of the story:
“It was me on the red board, let me tell you a bit how it happened: It was just me, @afonso and @nic on the outside, me and Afonso had already picked our waves and then, about five guys arrived. When the set came in, I thought Nic was behind me and I had second priority, but he was the guy in front of me, I thought it was someone else. So: @nic didn’t drop in on me and I haven’t sneaked him either.”
So three you have it. A simple misunderstanding. So what have we learned?
Perhaps that Instagram posts don’t generally include enough context to be used as a basis for forming opinions that we then argue furiously about with strangers on the internet.
But what about your right to drop in response to rule infringement? As with most subjects, the comments on Nic’s video suggest the surfing world remains hopelessly divided.