While you should always have fun while out surfing, the last thing you want to be called is a "kook."
Of course, if you're new to surfing, you might be wondering,
What do kooks do, and how can I avoid becoming one?
Stay cool, my friend. Continue reading to find out all you need to do about maintaining your non-kook status when out in the water.
While surf culture is typically pretty chill, surfers can be pretty ruthless when it comes to kooks.
Before getting into it, note that being a kook is not the same as being a beginner surfer. If you're someone who is just starting out, you can avoid being a kook. Of course, you WILL wipe out, and you WILL make mistakes. However, it is learning from those wipeouts and mistakes that keep you from becoming a kook.
The beginner surfer that dragged his foam surfboard through the parking lot?
That dude is a KOOK.
If we had to define what a kook is, we'd say that it is simply someone who tries (and miserably fails) to fit in with the "surfing lifestyle."
There is mutual respect we have for one another in surfing. Kooks are those that disrespect the lifestyle.
Things That Kooks Do
Surf etiquette encompasses unspoken surfing rules. If you're trying to avoid being a kook while out surfing, there are many things you should make sure to avoid. Let's looks at some of the top things kooks do while out surfing:
Dropping In On Other Surfers
One of the golden rules of surfing is if someone is already riding a wave, or if they are paddling closest to the peak of the wave, they have priority on that wave. BACK OFF. If you're not in the closest position to hit that wave, it's not yours.
NEVER paddle in front of someone, and DEFINITELY don't drop in on somebody. Not only is it incredibly disrespectful to cut someone off, but it can get quite dangerous if you're in a spot with heavy localism.
Get Weird With The Wetsuit Choice
Look, if you're planning on paddling out in a bright pink wetsuit, you better make sure you have the skills to back it. If you're a beginner, you might consider keeping a low profile in the lineup. Bright wetsuits can draw attention from other surfers, and they'll likely expect you to know what you're doing.
Beyond your wetsuit, there are a few other faux pas to consider:
Not Using Leashes
If you're a novice surfer, use a leash. Using a leash is the only way you can stop your board from flying out from under you and hitting another surfer. Also, don't put your leash out until you're right next to the water. There's nothing that screams 'kook' quite like tripping over your leash all throughout the parking lot.
Not Knowing How To Paddle
Learning how to paddle correctly is extremely important and keeps you from looking like a kook. For starters, stop paddling with both arms at the same time. Second, learn how to read the waves. If a closeout wave is coming and you start paddling, people will know you're a kook. Lastly, if you're paddling with your chin touching your board, you're doing it wrong. Keep your head up so you can see incoming waves.
Dragging Your Board
Only once have I seen someone ACTUALLY drag their board through the parking lot. That was probably ten years ago, and I don't think I'll ever forget the horror I felt within my soul.
Please, please, please PICK YOUR BOARD UP. It's pretty simple. Keep your board in your hands until your get all the way to the water.
Also, learn how to carry your board like a true surfer. You shouldn't need to carry your shortboard atop your head. If you do, it's probably way too big for you anyway.
Using The Wrong Board
I see this ALL the time. If you're learning to surf, you need the right board.
I'd much rather see a person surfing with a massive foamie trying to get their stance down than catch some kook out in the waves with the latest and greatest high-performance shortboard.
Not only is that person going to have a terrible day, as they'll have a hard time catching even one wave, but they'll also affirm their kookiness to the other surfers around them when others realize they have no idea what they're doing.
Check out our surfing terms guide to learn more surf lingo.