Codgers vs. kids

Shortboard, longboard debate misses the point of simply enjoying surfing

Half Moon Bay Review, May 21, 1997

By Tivo Romero

Review surfing columnist

The last few weeks I have had a good time out in the water. I went down to Santa Cruz, visited Steamer Lane and lucked into some fun five- to six-foot waves and minimal crowds. This past week's little south swell provided several afternoons and evenings of fun, and some great dawn patrol sessions. I have even had great lunchtime sessions at Linda Mar where the waves were small, but consistent, clean and fun. Montara even cooperated and provided some rideable waves that didn't beat you to death on the sand bar after you pulled out.

At Steamer's, I had a great time during the lulls watching the otters pound away at muscles on their chests, working hard for a snack, and watching the seals jumping for the shear delight of being in the water. The usual crowd hanging around the fence on the cliff shouting to the people in the water provided ambiance. As always, I am suprised how few people really surf that place, as famous as it is.

During the swell, the jetty was predictably crowded at high tide, both in the evening and unbelievably at 5:30 a.m. If you did catch one of the nice set waves, you could only really count on making the drop without interference from other people. Turns or a long run to the beach were pretty much out of the question unless you got lucky. Tempers flared as everyone got in everyone's way but for the most part everyone had fun.

At Linda Mar it is definitely summertime. The beach is full of people on towels and blankets, the parking lot is full and it smells of coconut oil and sun block. The waves are small lines with nice shoulders you can take to the shore. The top few inches of water are even warming up, making it very pleasant. I am not real fond of the little blue baby jelly fish floating around, but they don't cause any real harm.

The one common denominator between all the beaches I have noticed these last few weeks is that the number of longboards has risen dramatically and that this seems to make the shortboarders unhappy. This all leads me to my Rodney King impersonation: Why we can't all get along? It is crazy for surfers to bicker among themselves because of the size and shape of their boards.

Longboarders are accused by shortboarders of being old or of wasting a good wave because they don't rip and slash the wave. Well, for the most part, we can't argue the first point. There are some younger longboarders, but the bottom line is longboards support an adult body a little better than a potato chip-thin shortboard.

Is this a bad thing? Not in my book. I am glad to see our sport keeps people for a lifetime. So what if the older we get the bigger our boards get. Everything else we acquire in life seems to go the same way. The second point, however, I disagree with. Longboarders don't rip and slash the way a shortboarder does, true. But watch a good longboarder on a nice wave someday. They work the wave, up and down its face, trimming and stalling, walking around the board. It is a dance, performed with the ocean. When they pop up over and off the shoulder, it is smooth, and they can lie back on their board without ever getting their head wet. It is beautiful to watch.

Shortboarders can't be knocked either. They are young, usually. That is good. It means our sport is alive. There is a new generation coming into our activity and it makes me happy to know surfing isn't going the way of golf or tennis. As for the agressive surfing shorboarders practice, it takes a phenomenal amount of strength and athletic ability to do the moves that are being done today. Watching a good shortboarder shred a great wave is impressive. The plumes of spray they can throw when turning off the lip shows the power and speed they have harnessed.

Both surfing styles have their strengths and weaknesses. I have heard the two styles compared to lust and love. Both are powerful, both are fun, and both have their place in a healthy relationship. I think if we can learn to appreciate both styles, there won't be the animosity in the line-up. Longboarders scratching for a swell that will peak inside for the shortboarders is not cool. Give them their waves and you are less likely to find a shortboard in your way. Conversely, a shortboarder dropping in on a longboarder because they're frustrated is not only dangerous but starts confrontations. Enjoy being out there and learn from each other. Let's make it a fun and safe summer for all.

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From looking at the weather charts, it looks like we are near the end of those spring onshore winds. We should be having a westerly swell shifting to northwesterly. Low tide will be in the morning with minus tides for the next week and a half. The evening high should be about 4.5 to 5.5 feet. Depending on the fog cover, it should stay light enough to stay in the water until about 9:10 p.m. and get light early enough to start the dawn patrol about 5 a.m.

Surfer Tivo Romero is a regular Review contributor. He can be reached care of the Review, P.O. Box 68, Half Moon Bay, CA 94019, or else look for him in the lineup.

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