Groms and the cycle of the stink-eye

You know that awkward, uncomfortable, miserable moment when you’re faced with a little kid that is twenty times more talented than you are and one glare from them can make you feel utterly unco and crappy about the little bit of progress you’ve made? Well, I do.

I was having a gentle surf (while I’m working on repairing my back) when a grom gave me the stink-eye. The kid could not have been older than nine and he was absolutely charging. A miniature Mick Fanning. Well. I’ll be damned. I sat up on my board and watched him for a while. Did I feel bad that I was kind of hoping he’d make a mistake? Not really.

That grom will be a future world champion; it would not surprise me. I’ll be the bitter old crone still nosediving! I love children and I love to see them out there and excelling, but I really wish they would cut back the attitude. I didn’t even do anything wrong and yet I was a pest to him because I was obviously not an awesome surfer. The next generation should be decreasing surf-agro, not perpetuating the cycle.

On another note, I did actually cut off an older surfer a little later. It was at sunrise, a hot day and a long weekend at a popular beach. There were about seventy of us out in the line-up as early as 7am. I went to angle my board for a wave and couldn’t see the guy at the peak to my right because of the sun glaring off the water. I spotted him (thankfully) and pulled back out of his way – he still bailed anyway, just to be safe. I was so apologetic I was practically kissing his hand. ‘I’m so sorry mate. I didn’t see you there. I tried so hard to get out of the way. Are you all right? I’m so, so sorry.’

He waved his hand and smiled. ‘No worries. I knew you didn’t see me ’til the last minute. It’s all right.’

‘I’m so sorry.’

‘Don’t be. I’m not an agro surfer. I’m not good enough to be!’

What a great attitude he had. I’m glad I encountered him (shoddy though it was). I hope there are plenty of surfers out there modelling that behaviour to the gung-ho stinky-eyed grom I’d encountered earlier just in the line-up. But it begs the question: why do we think that a less-skilled surfer has no ownership of surf agro? Why should being a good surfer excuse bad behaviour and attitude? Why? Because they’re good at surfing? That seems a bit silly to me.

The line-up should be a place of (imagined) community. Down-time and fun-time, social and natural. I shouldn’t be getting the stink-eye for a variety of non-surf related reasons like I’m a woman, a little older than most kooks, a beginner surfer, a longboard rider or that I don’t look like Alana Blanchard or I’m not afraid to say hello and spark a conversation.

I really hope that groms pick up on the good surfing etiquette instead of the agro surfing etiquette that gives them a God concept just because they can surf well. It just goes to show how important good role models are I suppose.

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