Something crazy went down at 1st Street last week. The waves were typical Virginia Beach, two-feet-high and fluffy. As per custom, a pack had gathered near the jetty, scrapping to take advantage of the fading winter light. One surfer, let’s call him Shortboard Sal, hopped up on his board and found himself confronted with another surfer heading his way, a younger guy we’ll call Longboard Louie. Two riders, on the same wave, at 1st Street. Wait, it gets weirder. Shortboard Sal, incensed that Longboard Louie would infringe upon “his” wave, leaped in the general direction of his nemesis before plunging into the frigid water. While it isn’t clear from the Surfline cam rewind, Sal may have even brushed against Louie, who turned slightly but continued riding the wave. If you’ve ever surfed at 1st Street (or basically any surf spot anywhere for that matter), chances are you’ve witnessed a far more brutal encounter. The crazy part is that the next day, Louie decided the (non)incident required police intervention. Yes, he called the cops and reported he’d been assaulted. Sal was summarily handcuffed at his workplace and hauled downtown. He now awaits trial, while the rest of us are left to wonder, what is this world coming to?
As neither of the combatants (sarcasm) feel he was in the wrong, surely someone must be to blame for such madness. And seeing as how 1st Street is my very favorite place, a spot that has seen me from freckly grom with a sunburnt mug to gray-haired dad with a muffin top, I’m raising my hand. I wasn’t there for the session, but it’s my fault. If you want to point the finger, point it at me.
As a former pro surfer, surf camp operator, teacher, writer, and proud 1st Street local, I have failed my community. I should have made it perfectly clear a long time ago, to all who would paddle into my beloved lineup, what, exactly, they’re getting themselves into. In other words, what I’ve learned in 35 years at the jetty. I’m not a praying man, but in this case, I pray it’s not too late.
So, here I give you my 1st Street manifesto, my contribution to Virginia Beach surfing history, and hopefully, to its surfing future.
If you’re gonna surf 1st Street, expect to get run over. Intentionally, accidentally, just know it’s gonna happen. Hopefully you don’t get hurt too badly, just badly enough to clear a lineup spot for the rest of that session.
If you’re gonna surf 1st Street, don’t expect to get many waves. There are a lot of people going after a limited resource, so not everyone will get his or her quota. If you want to catch lots of waves, go somewhere else.
If you’re gonna surf 1st Street, don’t expect to get a wave to yourself. Simple math. Too many people. Several others will paddle for your wave, and some of them will catch it. Feel free to go around them or nudge them aside. This is not assault; it’s life at a crowded surf spot.
If you’re gonna surf 1st Street, expect to share some waves. Sometimes you’ll go right, sometimes left. You can’t go both ways. Communicate with your fellow surfers, and try to split the peak. Only fade people who are catching more than their share of waves.
If you’re gonna surf 1st Street, try to use some etiquette. This isn’t golf or tennis, but there are some general rules in surfing. Basically, take turns and try not to get in anyone’s way. If you screw up, apologize and know the same thing is going to happen to you. If you see someone screw up, kindly let them know.
If you’re gonna surf 1st Street, don’t sit outside the pack with a bigger board and pick off waves before anyone else can catch them. Longboards, shortboards, boogies: ride what the hell you want, but don’t use your board as a crutch to cheat your fellow man out of waves. Especially you, SUPers.
If you’re gonna surf 1st Street, learn how to surf first. This is not a black diamond by any means, but it’s usually the best spot in town and that’s why it’s crowded. Learn the ropes down the beach like I did. Gradually, if you don’t find something better to do with your time, you can work your way towards the peak.
If you’re gonna surf 1st Street, have some respect. There are surfers who, by virtue of years spent in the lineup at a given spot, have earned the right to get some waves, whether their saggy old arms can out-paddle yours or not. Give them some space, and you’ll earn your own place in the pecking order.
If you’re gonna surf 1st Street, try to make Duke proud. Instead of tarnishing the legacy of the father of modern surfing by acting like an idiot, make him happy he decided to share his favorite pastime with us.
If you’re gonna surf 1st Street, don’t be a bitch. Surfing around here could hardly be considered adventurous, yet surfing at 1st Street certainly can. With so many people in such a tight space, shit’s gonna happen. Deal with it, not like a land-lubbing, lawsuit-happy, un-jazzed American asshole, but like a surfer.
Or better yet, don’t bother. Just avoid the hassle and surf somewhere else.