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Surfing etiquette

AH, SURFING. The sport of sinewy iconoclasts. No pesky umpires, no foul lines, no rules. Easy there, Kerouac. There is, in fact, an unspoken etiquette of the ocean. Here are the Top 10 rules of the reef:

1We're all guests of the sea. Just like you wouldn't show up at a stranger's house for dinner, you don't just "drop in" on someone's wave. In surfer parlance, "dropping in" means that you grabbed a wave that belonged to someone else, and it's the worst breach of etiquette.

2"Kook" means loser, not creative type. Surfers still use this old-school pejorative to brand morons, newbies and that guy who yelled, "Shark! Just kidding. What?" Learn the lingo before you go.

3Let Brian Grazer paddle in peace. Yes, there are famous directors and potent producers surfing out in Malibu. But that doesn't mean you can slip someone your script in a Ziploc bag or audition during a lull. "You don't network. And if a wave comes, all conversations end abruptly," says KCRW DJ and music supervisor Liza Richardson, who surfs regularly.

4Study the lineup. Ever notice that surfers bob in semi-organized formations? That's because there's a pecking order -- based on skill and seniority -- known as the "lineup" and it determines who gets the best waves. "If someone is really good, I'll get out of the way and just watch," says Dana Nielsen, a veteran surfer and music engineer who works with producer Rick Rubin. And because waves can break left or right, it's impossible to say who's the best surfer until he or she starts shredding.

5The old men and the sea. Sexagenarians don't typically learn to hang ten. Those guys with barnacles in their grizzled beards have been surfing for 30-plus years and have earned the right of way. Respect them.

6Skip the smoky eye, sister. Chris Mauro, editor of Surfer magazine, can spot a beginner by her blue eye shadow. "You'll see girls wearing makeup or guys who look like they just walked out of a nightclub and you know that they're new," he says. "Anyone overdone stands out."

7Loose boards bash brains. Some pros may scoff at leashes, but most surfers agree that a little leg rope can go a long way. "A projectile surfboard can go anywhere from 20 to 30 miles per hour," says Weston Kinney, who sells boards (and leashes) at Channel Islands Surfboards on Melrose Boulevard and estimates that 99% of surfers in L.A. use a leash. The rule of thumb: Your leash should be about the same length as your board.

8Don't brag about secret spots. "A great spot where four people go becomes a place with 12 surfers the next day if word gets out," says Frank Caronna, founder of Natural Surf Technique school and instructor to Maria Bello and Jessica Biel. "You keep it to yourself."

9In other words, leave Matthew McConaughey in the car. Just last month, a kerfuffle broke out in Paradise Cove after a phalanx of paparazzi followed the actor to the Malibu beach. When the paps refused to leave, surfers attacked. The end result? Thanks to the press and photos, every first-time surfer who subscribes to Us Weekly will be heading to Paradise Cove from now on.

10Waves of nausea. What do neglected wetsuits and puppies have in common? "Everyone urinates in their wetsuits," says Caronna, who uses a shot of Woolite when he washes his surf togs. "But if you don't rinse it in fresh water, and just throw it in the back of your car, that's trouble."

Do you have a social woe or etiquette issue? Send questions to the Mannerist at monica.corcoran @latimes.com.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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