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Rising Surf Rage

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Surf Rage Mark Morlock

PC: News Limited                 

In February 2014, 41-year-old surfer Mark Morlock was deliberately stabbed in the eye with the nose of another surfer’s board on the Gold Coast of Australia in an unbelievable act of surf rage.  The rage attack took place at Snapper Rocks, home of the Quiksilver Pro and one of the most crowded breaks in the world. 

Morlock explained that the enraged surfer was retaliating at him for unknowingly cutting him off at the same break 5 months earlier.  The man confronted him in the lineup and let his board go from between his legs, purposefully aiming it so that the nose shot straight into Morlock’s eye.  “Within six seconds of announcing his presence, he’d done this horrible trick that only a surfer knows but one I thought would never happen to me,” Morlock told The Courier Mail.  “It was the most brutal, cowardly thing I’ve ever seen.”

A lifeguard treated Morlock’s injury on the beach, and he was taken to Tweeds Hospital.  Even on his way off of the beach, Morlock’s attacker was still looking for a fight.  “He was hiding in some bushes and came bolting down the stairs wanting to carry it on, with my eye almost hanging out of my head.” Morlock said.  He was eventually transferred to Gold Coast University Hospital where he underwent 12 hours of microsurgery to save his eye.  “The doctors told me that if he wasn’t riding a snub-nosed board, it could have been fatal.”

While not necessarily as aggressive as Morlock’s experience, surf rage is becoming more commonplace.  With more and more people picking up surfing, lineups around the world are getting crowded.  On top of this, the higher concentrations of beginners with no surfing experience are making surfing more dangerous and volatile. 

One of the leading causes of surf rage stems from surfers ignoring the “Dropping In” Rule.  This happens often with inexperienced riders who unknowingly cause problems in the lineup.  The “Dropping In” Rule dictates who has priority on the wave, which is extremely important if the lineup is overcrowded.  The surfer situated closest to where the wave curls has rights to the wave.  Sometimes, other surfers will try to catch the same wave further down from the curl.  This can cause surfers to collide with one another, resulting in board damage or bodily injury.  A broken board, bruised ribs or even just a bruised ego is enough to send some riders into a fit of surf rage.

General inexperience is also a big cause of surf rage situations.  New surfers do not have as strong a command of the ocean as experienced surfers, meaning they have yet to understand how the ocean rips, waves and currents work.  Combined with weak paddling skills, a newbie surfer can end up accidently floating right in the way of a more experienced surfer.  This can be frustrating and possibly rage-worthy. 

Sometimes, surf rage isn’t caused by something a surfer did, whether by accident or on purpose.  Territoriality is a very real issue at some select breaks, and that “locals only” mentality often gives way to rage-induced fights in the water or on the beach.

Wherever or whatever you may ride, chances are you will be sharing the waves with at least one other person.  Every time you paddle out to the lineup, remember these three things:

  • Be aware. – Make sure you’re keen on your surroundings.  That includes the waves, winds, rips, currents and most importantly, other surfers.  Having a general sense of where you are in relation to others in the water will help you steer clear of any problems and have a rage-free session.
  • Be respectful. – If you’re riding at an unfamiliar spot, respect the break’s locals.  This will hopefully keep you on good terms with them and help you avoid any issues.  Sometimes, surf rage can still surface with especially aggressive locals, regardless of how polite you are.  If that is the case, it may be best to cut your session short to avoid any surf rage-related violence.
  • Be happy! – If you’re one of the more experienced surfers out there and you run into some newbie riders, give them a break.  If they’re multiple-time offenders, try to explain to them what they’re doing wrong instead of getting angry.  Constructive criticism goes a lot further than a heavy dose of surf rage.

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