This is probably not the first time you heard of this question. You may have already asked it yourself. You may have been asked about it many times. And the answer can be different depending on who’s asking and who’s being asked. Is it necessary to scan the ocean before paddling in? To be more specific, should you be scanning the waves before paddling in?
The opinions vary amongst surfers. Of course for basic logical reasons, any average surfer would want to scan the ocean to check the quality of the waves, where the waves are breaking, what type of waves the ocean is delivering for the day. You would want to be prepared with the right surfboard when you paddle in.
But to some surfers, when the surf is just like any regular day, you shouldn’t be worrying about checking the waves. Just paddle in and make the most of what you got out there. Checking the waves is like setting yourself up not to surf. So what if you don’t catch any good wave? At least you paddled in and tried. It would be better to get the worst wave of your life than to have the best Instagram video footage. That is because it is time well spent for surfing, not checking the waves if they’re worth surfing and ending up not surfing at all.
I may agree on getting the worst wave of your life being better than having the best Instagram footage, but for other reasons, I beg to disagree. First of all you are not setting yourself up not to surf when checking the waves before paddling. How many hours does it take to scan the water before paddling in? I bet it only takes a few minutes!
For the purpose of argument, it may be true that not checking the waves before you paddle in may save you time but for what cost? You may end up wasting your time and energy trying to catch a wave when you couldn’t because you were using the wrong board for the types of waves you’re getting.
At the end of the day, you are not trying to check the waves or scan the ocean to judge whether it’s worth your time surfing. Your purpose is to be able to determine the right board to use to paddle in, determine which point in the lineup you should be paddling into to get the best chances of catching a good wave.
So the next time you are asked the question “Should you scan the ocean before paddling in?” ask the person who’s asking you, “What is your reason for scanning the ocean?” The answer depends on their reasons.
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