Surf Clichés And Saltwater Small Talk

I’m guilty of it. You’re guilty of it. Your dad’s super guilty of it. Really, anyone who ever went surfing is guilty of it—saltwater small talk, surf turkery, and clichéd chatter.

No matter how hard I try, if I’m walking out to the water and a surfer is walking toward me, I instinctively say, “How was it?” As if the guy said, “It sucked,” I would turn around, take my wetsuit off, and go home.

When I get out into the lineup, I usually sit up and try to stretch my back out a little bit. If another surfer in the water makes eye contact with me, without fail I say, “How is it out here?” I’m not expecting anything more than, “It’s fun.” But sometimes I get a guy who goes into a full tirade about how it was super fun a half-hour ago, but now the south wind has clicked up four knots, causing a slight bump on the lefts. I’m not really asking if it’s fun, I’m just saying, “Hi, how are you?” in the form of a simple surf cliché.

Another pointless thing I say to people out in the water is, “Did you check anywhere else today?” Like they’re supposed to say, “Yeah, I checked Pipeline. It was way better there, but I like to surf shitty waves, so I came here.”

By far the king of all surf clichés is the question, “Did you surf this morning?” I swear, you could be in a full body cast with a bloody knife sticking out of your head, half sunk in quicksand, and some surf turkey would come up and ask, “So, did you surf today?”

So many surf clichés, so little time. When you think about it though, surf clichés are words that bind us. We all use these questions as a way to tell the guy or girl next to you, “I surf, too. I speak your language. I heard there’s a swell coming soon.”—Chris Coté

Here’s a list of surf clichés that you will no doubt use and/or hear in the next year:

“How’s the water?”

“What’s the tide doing?”

“How long have you been out here?”

“Pretty inconsistent, huh?”

“Dude, I bet Blacks is so good right now.”

“How do you think Pipeline is right now?”

“Did you catch any of that last swell?”

“How was that last wave?”

“The water ain’t that bad, huh?”

“Can you believe how crowded it’s been lately?”

Caption: Noi Kaulukukui flies at your face while you’re sitting there like an idiot, thinking, “I wonder if he checked anywhere else? I’m gonna ask him when he comes back out.” You goddamn surf turkey. Photo: Nelson