Tips for Managing a Crowded Lineup with 2x World Champion Tyler Wright, Molly Picklum, and Mason Schremmer.

Tips for Managing a Crowded Lineup with 2x World Champion Tyler Wright, Molly Picklum, and Mason Schremmer.

Crowded line up in North Shore, HawaiiCrowded line up in North Shore, Hawaii

Let’s be real for a moment. As much as we love riding waves, we can all admit that sometimes surfing in crowds can feel pretty frustrating.

It seems like every time you turn to paddle for a wave there’s already someone deeper than you. Or you spend most of your surf trying to avoid getting hit by a stray surfboard. Getting a good wave can feel like finding a needle in a haystack. Should you wait out the back or sit on the inside and pick off the smaller ones? How do some surfers always seem to be in the perfect spot right when the set comes?

These are the questions that plague many of us as we paddle around in circles looking for that one hidden gem. We decided it was time to take the mystery out of crowded line-ups and sought advice from some of the best in the business: 2x World Champion Tyler Wright, World Tour Competitor Molly Picklum, and Longboard Queen, Mason Schremmer.

Now all you need to do is read on, go surfing and boost your wave count.

Crowded line up in North Shore, HawaiiCrowded line up in North Shore, Hawaii

Where is the best place to sit in a crowded lineup? 

Tyler Wright: My intentions for the surf and the conditions on offer will ultimately determine where I sit. If I want to keep my wave count high and I’m not stressed about wave quality, I will sit off to the side of the main peak and catch as many waves as I possibly can. If the entire line up is crowded, I’ll often sit underneath the crowd and catch the waves that other surfers miss. If the energy of the crowd is aggressive, that’s when it’s probably the hardest and you have to deal with all sorts of emotional people.

Molly Picklum: I feel like there are two sweet spots when you’re surfing in a crowd. You can either sit right off the end [of the main peak] and catch the scraps, but it could mean you get more waves. Or you strap yourself in and go sit at the peak, maybe even a little further out then the peak, and you wait your turn.

When it's crowded, I usually sit on the inside and catch the sneaky waves that people miss or fall off of. When the waves are really good though, it can be worth sitting out the back and waiting your turn to get a good one.

- Mason Schremmer

Rip Curl Longboarder Mason SchremmerRip Curl Longboarder Mason Schremmer
Aerial shot of the Costa Rica Coastline.Aerial shot of the Costa Rica Coastline.

Where is the best place to paddle out when it’s crowded?

Tyler: If you can identify a rip current close to the wave, try to jump in there and let it take you out. This helps you stay out of people’s way.

Otherwise, if there is no obvious rip or channel, try to paddle out where the least number of surfers are and keep out of people’s lines [on the wave] as much as you can.

Sometimes that means you might have to cop a couple of extra waves on the head, but it’s always appreciated. Always assess if your skills match the conditions on the day. If you’re learning and you’re unsure, try to ask someone that looks like they know what they’re doing where you should paddle out.

Mason: When I was growing up, I was taught “blue water out, white water in”. This may not apply to every break, but usually if there’s a spot where no waves are breaking and the water is blue or clear, that means there’s a channel and that’s where you want to paddle out. Whitewater is found in the middle of a break where the waves crash, and the only time you want to be there is when you are riding a wave, otherwise you might get in the way of other surfers.

Molly: It depends on what kind of break you’re surfing, but the main idea is to paddle around the wave and not straight through the lineup. That way you won’t get in anyone’s way.

Who should you look out for in the water?

Molly: Look out for everyone! Be alert, move out of other people’s way when they’re on the wave, and look out for the people who are dominating the peak. Be extra nice to them [laughs]. These tend to be the older people or locals.

Mason: Rogue sets and other surfers.

2x World Champion Tyler Wright surfing Pipeline, Hawaii2x World Champion Tyler Wright surfing Pipeline, Hawaii

Always keep in mind where your skill set is and the skill level of others around you. Be honest and realistic, this helps you avoid potential accidents and keeps everyone that little bit safer in the water.

- 2x World Champion Tyler Wright

What should you avoid?

Tyler: If you can avoid having a stubborn or rigid mentality in the water and just appreciate the ocean and Mother Nature as a place of fun and flow then it allows the whole experience to be more enjoyable for everyone and makes it a welcoming space for all. 

Molly: Try to avoid dropping in and snaking people as best you can.

Mason: When it's crowded, try not to paddle straight out through the middle of the break. This can be the easiest way to cause a collision and hurt yourself or someone else.

Any tips for catching more waves?

Rip Curl surfer World Tour Competitor Molly Picklum.Rip Curl surfer World Tour Competitor Molly Picklum.

Be alert and watch the waves and the people around you. Start to paddle early to show others around you that you want the wave. 

- Molly Picklum

Tyler: Move with as much awareness as possible when you’re in the ocean. You would be surprised at how many waves go unridden when you’re not paying proper attention to what others are doing in the lineup.

Mason: The best way to get waves in most places around the world is to just be respectful. Whether it’s your home break or you’re on holiday, if you show respect to the people and the place then you will most likely be treated the same way in return and waves will come your way. This is also a good way to make friends who might share some of their waves with you [laughs].