People have been using slang, jargon and colloquialisms for many years to reinforce identity and exclude outsiders. And it still goes on now. You know that feeling when you listen to a politician or Chief Exec on the news, and despite hearing all the words you still can’t quite understand what they’re saying? Or when you hear teenagers using words that you know, but with a totally different meaning? That’s because it’s designed to only mean something to an exclusive group of people ‘in the know’.
Are we any different as SUP’ers?
Since SUP’s inception there have been many people happy to play fast and loose with the English language. And there are a bunch of words of phrases now (too widely) used. Often out of context or incorrectly and in the wrong setting.
‘Waterman’ (should that be waterperson?) is a perfect example. The term is bandied around willy nilly, suggesting anyone attributed with the tag is a larger than life superhero willing to put their own mortality on the line; charging head long into extreme oceanic situations that will leave many running for cover. Simply paddling around on flat water doesn’t really cut the mustard.
You might get away with being classed as an enthusiast, but definitely not a waterman. And it doesn’t matter what your tee slogan says.
Another word we’re hearing used incorrectly a lot of late is ‘training’. You might have done it yourself:
‘Bye love, I’m just heading out for some SUP training. Back for dinner’ when actually you were just going for an evening paddle.
If you’re fortunate to SUP in an area where there are other stand up paddlers in abundance you’ve probably been asked:
‘What are you training today?’
“Nothing mate. I’m just having a paddle. And enjoying myself. Why don’t you do the same rather than taunting me about training.” we often think but never actually say!
There’s also the issue of all the Hawaiianisms. SUP is a surf sport as much as a paddle sport. Surf, as we all know, originated in Hawaii, and there is a strong emotional pull towards Hawaii for any surf enthusiast (or should that be waterperson?). And using Hawaiianisms (and being able to play Somwhere over the rainbow on a Ukelele in the style of the giant Israel Kamakawiwo’ole) helps define you as a surfer in the eyes of other surfers, and reinforce that connection. And maybe make people think that you’ve been to Hawaii. And maybe even that you’ve surfed at Waimea.
Therefore expect to hear ‘Aloha’,
injected into sentences at any given opportunity. Throw a hang loose shaka in the mix for maximum effect and hey, ‘it’s all good brah! Aloha’.
Surf speak has been around for aeons. Those gnarly dudes among us have charged sick pits since they learned what a ‘throaty keg’ actually was. And while there will always be characters whose surf lingo sits comfortably with them, the fact is that the vast majority outside of SoCal will probably sound like a cringe worthy try hard. Cityboys/girls reciting tales of dredging lefts and/or death slabs just doesn’t come across right. Maybe swap the suit first? And ditch the latte – watermen (and women) drink guava juice…
And it’s not only wave heads. ‘What’s your cadence across a mile sprint, dude?’ ‘Hammer (buoy) time!’ Yep, wannabe racers (some of whom might actually be actually non-racers) are guilty too. SUP certainly has adopted its fair share of surf speak but there’s definitely an added element of broism brought on by swinging a paddle (or should that be SUPisms?).
Of course, when describing certain elements of stand up, it’s hard not to use certain terminology. And there’s nothing wrong with actively becoming part of a global movement – either through wearing the threads, rocking the kit or whatever. Sometimes though forcing the issue just becomes painful. Plus we’re Brits (or Scots, English, Irish and Welsh), not Hawaiian.
Letting rip with ‘staying loose’ in the pouring rain, gale force winds puffing harshly onto frozen skin (you’ll definitely be wearing boardies if you’re into SUP, come hell or high water) just doesn’t fit the marketed brochure shot pushed hard by those selling the dream. Hypothermia aside, grey/brown water and temperature readings barely in double digits doesn’t really instil enthusiasm for those not yet indoctrinated. ‘What is it you do again? Gnarly what?’
At McConks we try to dispense with jargon, and to speak in plain English. So if we don’t do that, please call us out; embarrass us on social media. SUP should be inclusive, not exclusive. And we want to be part of the cure from jargon, not the cause.
For now we’ll dispense with trying to promote ourselves as tropical SUP warriors, battle hardened and ready for some serious race training, hanging ten, or ten rounds with Mother Nature in the surf arena. Instead we’ll sip tea, remain stiff upper lipped and enjoy punting around our local lake.
To clarify: if you hadn’t already guessed, much of the above was written with tongue planted very firmly in cheek. Aloha.