Surf Etiquette: The Basic and Fundamental Rules of Surfing
It’s essential to surf responsibly, and the best way to do that is to follow good surf etiquette! Surf spots can be so crowded that without some form of structure, things would descend into absolute chaos. Without a loose code of etiquette, surfing wouldn’t be safe or fun for anyone.
Good surf etiquette is primarily based on respect. The rules are straightforward and maybe even intuitive.
Rule 1 | Priority or Right of Way
- Priority or right of way is simple – the surfer closest to the peak of a wave has priority on catching that wave.
- It is their wave.
- If the surfer closest to the peak misses the wave, then that wave goes to the surfer who was second closest to the peak.
- If they miss it as well, it goes to the third surfer and so on.
Rule 2 | Don’t Drop-In
- Dropping in is one way to disregard priority.
- When a surfer has priority on a wave, dropping in is when you cut in front of that surfer as they are riding the wave.
- Don’t drop in on people.
- There are enough waves for everyone, and dropping in is both dangerous and disrespectful.
Rule 3 | Don’t Snake
- Snaking is when a surfer paddles around another surfer to get into the priority position.
- It’s a way to steal priority from another surfer at the very last moment.
- It is one of the lowest things you can do in the water – don’t snake.
Rule 4 | Respect Others
- Make sure that you respect those around you. Try to avoid conflict and do your best to keep the peace.
- Whether you’re riding a wave, paddling out, or just hanging around on your board.
- Be nice. If you aren’t respectful or courteous to other surfers, everyone is going to have a bad time.
Rule 5 | Paddle Out Responsibly
- There are some things to keep in mind when paddling out to a break.
- First, don’t paddle through a lineup of surfers.
- Instead, find a channel where the waves aren’t breaking and make your way through that.
- Make sure you aren’t cutting off other surfers while you paddle out.
- If a surfer is riding a wave in your direction, be sure to paddle behind that surfer.
- Go around the backside of the surfer’s board – don’t try to paddle in front of the surfer quickly.
Rule 6 | Respect the Beach
- This one is pretty simple – don’t litter, don’t vandalise.
Rule 7 | Surf Only Where Your Ability Permits
- It’s essential to surf only where your ability permits.
- Attempting to surf waves that are bigger than you can realistically ride is dangerous, irresponsible, and a little bit selfish.
- By trying to go above your actual skill level, you’re endangering yourself, you’re endangering other surfers, and then you’re wasting perfect waves.
Rule 8 | Don’t Hog Waves
- It’s just easier to catch waves on a longboard because it’s so easy to catch waves on larger boards.
- It can be tempting for beginners to catch every wave that they see, but it’s important to share the ocean and share the waves.
- Catch a wave, let some other people catch waves, and then take your turn.
Rule 9 | Don’t Ditch Your Board
- Maintaining control of your board is critical.
- If a surfboard is allowed to fly through the water or the air, it’s possible for the board and its fins to injure other surfers.
- If you’re paddling out and a big wave is coming at you, do not abandon your board so that you can dive under the wave.
- If you toss your board and someone is paddling behind you, you could do some severe damage.
- Of course, you’re going to fall off the board eventually.
- When this happens, get to the surface and then try to find your board as quickly as you can.
- Those around you may or may not be more cautious after they see you fall off your board.
- But it would help if you acted quickly to prevent your board from getting tossed around by the ocean and potentially injuring someone else.
Rule 10 | Communicate and Apologize
- On the water, communication and an apology can go a very long way.
- Mistakes happen, and the truth is that everyone has accidentally disobeyed surf etiquette once or twice.
- So when – and probably not if – it happens, be sure to apologise. It’s just good manners.
Video by Michael Claisse | @michael.claisse
Illustrations by Anna Messechkova | @annnamess