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Surf Etiquette

Learning surf etiquette is crucial if you want to surf consistently and make friends in the water. I’m sure you’ve probably seen that clueless beginner drop in on a good surfer and maybe that surfer passed on some not so friendly words (or maybe you’ve been in that position). So this is to give you some good tips to make sure that does not happen anymore, or just way less.


Who gets priority?

So there are three main ways to look at who has the right of way:

  1. The person in the top of the lineup

  2. The person closest to the peak of the wave

  3. The first to their feet


1. Sometimes at surf spots there can be a perfect shape where there is a clean order to where the first wave comes and breaks. These spots are usually clean point breaks like Imsouane or Banana Point. The person furthest out who has been waiting awhile can get priority because they are at the “front of the line”.


2. I mentioned this one in the last article “Becoming an intermediate surfer” but to describe it more in depth, the person who is closest to the tallest and steepest part of the wave (the peak) is allowed to rip it up and you’re not. However, a little piece of advice, sometimes people in those priority positions won’t always get the wave. So what I recommend is paddling for the wave and only backing out when they are up and riding. Sometimes they won’t be able to catch it for some reason and if you’re paddling next to them and can catch the wave, it’s all yours.


3. If the wave that you’re at is a wide wave that doesn’t really have a distinct peak, it’s every surfer for themselves. This is when first to their feet matters. You and five other people could be paddling for the same wave and whoever is first standing and riding the wave has priority, no matter their position on the wave.




Know where to go

When you first start surfing, your mentality is “what is the fastest way I can paddle past these terrifying waves”. Unfortunately, when you start getting more advanced, you might not be able to just paddle a straight line and be right at the lineup. Make sure to look where the surfers are generally going on the waves. If you see that your paddle path crosses the surfing path, find a new path buddy. Sometimes paddling all the way around the wave is the best call to avoid colliding with any surfers. Even though the surfer is responsible to not run over any paddlers it does annoy the surfers if paddlers are crossing right in front of their wave when they could be shredding it. If you really don’t know the best way to paddle out, don’t be afraid to ask someone who looks like they know. Better be safe than sorry!


Greediness is a killer

I know surfing is the best thing you’ve ever tried, and you want all the waves in the world now. However, you might need to pull on the reins a little bit. Even though you’re addicted to surfing, so is everyone else in the lineup. Make sure that you’re not a wave hog. Everybody is out there trying to score some and have a good time. If one person is paddling for every wave and catching it, it puts a damper on the session for everyone else out there. Sharing is caring, spread the love!


Hold on to your board

Now that you’ve got some experience under your belt, it’s time to head out for the big waves. But please remember this, don’t ditch your board. Always wear a leash and make sure it fits well. If there is a big scary wave crashing on you, turtle roll and hold on for dear life. Sometimes there are instances where you know you can’t hold onto your board because you might get injured, in that case look all around you, make sure no one is behind or next to you then dive under and let the wave crash. Try not to do this too often because it can be a hazard to you and others around you!




But some people don’t follow the rules!

Yeah and then there are those people who don’t follow any of the rules of surf etiquette and just take off on any wave and drop in on anyone. I usually see those people resembling professionals, ego-hoarders, or locals. Trust me, as much as you want to drop in on them to get some payback, don’t do it. Those people are going to keep doing their thing and it’s not okay but it’s better that you play by the rules and stay safe. Encouraging this behavior by fighting fire with fire will only make the situation worse and you don’t know who they are and what they might do. So just smile and be polite, who knows maybe if they think you’re cool they’ll let you drop in on a few of their waves.


Just be respectful 😊

The best manner of conduct is to be respectful. If something happens that wasn’t on purpose like you didn’t see that somebody was on the wave behind you, just apologize! As surfing continues to spread its contagiously fun venom around, more and more people are going to be messing around in the water. That’s why so many old surfers are a bit grumpy, they went from surfing empty spots to infested spots. Try to understand where those folks are coming from and show them that you aren’t one of those kooky surfers. Being respectful should always be practiced in everyday life but especially in the water.


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