Surfing Etiquette - Rules of Surfing

Although at times it may not look like it, surfing has some basic rules that surfers should follow. Many years ago the rules weren't written down, but surfers would let each other know what they were, in a friendly way or otherwise.

These days in the more popular surf spots you will more than likely see a sign with the basic rules. The reason is that now we have something called 'surf rage', where surfers are getting into arguments and sometimes physical disagreements.

Crowded Surf Spot

So lets take a look at some of the surfing rules and etiquette....

Rules of Surfing

  • The person up and riding first that is closest to the breaking part of the wave has the right of way. You may hear people declaring their right to a wave by whistling, or shouting "Hey," "I got it," "mine," or something like that.
  • Do not drop in on someone who is already riding a wave. "Dropping in" is taking off on a wave in front of someone who is already riding it, i.e., someone who has the right of way.
Dropping In

Classic 'Drop In'

  • Do not snake someone who has clearly got the wave first. Snaking means paddling inside them closer to the breaking part of the wave and catching the wave. We've all been guilty of it, essentially jumping the queue.
  • When paddling back out over or through a wave that someone else is riding, move to go behind them. This allows them to continue riding the wave without having to dodge you, and means that you will be smashed by the whitewater. That's okay though, because when they do the same for you, you'll be grateful.
Paddling in Front

Don't Paddle In Front

The only time this may change is when you are surfing on a point break or reef break and then the rule is to paddle wide, which means paddle back out through the deep channel, not through where everyone is surfing.

  • Always hold on to your surfboard. If you have to let go, make sure there is no-one around that your surfboard could hit. This is a common way to be injured in the surf. Experienced surfers never let go of their surfboards, unless you fall off of course.
  • Communicate!! 'I am going left!' is a great thing to say, so others know which way you are going and can then maybe go right!
  • Above all, keep a good attitude. Apologize if you make a mistake. If involved in, or near a collision, stop what you're doing to make sure that everyone is okay.

Next >>> Rip Currents

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