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Surf Etiquette | The Rule Book

Surf Etiquette | The Rule Book

Etiquette is surfing’s unspoken language; a set of guidelines understood in the water all over the world. When the line up gets hectic, these help to keep the peace and will also build your confidence. More waves, more stoke, fewer injuries.

Win-win-win, hey?

1. Surf waves that suit your ability
Improving at surfing requires some gumption. But it’s also ok to pick your moments for pushing boundaries! If the conditions look too big, super crowded, rocky or more of an advanced spot, it’s probably best to sit this one out. If you’re a beginner and surfing on your own, always surf at a lifeguarded beach and in between the black and white flags. Surfing beyond what you’re capable of can not only be dangerous to yourself, but to others too, so ask the lifeguards for advice if you’re not sure.

Surfer on the right has ‘dropped’ in - fine if you’re friends, naughty if you’re not.

Surfer on the right has ‘dropped’ in - fine if you’re friends, naughty if you’re not.

2. Don't drop in
In simple terms, this means you should ‘give way’ and not take off if there is already another surfer on the wave. The surfer who is closest to the breaking part of the wave has right of way, so let them continue their ride without you getting in the way. Best way to avoid this? Look both ways before you start paddling.

3. Never throw your board
No one likes a surfboard flying towards their face. Don’t ditch it and don’t kick away your board when you fall off. Remember to always wear a leash and hold onto your board as much as possible to prevent injuries all round.

Photo Chris Hall

Photo Chris Hall

4. Snaking is a no no
You might see more of this in a crowded line-up. Snaking is when a surfer is paddles round other surfers to get closer to the peak and gain priority on the wave - THIS IS SUPER ANNOYING! It’s like someone jumping the que at the airport when you have been waiting patiently. Try and sit at the right position and not to paddle around all the surfers to reach the peak. If you’re patient (sometimes easier said than done) other surfers will respect your wave choice when you do decide to go.

5. Paddle wide
You should always let the surfer on the wave enjoy their ride. So try and remember when you’re paddling out to aim away from the rider and towards the unbroken part of the wave.

6. Caught inside - stay inside
We’ve all had that ‘deer in a headlights’ situation. You’re paddling in panic as the surfer shreds towards you, knowing they’ll have to swerve to avoid a collision. It’s the kind of stress no-one wants at the start of their session, so wait for a lull in sets and paddle hard to the side of the peak when it comes.

7. Don't hog all the waves

Sharing is caring, right? Don’t paddle go for all the waves, give someone else a chance and share in their stoke when they’ve caught a steamer.


8. If you're in the wrong, say sorry
We all make mistakes, just say sorry and let it go. The ocean is everyone’s to enjoy and we surf to escape the dramas! Importantly, don’t let an accident de-motivate you!

9. Respect the locals 🖖🏽
This is a bit of an old school rule but it’s just about being respectful. Put yourself in a locals shoes… You’ve been surfing this one spot your whole life, it’s your second home! But it’s getting busier and busier and now you don’t have those fun swells just to yourself and your mates anymore. You have to share them with 50 others; you’re getting less waves. Let’s face it, no one likes a crowded surf, so be polite - you’re kind of in their garden.

And that’s it, we’re done being all serious now! Don’t be put off. When you’re a beginner surfer people are extremely forgiving and don’t expect you to know everything. We’ve all been there; everyone still occasionally and accidently break rules. When you encounter someone who ignores them entirely, you realise why these guidelines are so important. It’s just good to be conscious of what’s really going on around you and the result will be better, safer and stoke-filled surfs!

Want to know more?
Sign up to one of our Women’s Only Surf Coaching Weekends, we get more in-depth with each of these points to make sure you're in control and have ultimate surf etiquette skills!