Surfing is an incredible way to spend time in the water while getting fit and having fun. But waves come in one at a time, and at most breaks only one person can ride each wave safely without risk of hurting themselves or others. That’s why it’s important to understand surf etiquette.
Here are eight tips on surf etiquette to ensure that both you and everyone else has the best time possible out there:
- Respect the Right of Way - This first one is actually pretty easy. The person closest to the breaking point of the wave has the right of way. Sometimes people share waves together as a “party wave”, but surfing doesn’t really work with more than one person on a wave. Like driving, it is important to respect the right of way when surfing.
- Don’t Drop In - This is somewhat tied to the first point but it’s worth making it again on its own - if you see someone already riding the wave you’re not going to make any friends by dropping in, in front of them. Beyond being a major breach of etiquette, you can seriously hurt someone or yourself by doing this.
- Don’t Back Paddle - Back paddling is when you catch a wave and, instead of going to the back of the lineup of surfers waiting their turn, you paddle ahead and jump back in front to catch another wave. Think of it like cutting the line. Yes, it’s great that you’re stoked and want to catch a wave as soon as possible, but so does everyone else. Wait your turn and paddle to the back of the lineup so everyone else can have a go.
- Do Apologize - We all make mistakes, and sometimes we are in the wrong spot or don’t see that another surfer was on the wave we are paddling into. If you screw up, apologize and be sincere about it. Make an effort to make it up to someone. Let them have the next wave, even if it’s not their turn, or wait it out for a few sets to show that you have remorse for playing foul.
- Respect The Locals - Speaking of respect, be aware of those surfers who are at the break everyday. It’s usually pretty easy to tell the locals apart from the visitors. Special nods should go to elders and groms - the elders should earn the choice set waves, and the groms need the space to develop their skills, so let them rip a few extra waves or give them a nod to paddle into the big sets as a show of gratitude for sharing their backyard break.
- Paddling Out - When paddling out, you have to yield to someone already riding on a wave. If you are sure you can, paddle way ahead of them, or better hold back to let them pass. If you paddle ahead make sure you don’t cause a collision. Better to paddle behind the rider on the wave, even if this means you take one on the head from the breaking wave.
- Surf Waves to Your Ability - Surfing in bigger waves than what you can handle can lead to disaster if you are in over your head. So make sure you start small and work your way up, otherwise you could risk hurting yourself and others, or breaking a board in no time.
- Respect The Ocean - This should be a given, but don’t bring anything into the ocean that shouldn’t be there. This includes toxic sunscreen, litter, pollutants, and anything else besides you and the board. And if you see something in the ocean that doesn’t belong there, stuff it in your wetsuit or shorts and bring it to shore. Respect the ocean because without it there would be no surfing.
We all started as beginners, so there’s no shame in being new to the sport. But following these guidelines will have you progressing faster through better awareness of the conditions and the people around you. Unless you find that lucky spot with nobody around, you’re going to have to share the spot with others. So be sure to do so with a big smile, show respect, and remember that it’s a great gift to be able to ride waves.