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10 Commandments of Surfing Etiquette

Surf etiquette

10 Commandments of Surfing Etiquette

Estimated reading time: 7 minutes

Surfing Etiquette — Provided by 2 Mile Surf Shop

Surfing Etiquette is the most important thing to learn before you set foot in the surf.

These rules are not so much “rules” as they are a proper code of conduct designed to keep everyone in the water safe and happy.

With the growing popularity of surfing, the number of people in the water is on the rise and unfortunately surfing etiquette is gradually eroding away.

The ocean is a dangerous place, and without proper thought to safety it can become deadly.

New surfers should memorize these rules, and even veterans should take a refresher course now and then.

10 Commandments of Surfing Etiquette

Commandment #1: Right of Way

surfing right of way - adventurehacks - epic outdoor adventure

The surfer closest to the peak of the wave has the right of way. This means if you’re paddling for a right, and a surfer on your left is also paddling for it, you must yield to him or her.

If someone is up riding a wave, don’t attempt a late takeoff between the curl/whitewater and the surfer. If the surfer who’s riding the wave wants to make a cutback she’ll run right into you.

Commandment #2: Don’t Drop In

Don't drop in - adventurehacks - epic outdoor adventure

This is related to Rule #1. This is probably the most important part of surfing etiquette. Dropping in means that someone with the right of way is either about to take off on a wave or is already riding a wave, and you also take off on the same wave in front of him or her. This blocks his ride down the line, and is extremely annoying, not to mention dangerous.

If you are tempted to drop in remember this: no matter how good the wave is, if you drop in on someone you’ll feel like crap, the other surfer will be pissed, and the wave will be ruined for everyone.

Commandment #3: Know When And Where To Paddle

know when to paddle - adventurehacks - epic outdoor adventure

Some common sense surfing etiquette rules that people don’t seem to realize are important. Don’t paddle straight 10 rules of surfing etiquettethrough the heart of the lineup where people are surfing.

Paddle out through the channel where the waves aren’t breaking and people aren’t surfing. Sometimes at spread out beach breaks this is hard, but usually there is a less crowded area to paddle through.

When paddling back out, do NOT paddle in front of someone riding a wave unless you’re well, well in front of him. You must paddle behind those who are up and riding and take the whitewater hit or duckdive. You’ll appreciate this the next time you’re up on a wave.

Sometimes you’ll just end up in a bad spot and won’t be able to paddle behind a surfer.

It’s your responsibility to speed paddle to get over the wave and out of his or her way. If you don’t do this, he or she might just run you over!

Commandment #4: Don’t Ditch Your Board

don't ditch your surfboard - adventurehacks - epic outdoor adventure

This is important, especially when it gets crowded. Always try to maintain control and contact with your board. Surfboards are large, heavy, and hard. If you let your board go flying around, it is going to eventually clock someone in the head.

This means if you’re paddling out and a wall of whitewater is coming, you don’t have permission to just throw your board away and dive under. If you throw your board and there is someone paddling out behind you, there is going to be carnage. This is a hard rule for beginners, but if you manage to avoid picking up the habit of throwing your board you will be a MUCH better surfer.

Commandment #5: Don’t Snake

dont snake waves - adventurehacks - epic outdoor adventure

“Snaking” is when a surfer paddles around another surfer in order position himself to get the right of way for a wave. He is effectively making a big “S” around a fellow surfer. While not immediately hazardous to your health, this is incredibly annoying. You can’t cut the lineup. Patiently wait your turn. Wave hogs don’t get respect in the water. Also, being a local doesn’t give you permission to ruthlessly snake visitors who are being polite.

Commandment #6: Beginners Don’t Paddle To The Middle Of A Packed Lineup

beginner dont get the best waves - adventurehacks - epic outdoor adventure

This is kind of open to interpretation, but it still stands: if you’re a beginner you should try to avoid paddling out into the middle of a pack of experienced veterans.

Try to go out to a less crowded beginner break. You’ll know you’re in the wrong spot if you get the stink-eye!

Commandment #7: Don’t Be A Wave Hog

dont be a wave hog - adventurehacks - epic outdoor adventure

Just because you can catch all the waves doesn’t mean you should. This generally applies to longboarders, kayakers, or stand up paddlers.

Since it’s easier to catch waves on these watercraft, it becomes tempting to catch them all, leaving nothing for shortboarders on the inside.

Give a wave, get a wave.

Commandment #8: Respect The Beach

respect the beach - adventurehacks - epic outdoor adventure

Don’t litter. Simple as that. Pick up your trash, and try to pick up a few pieces of trash before you leave even if it’s not yours.

Pack It In and Pack It Out.

Commandment #9: Drive responsibly

drive responsibly - adventurehacks - epic outdoor adventure

The locals who live in the residential areas near the beach deserve your respect.

Don’t speed or drive recklessly.

Commandment #10: Apologize If You Mess Somebody Up 

apologize if you mess somebody up - adventurehacks - epic outdoor adventure

Nobody really mentions this in surfing etiquette lists, but if you mess up and accidentally drop in or mess up someone’s wave, a quick apology is appreciated, and goes a long way to reducing tension in crowded lineups.

This might seem like a lot of stuff to remember, but in time it will become second nature. Most surfing etiquette rules are common sense anyway.

Remember to have fun in the water!

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Comments
  • September 26, 2016

    Honestly, I’ve seen some crazy poor behavior at every great surf spot in this state (California). Just be as respectful as possible. A bag of herb goes a long way boys…

    Play nice!

    Love the article btw 🙂

  • October 19, 2016

    Ya, some people take it too far though.

    The waves are open to anybody, you don’t own the ocean. I heard about a group of thugs near Palos Verdes Estates in So Cal that are being sued by residences for being dicks basically. Hang loose and show love we are all drawn to the water for a reason. Shaka brahs 😉

  • December 27, 2016

    Ya, surfers can be super territorial, use caution and respect goes a long way

  • David Aston
    January 21, 2018

    Couldn’t agree more 😉 thanks for the love, Madeline

  • February 19, 2018

    great advice

  • Randy Marsh
    December 21, 2020

    Well said!

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