Surfing Etiquette. What to do, when to do it and how to negotiate the line-up

It’s important to have an understanding of the unwritten rules and etiquette when heading out in the surf. Surfing etiquette is the most important thing to learn, especially when you’re heading out behind the break.

This time in your progression can be a daunting time for new surfers, however hopefully after you read the points below you’ll have a greater understanding of the Do’s and Don’ts and will take to the waves and have a positive experience.

Here’s Squizza’s top surfing rules to know and understand

  1. Paddling out
    It’s best practice to take your time on the beach when assessing the daily conditions and best spot to surf. This will allow time to make a strategy to get out the back safely. Always paddle out just down the beach of other surfers. Never paddle straight through the break where other surfers are riding waves. You’re guaranteed to get in the way of someone surfing and almost get run over.
    If your paddling out, and a surfer is up and riding, always paddle towards the whitewash or pocket of the wave. Never paddle to the open face. This will ensure you don’t get in the way of a surfer on a wave. You’ll appreciate this when you’re riding a wave.
  2. Don’t paddle out to the most crowded part of the beach
    Waves are a commodity. There are only so many waves that come in at any one time. If there are ten waves in one minute and thirty surfers, then… You get the picture. This is especially important if you’re a beginner. If you look for an uncrowded part of the beach, you’ll get more waves. If you get more waves, you’ll have more fun, and a better surfing experience.
  3. Right of way
    The surfer closest to the peak or crest of the wave has right of way. This means if you’re paddling for a left hander wave (when you’re looking toward the beach, the wave breaks right to left) the person on your right has right of way.
    If someone is already up and riding the wave, they have right of way for the entire wave.
    If the wave is a ‘split peak’ left and right), there is a level of communication that needs to happen. This will avoid a potential collision. A simple, ‘Which way are you going?’, ‘Are you going left or right?’, will clear up any potential misunderstanding.
  4. Don’t drop-in
    This is related to the rule above, and is the most important rule of surfing. If you’ve ever witnessed an altercation in the line-up, it’s most likely been associated with a drop-in. Dropping in happens when a person has right of way, and a surfer down the line paddles and enters the wave. A lot of the time this results in a collision and is very dangerous.
    If you happen to Drop-in, simply pull out of the wave as soon as possible. A simple smile and an apology should be sufficient to defuse any unhappy surfer.
  5. Don’t snake
    ‘Snaking’ happens when a wave is approaching the breaking zone, a surfer is in position and has right of way, and another surfer positions themselves around them and on the inside of the peak at the last minute to obtain right of way. Snaking is an extremely rude thing to do when surfing, and can very quickly change the vibe in a line-up.
  6. Don’t ditch your board
    It’s always a daunting moment when you know a wave is going to break in front of you. Just remember, don’t panic, relax and think about your best option. If you have learnt to duck dive, negotiate the wave that way. If you don’t know how to duck dive, or the board your riding is too big to duck dive, then do a ‘Turtle’ or ‘Eskimo Roll’. This is when you hold the rails of the board and flip to one side so the board is upside down and you’re using your body as an anchor. An Eskimo Roll is extremely simple and effective. Hold on to your board at all times.
  7. Don’t be a wave hog
    Especially in a line-up with a few surfers, it’s always nice when everyone catches waves. If you’ve just caught a wave and you’re hungry for another one, maybe sit a little closer to shore and catch a smaller wave that no one else in the line-up wants. This will improve your wave count and will make sure the vibe in the line-up is a happy one because everyone is getting waves.
  8. Respect the beach
    Regardless of if you’re at your local beach, or you’re just passing through, respect the beach environment. Pick-up your rubbish and throw it in the bin. You can even ad hear by the ‘Take 3 for the sea’, motto whereby you grab any three pieces of rubbish every time you’re walking off the beach.
  9. If you mess up
    This isn’t part of the so called unwritten rules of surf etiquette, however if you happen to mess up, a simple smile and apology is appreciated and will defuse most situations. If this doesn’t work, just paddle to another part of the beach.
  10. Have fun!
    Surfing is an addictive lifestyle and is meant to be fun. Throw a smile on your face and enjoy the challenge. Before you know it, you’ll be taking off on waves you weren’t able to and having a blast.

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