Surfing Etiquette

Believe it or not surfing does have some basic, mostly unwritten rules, that are important to try your best to observe, otherwise things just descend in to total chaos, boards get broken and people get hurt. Most of the do’s and don’ts here are explained in more details in the articles elsewhere on the internet, a quick google for Surf Etiquette will bring up a wealth of information. Do try to stick by these unwritten rules, keep yourself out of trouble, and enjoy your surfing. Also take a look at the surfing rules for related information.
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Observe Right of Way:

Learn who has the right of way on the wave. Please take a moment and read all about wave priority. For those in a rush, here is the condensed version:

  • Furthest out: the surfer that is furthest out or that has been waiting longest
  • Furthest inside: the closest surfer to the peak of the breaking wave
  • First to feet: the first to feet or first onto the wave
  • Communication: the call of “Left!” or “Right!” if the wave is dual-peaking

Don’t Drop In:

Cutting in front of other surfers who are up and riding is a quick way of getting yourself in trouble with the locals. Observe the right of way and you should be fine.

Always make sure that you are not taking anyone else’s wave. Remember that the surfer who is closest to the breaking wave or first to their feet has priority. If you see someone already on a wave, then the wave is considered to be taken, and you’ll have to wait for the next one.

Don’t Snake:

Repeatedly paddling round someone to get into the inside position on a wave is a no-no. Where would we all be if everyone did this?

Don’t Hog the Waves:

Share them around. Even if you can paddle furthest outside and catch the waves first every time you reach the lineup, don’t do it. People will quickly get annoyed at this sort of behavior and will simply start dropping in at every opportunity. Again, everything descends into chaos!


Surfing under the influence is not a good idea. Save the drinking for the after-surf bragging session at your local where you can tell everyone just how many barrels you got earlier.

Be Aware:

Be aware of other surfers and water users, of the surf conditions, and of where you are surfing. (See below under “Patrolled Beaches”.)

Comfort Zone:

Surf Spots that Suit your Ability. Try not to pick a spot that is out of your ability range. You’ll only end up upsetting the other surfers by getting in the way or being a potential hazard for everyone. You should surf in waves that you are comfortable with. Don’t get in over your head.


Make sure you are physically fit when surfing. You need to be able to swim back to shore if you lose your board at the end of an exhausting session – no mean feat in a 3 metre swell.


As with swimming, do not go surfing for at least 45 minutes after a meal.


Surfing is all about having fun; keep it in mind when you are out in the waves.

Hold or Throw:

Know when to hold on to your surfboard and when to get rid of it. If you are paddling out, then keep hold of your board. You’ll get back to the line up more quickly, and you’ll not put anyone paddling out behind you at risk. If you are about to wipe out, get rid of your board. You are far more likely to sustain an injury if you and your board are getting washed around together.

Patrolled Beaches:

If you are surfing on a patrolled beach, make sure that you keep within the designated surfing area. Take note of where you should be surfing before you go out, and make sure you stick to it when you are out.


If you want to improve then you need to be in the water surfing as regularly as possible. No one gets better at anything by staying home and watching T.V.


If you are caught in a rip, remember that it’s called R.I.P. for a reason. You may not make it back to dry land ever again if you get caught in one. Hopefully you already know that a rip is a strong current that (normally) goes straight out to sea and, if caught in one, you should not panic but instead paddle across the rip (not against it) until you have escaped.

Sun Block:

Always wear a good waterproof sunblock. You’ll know how important it is if you have been out for a few hours surfing in the sun without it. Also, if you are not wearing a wetsuit, it is a good idea to wear a UV-proof long sleeve rash vest for body protection.

Surf Buddy:

Always surf with at least one other person. Not only will you have more fun if you are sharing your waves, but you’ll always have someone to help you out if you need it.

Surf Conditions:

Make sure that the surf is safe before you go in. If you are going surfing at a spot you are unfamiliar with it, is a good idea to get some advice from a local. Check out the surf spot while warming up.


Always have a quick warm-up and stretch before entering the surf. This will reduce the risk of muscle injury or cramp while you’re surfing. It also gives you time to check for any rips or where the best spot to catch waves is.

The Power of Two:

When checking the conditions it’s also worth considering the crowd. When a set comes in how many waves are unridden? If six people are crazily paddling for each wave ask yourself is that really worth it? And check somewhere else out.

Respect the Locals:

Keep in mind that the locals surf the spot every day. Give respect and behave while visiting a spot, keep things friendly, earn some respect yourself. Don’t mob surf spots in large numbers (See the Power of Two). Don’t rush straight outside, take your time.

Learn the Right Way to Paddling Out:

This includes not throwing your board or paddling into the path of other surfers. Take a moment and read up on how to paddle out to the lineup.

Help other Surfers:

Always aid another surfer in trouble. Surfing can be dangerous and even fatal, look after each other.

Respect the Beach:

Leave only footprints. Don’t litter, graffiti, vandalise, or otherwise impact the beach or surroundings.

Do Apologise:

If you drop in on someone, run over someone, or breach the etiquette and rules in any way, just apologise. It’s just plain good manners. We’ve all done things that we shouldn’t have when out surfing, saying sorry goes some way to smoothing things over. (Obviously snaking, dropping in, hogging the waves and running everyone over will probably end in a beating, no matter whether you say sorry each time or not.)

Surfing On the Shore:

Oh yeah, don’t surf too close to the shore!

Surfing Safely/Have Fun:

If you keep this list in mind when you surf, you’ll surely enjoy yourself, prevent trouble, and have fun.

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