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Know the Rules of Surfing

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Since the early 1960, surfing has seen an explosion of more and more people in the lineup. Especially now as the longboards made a resurgent that offered an easier way to paddle into the waves. And with the mass production of cheap surfboards, everyone is wanting to try the Sport of Kings.

A crowd of surfers in the lineup on a big surf day.

With the increase of surfers in the water there are fewer waves to ride and increase chances of getting hurt. So knowing the rules, using common sense and sharing waves will make yours and everyone else’s surfing session more enjoyable and safer.

Surf Etiquette – Rules that applies in all line-ups of the world.

A young girl checks out the surf conditions1. If you are a beginner and don’t know the rules – ask someone. Don’t assume since you have no idea what you are doing gives you cart-blanche to take off on every wave. I encourage you to take at least 1 surf lesson so you know the ins and outs of surfing and how you can be a safer and happier surfer.

2. Who has the Right of Way?

a. The surfer closest to the peak gets priority.

b. The Furthest Out Gets Priority. Sometimes longboarders take advantage of this and can hog all the waves. Be respectful and leave some waves to shortboarders. Learn to share.

4. Don’t Drop In. If someone is already on the wave, do not drop in on them. Be respectful. Wait for your turn.

5. Don’t Snake a Wave. Do not paddle around other surfers to try and catch their waves. This also means if you had already caught a wave and are paddling back out just as a wave is coming your way and someone is already trying to paddling into it, it’s their wave – not yours. You must share.

6. Always look at what is in front of you BEFORE you drop into a wave. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen a surfer eye the approaching wave and never looking in front of where they are going to go. People get run over all the time by this irresponsible action. If you see a wave approaching you that you wish to catch, always, always look in front of where you are going to make sure you don’t drop on top of another surfer. Be aware of your surroundings. It’s better to not take the wave than to harm someone.

7. Don’t Get in the Way of another Surfer’s Ride. This is tricky if you are paddling out as a set is coming towards you. Keep your eyes on the surfer riding the wave. Watch if they are going left or right and you should always paddling in the opposite direction. Allow them to enjoy their ride. If you’re not sure which way the surfer on the wave is going to go, just hold your ground. Sometimes it’s best to stay still than to second guess which way they will go. And if you were clearly in their way and they had to bale off the wave than to run you over, you should definitely apologize.

A loose surfboard in the waves8. Do Not Throw or Let Go of Your Board. If you kick out or fall, try to control your board. Surfboards can actually kill someone if they hit critical regions of the human body. With that said, you do not want to be paddling out into the lineup right behind another surfer. They may not hold onto their board if a wave hits him and then it hits you. Always keep a safe distance from another surfer when you are paddling out.

a. Always Use a Surfboard Leash From time to time there are surfers that do not use a leash. Unless they are able to hold onto their board 100% of the time, they really have no business to not use a leash. I’ve had to scramble a number of times avoiding a loose board in the white water. For your own safety, if someone wipes out in front of you, try and paddle to either side to get away from a board that may or may not be leashed to the owner.

9. Communicate Which Way You are Taking the Wave. In case two surfers are sitting in the middle of the peak and both are in the proper position to ride it, tell each other if you’re going right or left. That way you can both ride the wave. You can always ask which way they plan to go so you can decide if you both can ride it.

10. Always Protect Your Head. What is meant by this is if you are about to wipe out, do NOT dive head first into the water. Hitting your head on the sand or the ocean floor can injure or kill you. And if you do fall off your board and are underwater, come up slowly and put your arms over your head to prevent hitting your surfboard with your head.

11. Respect the Beach and the Ocean. Take all your trash with you. If you find some trash, pick it up. It’s good karma.

12. Give Respect to Gain Respect. If you are new to a surf break, be respectful to the locals. Interact with them in a civilized way. It never hurts to smile and ask how their surf session has been. Give them more waves than you take so next time, they are more eager to share with you.

13. Never Paddle in. Pro surfer Shaun Tomson had created the Surfer’s Code. I like this one because your goal in surfing is to always ride a wave in. Don’t chicken out and paddle in. Even if it means riding the white water in.