6 Essential Surf Etiquette Rules

Two surfers in the sea

Being a new surfer in the water can feel slightly daunting when you first make it out the back. However, once you familiarise yourself with the rules of the ocean, any anxiety will soon disappear.

Here at Wetsuit Centre, we've picked out the most significant tips on etiquette which, once you know them, will enhance your surf experience even more. For more advice on general beach safety, take a look at our guide!

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Know Your Right of Way

Right of way is probably one of the most important things to know when in the water as it will shape how you come across as a surfer to others. If you took someone’s wave when it was their right of way, it could cause much angst.

There are three principal rights of way which are as follows:

  • The surfer positioned nearest the peak holds priority of the wave. The peak is the first part of the wave that breaks so if you are trying to get a left-hand wave, and another surfer is to the right of you (and closer to the peak) then the wave belongs to them. 
  • The surfer furthest out in the line-up also hold priority of the wave. Those who have also been waiting for the longest in the line-up also have priority of the wave. As longboarders are usually the furthest out to sea, they often have the right of way, but it is advised that as a longboarder, you should let some shortboarders have waves as it can be unfair otherwise. 
  • The surfer who stands up first also holds priority over a wave.

If you find yourself in any of these circumstances and don’t have priority, you should pull off the wave and enable the surfer with priority to have it without any obstruction.

A surfer catching a wave

Dropping In Isn’t Cool

Dropping in on someone’s wave basically refers to if you ignore the above guidelines and you catch the wave regardless of not having priority.

Waves ideally are one surfer on a wave without interference (unless you party wave with your friends, of course). Unless spaced far apart two or more surfers on a wave riding the same direction is not welcomed.

First, dropping in is disrespectful. Secondly, dropping in is dangerous. It can cause injuries as well as damage surfboards which will no doubt result in aggression.

Don’t Be a Snake

Paddling around other surfers in the line-up to get to the peak of the wave when someone else is in the right position is referred to as snaking.

Snaking is also a massive no-no and can cause surfers to feel quite annoyed if it happens frequently.

In these scenarios, you have to be patient and wait for your turn.

Lots of surfers in the sea with wave breaking

Keep Hold of Your Board

Integral for everyone’s safety, you must keep hold of your surfboard at all times. If a big set is coming, you cannot just panic and chuck your board to dive under a wave. Your surfboard is free to hit any surrounding surfers and can cause major head injuries.

You should always put your leash on and either learn to duck dive or turtle roll your board over a wave. Letting go of it is unacceptable.

This also applies to when you finish a wave by accidentally falling off or wiping out. Try and grab it as best as you can to ensure surrounding people aren’t hit.

Try Not to Obstruct a Surfer on a Wave

When in the water, you want to try as little as possible to obstruct other surfers who are riding waves. If you are paddling out and a surfer is catching a wave in your direction, try not to stop but paddle wide.

In some circumstances, you might have to embrace the white water to avoid ruining someone’s wave.

Think of it as though they would do the same for you to have a good time, so you should act the same.

Two surfers stood on beach looking at the surf

Act Respectfully

Sometimes, even in the case of an accident, an apology is needed. If you have accidentally obstructed someone, just acknowledge them and say sorry when you get the opportunity. Manners can go a long way and clear the air in uncertain circumstances.

The sea can be a dangerous place, and it is essential to keep an eye on one another and check for each other’s safety.

Look After the Environment

One which is a priority for every surfer is to keep an eye on the environment. We all love the coast, and it is integral we look after it properly so we can visit without causing any unnecessary damage.

Picking up your rubbish should be the forefront of any surfers mind. For more information on how to keep the beach clean, take a look at our top tips.

What enhances your surfing experience? Why not let us know on our social media channels? We would love to hear from you!

Wetsuit Centre has a vast range of surf products and accessories to meet all your surfer needs; you can even buy wetsuits online on our website!