Before going out to catch some waves for the first time, it is important to understand some very basic etiquette to make sure you stay safe, and don’t make other surfers angry. There’s no real rules, but there are a set of unwritten rules that are good to understand. We’re going to make it super basic here, since most things are best learned on the job.
1. Know your skill level
- Before heading out to the water, it is best to know your level of skill before getting caught in a situation you shouldn't be in. If you are a brand new beginner, it’s probably best you stay away from a storm break that is bringing in 8ft waves. You obviously want to push yourself to get better and grow as a surfer, but trying to surf in conditions you have no business being in, can put not only you in danger, but also the others around you. In summary, just be realistic with your abilities.
2. Finding a spot to paddle out to
- Before deciding where you are going to paddle out to, you are going to want to scan the water to find a spot that isn’t too crowded, but is still getting a break. As a beginner, keeping a distance from other surfers can give you a good buffer while you’re learning.
- In most cases, if the waves are good, it’s probably going to be near impossible to find an open spot with no surfers and a good break. In that case, finding the least congested area will be your best bet.
3. Paddling out to your spot
- Now that you're ready to paddle out to your spot, your biggest objective will be to avoid or stay out of the way of any surfers riding in. This means that if you see a surfer pop up on a wave, and head towards you, make sure you are going to be in front or behind the rider by the time they get to you. The worst thing you could do is collide with a surfer that is riding a wave, while you’re trying to paddle out. Not only will you be at fault for the collision and probably hear an earful, but you’re also probably going to be hit with the brunt of the collision. This should be pretty self explanatory.
4. Who gets the wave?
Out of all of the etiquette rules to follow in this post, this one may be the most useful out on the water. When you’re paddling out to your spot, waiting for the perfect wave, and you finally see it come, it is important to understand who has the right of way. The surfer with the right to the wave is the surfer closest to the break (white water). If there is a surfer that is in the same lineup as you, and the wave breaks closer to them, you’ll need to pull back and let them have it.
In the case that the rider closest to the break pulls back, or misses it, the surfer next in line gets the right to that wave. This continues all the way down the line until someone claims the wave. Below is a diagram to help show how this works
5. The Golden Rule: Treat other surfers how you want to be treated
- This one may seem obvious, but is really the root of all surf etiquette. When in doubt, think about how you would want another surfer to act around you, and it should be easy to decide what to do. For example, if it is your wave, and another surfer takes/snakes it from you, you’re probably not going to be very happy.
- Everyone is out in the water to have fun and catch some waves, so if you do something by accident or really mess up, just apologize and tell them you’re new. If they’re mean about it, then you should probably just get out and give up on surfing. Just kidding, don’t do that.