Surfing Etiquette

surfing etiquette

One of the allurements of surfing is that it is a sport with no rules. Generally, surfers and stand up paddle boarders are merely trying to catch and ride waves, and have some fun. But when this fun gets in the way of others trying to have fun on the break, clashes, and even accidents can occur.

The chances of an injury increases even more when newbies come to surf or paddle board with minimal or no training, not to mention proper training or instruction on surfing etiquette. This is why surfers realized that rules were required – a “rules of the road” if you will – which would help maintain order in the lineup, avoid accidents, and reduce quarrels.

Surfing etiquette is considered an essential thing to learn before you even think to paddle out. The ocean is a hazardous place and combined with hard, fiberglass boards moving through the water at a rapid pace, it could become deadly. In 2016 alone there were 82 surfing related deaths! While you won’t find these surfing etiquette rules posted anywhere along the beach, they provide an unspoken code of conduct for all those who venture out to the break.

Surfing 101: Etiquette

Choose the Right Break

This should be very clear-cut. If you’re a beginner, learn to surf or SUP on the uncrowded breaks (which might be, surprisingly, more intense). Surfing an uncrowded break allows you to hone you skills without the risk of running into anyone else.

The Right of Way

The general guideline is the surfer highest on the wave and nearest to the peak has the right of way. While uncommon, if both surfers are side-by-side at the peak, then the person to their feet first has the right of way. This typically results in an A-Frame break allowing one surfer to go right while the other goes left.

Never “Drop-In”

A “drop-in” occurs when a surfer or paddle boarder is already surfing a wave and another surfer takes off in front of him or her. This is a cardinal sin and is highly disrespectful. Surfers don’t like this.

surfing and paddling

Paddling Rules

Paddling is an extremely important part of surfing, what people often overlook. When you paddle out to the lineup, be sure you don’t paddle straight through the waves where other people are surfing. Make certain that you paddle out where the people are not surfing around and waves are not breaking. Often this seems difficult, particularly on wide beach breaks, but you don’t want to be run over by other surfers. Hint: Look for a channel where waves are smaller making it easier to paddle out.

Do NOT Snake

‘Snaking’ is when a surfer paddles around, under, or over the top of another surfer to get position on a wave. It is also called ruining, burning, cutting off, or fading. You cannot cut the line up, you should wait your turn.

Respect the Locals

Take into account that the locals surf the spot daily. Give them respect and behave well when going to a spot, keep things friendly, gain some respect yourself.

Don’t Litter

This isn’t a surf/paddle board rule, per se, but one that all surfers follow. When coming/going to the break, help keep the beach clean and dispose of your trash. We all love clean and beautiful beaches, this begins with you. Love the environment.


There you have it. Surfing etiquette and the rules you need to remember. Follow these and help make the break a safer place!

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