When you look out to sea at people in the water it might just seem like a bunch of surfers bobbing about waiting for waves. But there is order to that chaos and every new surfer should learn a little about surfing etiquette before taking to the water. Following the rules won’t just keep you safe – it will win you friends too.
Usually beyond the breaking waves or whitewater, this is where everybody waits for the best waves. There is often a pecking order to it, with the more experienced surfers waiting for the biggest waves. New surfers should stay closer to the beach where they will be safer. Do not enter the line up unless you are competent, understand the rules and are not a danger to others.
If you only learn one rule then this is it. The drop in rule means that the person nearest to the breaking part of the wave (the curl) or the person already standing on a wave has priority. You should never paddle for a wave if someone else is already surfing it because it can cause a collision. And that can hurt. If you are in any doubt about this rule then talk to the guys and girls in the water who know – they will explain it to you.
If two people are paddling for the same wave then it is impolite for the person not in a priority position, (furthest from the breaking part of the wave), to turn and cut across the other surfer. This is called snaking. It is considered very rude.
When you paddle out you should stay clear of the surf zone if possible by using a rip or channel. However, if someone is surfing towards you, it is polite to head for the breaking part of the wave (the white water) rather than the shoulder (the part of the wave that is yet to break) – because that is where the person surfing is heading. They should be good enough to surf around you, but you need to make every effort not to ruin their ride.
If you are paddling out and are about to get hit by a big wave do not throw away your board. There may be someone behind you. Hang on to it, even if it means you get a trip in the washing machine! Loose boards can cause nasty injuries.
It takes time to become a good surfer. So please stick to waves that are right for your ability. If you paddle out at beaches that have fast, hollow and potentially dangerous waves then you are putting yourself and others in danger. If you paddle out at breaks that are too advanced for you, seek the advice of other surfers in the water. They will know the break and will be able to guide you in safely. Also, if you are new to surfing, DO NOT surf beaches without lifeguards.
Surfing is fun. And it always should be. Having a good attitude, being friendly and abiding by the rules will get you a long way. Experienced surfers don’t like those with bad manners or who don’t follow the rules. Smile, be polite, apologise if you make a mistake and you’ll soon find your place in the line up.