There is more to surfing than simply catching a wave and standing up. Surfers have a universal idea about the rules that come with catching a wave – this is called surf etiquette. These ‘rules’ are not so much rules as they are guidelines to keep everyone in the water happy and safe. Here is a list of basic do’s and don’ts in surfing.
Right of Way
The surfer closest to the highest point of the wave (the peak) has the right of way on the wave. This means that if you are catching a wave on the right-hand side of its peak and a surfer to the left of you intends to catch the same wave, this surfer has priority and you must get out of their way.
Don't Drop In
To drop in on a surfer means to disrupt their path on the wave, by taking off on the same wave in front of them. Dropping in on someone is extremely annoying and not to mention dangerous.
To snake someone on a wave means a surfer paddles around another surfer in order position himself to get the right of way for a wave. Whilst this does not put anyone in any immediate danger, it is incredibly frustrating. When surfing there is something called a line-up. This is basically a line for catching waves, and snaking someone means you cut in, something that is not accepted by surfers, and will cost you a great deal of respect.
Do Not Throw Your Board
Ditching your board before diving under a wave can be very dangerous, especially if it is crowded. Try to maintain control of and in contact with your board at all times, surfboards are large and heavy and ditching it before you dive under a big wave will eventually lead to someone getting hit in the head. This rule is especially difficult for beginners but building these habits early on will make it much easier in the future.
Communicate What Will You Do
A quick yell, “yep!” or “I’m going left/right!” will allow for other surfers to have sufficient time to get out of your way or decide if they want to catch the wave in the opposite direction. It is important that your communication remains positive so that you do not lose the respect of other surfers in the water.
Give Respect to Gain Respect
Respect is large in the surfing community, and you have to earn it. By following some simple surf etiquette, you will earn the respect of surfers in the line-up and this will make both your surf and their surf safer and more enjoyable.
Remember: The best surfer out there is the one having most fun!
Photo: Guy Kawasaki