Surfing is a challenging sport to perfect. Regardless, it is easier to understand the technicalities of the sport through a set of written and unwritten rules. The code of surfing, or what most people refer to as surfing etiquette are designed to keep both beginners and pro surfers safe and happy before they get started.
These are rules apply to surfers around the world and we here at World Surfers encourage you to learn them to make your time in the water much more fun!
The Surfing Etiquette for Beginners
Surfing etiquette is not what it used to be from the beginning. Several developments have been made over the years, and the bar set higher. Today, the rules and regulations that must be followed before you step your foot on the beach help avoid collision and get everyone a fair share of the big wave. How you follow the etiquette says a lot about you. This post will enlighten you on the rules beginners need to learn. Although unwritten regulations are easy to forget or break, the following rules are easy to follow, and they do not in any way limit the fun.
1. Understand Your Abilities
Safety is vital when partaking in any extreme sport where accidents are the order of the day. This is why it is crucial to analyse your abilities and accept them. This suggests that if you are a beginner, you should avoid paddling out to advanced waves; it doesn’t matter whether that’s a shallow reef break or any break on an overhead day.
Surfing breaks within your ability will help you learn and progress accordingly. As a result, beginners should consider registering with a surf camp where they will learn about the breaks that reflect their abilities. From the camps, you will also learn that it is important first to observe the waves for 10-15 minutes when you arrive at the beach. Take this time to identify the right surf spot. If the spot had great waves yesterday, it doesn’t mean that the same spot will be right for you today.
2. Select Your Gear According to Your Skill Level
It is common to see beginner surfers on high-performance shortboard on their first day at the pacific. As cool as these boards will make you look, they are the hardest to learn to surf on. Disregarding this etiquette makes your learning curve much steeper. Surfing with the wrong gear not only poses a risk to you but to those people surfing with you.
You must start your surfing with soft-top surfboards. The technology behind soft-top surfboards has come a long way to ensure durability and performance. They are specifically meant for beginners and are quite affordable than high-performance shortboards.
Soft-top surfboards are extremely buoyant and relatively harmless. They have a soft layer that contains foam and plastic fins that cannot cut the surfer in case of an accident. It is an excellent surfing habit to start with the right gear and improve with time. Progress with a surfboard tailored to your needs.
3. Be Careful When Paddling
If you have ever surfed in the beaches of South Coast, Australia during holidays, then you will understand that the water can be crowded. Before you start paddling out at a crowded lineup, you need to understand that the paddler yields to the riding surfer. As a result, it is your responsibility to yield to a surfer riding down the line of a wave if you constantly collide with the surfer. Not yielding might help you get back into your position quicker, but you will also be getting in the way of other suffers on the wave. For courtesy, your safety and that of others, always paddle wide of the surfers. Get back to the lineup if you can. If you find it hard to paddle wide, consider moving to the white water of the wave and not the easier option of the shoulder of the wave.
4. Understand Priority
You should always understand your priority at every surf break. To stay safe and become better at the sport, you need to note that the surfer closest to the peak of the wave has priority over the one on the shoulder of the wave or farther from the peak. If you understand priority, you will surf peacefully even in a crowded lineup.
You also need to note that the surfer closest to the curl, the breaking part of the peak of the wave deserves the way and has priority over others in the lineup. The surfer who is away from the shore also has priority over those paddling or sitting on the inside. Stand up paddle surfers often break this rule.
5. Don’t Drop in On Other Surfers
As obvious as this etiquette may sound, some surfers unknowingly break it. This happens when you ride down the line then another surfer suddenly appears on the wave. This is a dangerous move and a reason why conflicts happen in the surf world. Other surfers also immediately paddle outside past everyone to get the first wave. In the surfing world, this act is referred to as ‘snaking.’ It is thus considered rude.
Thankfully, you can avoid this mistake. Start by understanding priority. Put simply, you should not try to paddle for a wave when there is someone else in the wave. Most of these collisions happen because you didn’t see anyone near you paddling for the same wave. Nevertheless, awareness is key; look to your left and right and be certain that no other surfer is riding down the line. You can also wait for a few waves to break then jump in when the lineup is shuffled around.
6. Get Hold of Your Equipment
Sometimes the wildlife, other surfs and the seafloor causes injuries during surfing. Other than that, most surf injuries are caused by surfboards. Although the latest boards in the market have a soft layer, they are still rock solid with sharp fins. Hence, they can do great damage if they are not kept close to the surfer.
You need to be responsible with your board to avoid injury to yourself and other surfers. Unless you are surfing 20’ waves, you should never let go of your surfing board. Consider using a bodyboard leash or keep your board with you when you paddle or after a wipe-out. This is a surf etiquette that can save your life.
7. Analyse the Break
Beginners generally skip this crucial step when they get on the beach. Before you start a new break, take some time to watch the waves. Analyse their breaking point, their channels and the state of the rip tide/current. If you are new at this, you can ask another surfer about the spot you intend on taking. A good sportsman will tell you where the peaks are and the best place to paddle out. If you wish to be a guest on the different beaches in America, there are quite several camps you can join and learn important lessons about the local break.
8. Respect the Ocean and The Beach
When you walk onto any Hawaii beach or any other beach for that matter, you will always see warning boards. They caution beach users to respect the beach and the ocean. For instance, you will be warned against leaving garbage in the sand or water. It is a general etiquette to give back to Mother Nature, and the same applies when going for a surf. Once you are done with your surf session, pick up all the plastic bags and bottle you used. Most surfers who surf from islands tend to disregard this etiquette since most islands are not managed. It’s a good habit to take this surf etiquette wherever you go.
9. Stay Safe in The Shallows
If you have never surfed in the green waves or think the day is too big for your skills, don’t be embarrassed to stay in the shallows. If it is your first-time surfing, your trainers will advise you to consider the white water first since it offers far more consistent breaking. You will also notice that shallow waters are easier to catch and offer the best wave to learn the pop-up. You should, therefore, practice and fine-tune your stance before you get into the deep waters.
It can be challenging to spot the best shallow spot to start , especially if you are new to the beach. The rule of the thumb states that a shallow spot is where you can touch the ground and stand-up comfortably when surfing. You should not paddle or lay on your board since you may end up stuck in the unwanted depth. Standing makes you the anchor and keeps you in a good position.
10. Be Apologetic
A beach is a place where people go to escape the hustle and bustle of their normal life. Therefore, this should be a place to make merry. As a result, if you run over someone, drop in on someone, or break the rules and etiquette of the beach, always apologise. Surfers usually form a community that works towards ensuring that the entire surfing experience is fun and safe. This means that a surfer will warn you of any impending danger or come to your rescue when you need help. Consequently, you should be in good terms with other surfers.
11. Understand the Locals
If you have been to Bondi Beach in Australia, then you know that there are beaches that border residential areas. If you are new to such beaches, you need to learn the way of the locals. They will show you the best shop that features top surfing boards or where you can buy the best wetsuit.
12. Don’t Dive Head First
If you look at surfing videos, you will realize that most injuries suffered by surfers are as a result of hitting the ocean floor. Many people have the misconception that the floor is sandy and therefore not hard enough to cause an injury. When surfing over reef or sand, you should use your surfboard to protect your body from the impact when you fall.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
What Are the Rules For Surfing?
Rules for surfing are generally the written or oral directions given to both new and professional surfers. Most of the rules are a beginners guide that keeps the surfers and people around safe. You will also enjoy your time in the sport if you know you are doing the right thing.
What Is Snaking in Surfing?
Snaking in surfing is taking advantage of a surf situation to jump in the queue over a fellow surfer. Just as the name suggests, this is considered ‘evil’ as it goes against the Don’t-drop-in law of beaches. It is common in crowded lineups where every surfer disregards the surf guide to enjoy a great time in the water.
How Do You Get Priority in Surfing?
You will get priority if you are the surfer who is closest to the curl, the peak or breaking part of a wave. You will also have priority over all other surfers if you are farther outside and away from the shore.
How Can I Be Safe While Surfing?
You can stay safe surfing by adhering to a combination of awareness, proper surfing equipment, and basic fitness. You need to adhere to the rules, guidelines, and etiquette set by the marine authorities. Even though there are no tickets or sign posts in the ocean, you should have the discipline instilled in yourself.
With that in mind, you now understand the dos and don’ts of surfing. It is essential to realize that surfing is more than just a sport; it becomes a part of you once you catch your first wave. To enjoy this sport, you must take the surf lessons into account and stick to the above etiquette.