The surf etiquette – Rules for surfing

If you are just starting out in surfing, you have a lot of other worries at the beginning than caring about the rules of conduct when surfing. Fair enough. At the very beginning this is tolerated by the fellow surfers around you. However, this kind of puppy protection does not last very long in the line-up and you will quickly notice: okay! There seem to be rules out there. These rules, you will soon learn to understand, exist for two reasons:

  1. For your own safety and that of the other surfers
  2. Everyone should have as much fun and waves as possible, so respect these rules.

Oh man! Snore, how bourgeois – you are thinking now. After all, surfing has something rule-free, rebellious about it and now you’re reading about rules here. Let’s put it this way: actually they are not „rules“ but rather logical behaviour – like common sense. But, because unfortunately many simply are not blessed with it – or much worse – weren’t thought any etiquette in their surf courses, we dedicate ourselves to this very important topic today!

The Line-Up is the totality of all surfers in the water at a certain spot, where the waves break and everyone sits on his board, waiting for waves to roll in to surf or try it. For us surfers, however, this magical place of attraction is so much more. Almost indescribable. That’s why all of us surfers, including you and me, are invited to make the line-up a good place, no matter if beginner or pro.

The surf etiquette for surfing are unwritten, internationally known rules. A good surf school or a surf camp will teach you these rules in the surf theory lesson of the course – this is, by the way, a quality feature of a surf camp – so don’t hesitate to ask! The rules are always extended, redefined and rewritten from spot to spot and the local surfers individually. We have tried hard to write down 12 rules so that you can get through and into waves everywhere.

Rule #01 – Arriving at the spot

The surf spots of this world are getting fuller and fuller. That’s nice, as more and more people discover their love for surfing and – in line ups – share it with each other.

When you arrive at a new spot, do not show up with a large troop. Rather two or three of you. The locals in the water have nothing against sharing their wave with 2/3 surfers. But if a large group arrives, the fun will pass quickly.

Take your time to observe the wave and the spot for a while: where is the peak, how do the waves break? Are there sections of the wave? Where is the entrance and a channel? Where do I go out? Does the wave break left or right? And, and, and…That shouldn’t unsettle you and, if much of it sounds Chinese to you, take one step after the other. Start by watching other people going in and out and surfing the spot. It doesn’t make such a good impression if you ask around in the line-up how best to get back to the beach.

Rule #02 – Beach etiquette

Be pretty chill! Be nice to the people around you, do not make on thick pants and don’t yell around being a dork. Feel the vibe and, if it is good, go with it. Don’t leave any garbage or cigarette butts and maybe collect garbage on your way back. After all, we are all just guests here and want to make sure that our beaches are well preserved.

Rule #03 – Reality Check

After looking at the water for a while and watching the waves, go deep inside yourself and check with yourself if you are ready for the current conditions – your board, the currents and the prevailing wave size. You only grow beyond yourself when you leave your surf comfort zone. That’s true. But overestimating yourself or underestimating Mother Nature can fall straight onto your feet and become dangerous – for you and for others.

Rule #04 – Paddling into the line-up

Greetings, greetings and always beautiful greetings – on the way to the line-up past other surfers this often works wonders. Friendly faces are always welcome. When you paddle out, you should know, as described in #01, where there is a channel and where the Impact Zone is – the place where the wave breaks full. Paddle around from the outside into the line-up and not straight in. You want to avoid getting in the way of other surfers surfing. If you’re in the line-up, don’t sit right in the middle of the peak. This only upsets your fellow surfers.

Rule #05 – The Duck Dive and the Turtle Roll

On the way to the line-up you will meet some waves. Rule number 1 is here: keep your board under control. If you can’t duck dive, so if you can’t dive under the wave with your board. Then you should at least master the Turtle Roll/Eskimo Roll. If that still doesn’t work, it’s essential to keep a close eye on your surroundings before releasing your board to dive: is someone behind you or right next to you? Is anyone in front of you? Paddle always to the still unbroken part of the wave. If someone is on the wave and very close, paddle to the broken part / white water.

But be positively aware that if you can’t control your board, you shouldn’t be in the back of the line-up yet – and that’s not bad at all. Better practice a few more days in the white wash. See also rule #03. The Turtle Roll is one of the first basics you learn in your surf course in a good surf camp.

Rule #06 – Arriving in the Line-up

Also here a friendly smile or a greeting breaks the ice and makes a good first impression. A good mood in the line-up makes your good surfing even better. Once you have reached the other surfers in the line-up, keep your distance and don’t sit directly in the take-off zone. It may well be that the Dude next to you has been waiting for the set for 15 minutes. He doesn’t think it’s funny at all. Which brings us to the most important point for rule #06: don’t arrive and take directly the first wave. Oops, that gets you in trouble. Even if you don’t even do it intentionally. Have a look at everything for a few minutes/sets and then feel your way forward.

Rule #07 – Rules of right of way

The most hated and worst punished rule violation is the so-called „drop in“. It causes many fights in the Line-Ups of this world. Drop-in means that you take the wave from a surfer who has priority on the wave and surf in it as well. The right of way is who sits closer to the breaking wave, i.e. at the peak, or who is earlier in the wave. It can get complex at the beginning, especially at a beach break, where the waves break sometimes to the right and sometimes to the left. Being able to read the waves and understand the spot is therefore of great importance – see also rule #01. When learning to surf in a surf camp you will learn this surf theory point. It also requires a lot of practice and time in the water. So on your way into the wave always try to look to the side, if someone is already in the wave or paddles for it.

The little, evil brother of the Drop In and just as frowned upon: paddling in front of the surfer who is actually at the Peak to steal his right of way. Nobody likes such „snakes“!

If you dropped someone in – and that will happen – paddle back and apologize. If you are in the wave and see that someone is behind you, go back over the wave and leave it. Unwanted drop-ins happen quite often! You don’t have to worry about that – it is important to behave correctly when you fall. A soul surfer will probably be happy for your wave and will be happy to share it with you unless it is your standard behavior in the line-up.

Rule #08 – Line-Up etiquette

Frustration is a loyal companion for the surfer. Keep him for yourself and don’t curse or roar around if you don’t get your waves. The most relaxed surfer gets the most waves.

Rule #09 – Wave Selection and Wave Right

Choose your waves wisely and don’t paddle like crazy for every wave that arrives – no matter what the chances are of getting them or (rather) not. Committee you to get a wave. You want the wave, so get it. You sat in the perfect spot but still didn’t get the wave? That happens to all of us. Anyway, the next one is now – so don’t paddle the next wave right away. The same is true for your return to the line-up after you have just surfed a wave: don’t sit directly back in the take-off zone and take the first wave of the set. This move of wave greed makes you enemies very fast.

Rule #10 – Always take one step at a time

That’s basically our point #09. Let others step forward every now and then and join you. Of course this doesn’t apply if the wave has clearly „come to you“ and no other surfer has a chance to catch it.

Rule #11 – Communication is key

Aggressions and fisticuffs in the water lead to nothing and everyone should be under control here. If you see a surfer in the water constantly messing up, dropping in and/or putting other surfers in danger, talk to him/her about it. Unfortunately many surfers don’t know the rules at all and are often glad that someone explains it to them. It’s more relaxed for everyone. The key words are respect and tolerance – for everyone, no matter if shortboard, longboard, bodyboarder, good or bad surfer. Talk to the locals, tell them how beautiful their wave and beach are. You will be surprised how open most of them are to foreign surfers.

Rule #12 – Make waves!

Nothing brings better vibes than sharing waves or giving them to others. Often there are enough waves for everyone. So just give a few waves – although you sit better or can paddle better or have been waiting for a while. Karma will thank you for it!

So that’s what they were – our or THE 12 rules of surfing etiquette for surfing. They all make a lot of sense – don’t they? It’s not difficult to observe them at all and comes with time all by itself.

Especially if you have fun in the water and surfing, most of it is already done. So – Hang Loose!