Surfing Etiquette: The Rules of the Water
With the growing popularity of surfing, the number of new surfers in the water has increased, and unfortunately some surfing etiquette has gotten lost. Etiquette is a term thrown around in surfing all of the time, but what exactly does it mean? In this month’s edition of Surfer’s Ed, I will attempt to clarify that for you. Surfing etiquette can be loosely defined as “proper conduct” while out in the lineup in order to keep everyone in the water safe and happy. Often, surfers get so preoccupied with their own session that other surfers do not cross their mind. However, if you follow a few basic principles, you can make everyone’s surf session more enjoyable.
1) SURF A SPOT THAT IS APPROPRIATE FOR YOUR SKILL LEVEL
This is especially important for beginning surfers. Until you can confidently control your board, while both riding and paddling out, you should NEVER surf in a crowded line-up. If you do, you are putting both yourself and others in harm’s way. Until you reach that level of confidence, you should always seek out an uncrowded stretch of beach.
2) A SURFER UP AND RIDING ALWAYS HAS THE RIGHT OF WAY
It is the paddler’s responsibility to scan the line-up and steer clear of any surfers who are up and riding. It is of utmost importance to give the rider plenty of room. The best scenario for everyone involved is if the paddler can make it wide of the breaking wave. Unfortunately, there will be times when this is not possible, so if the paddler is confronted with a situation where they are unsure whether or not they have time to make it to the shoulder, it is their responsibility to paddle towards the whitewater and execute a duck-dive, thus leaving the surfer plenty of room to maneuver on the face of the wave.
I’ve always remembered something big-wave legend Owl Chapman said in a movie once, “Give a guy a wave. Make a friend. Who knows, maybe he has a hot sister!” Admittedly, this is easier to do in an uncrowded line-up, but do your best to take turns. If there are only a couple other guys in the water, it’s pretty easy to hoot them into a wave.
4) ANGER MANAGEMENT
When paddling out at a very crowded spot (think Trestles or Rincon on a good day), acknowledge the fact that it’s crowded and realize that there are going to be some chaotic, crazy moments. As the crowd gets thicker, any semblance of organization tends to break down and it usually devolves into every man for himself. Competition for waves will be more intense. Don’t allow yourself to get stressed or angry. Make sure you are ready when you get your chance and be prepared to charge.
If you make a mistake, apologize. Learn these basic rules and you will enjoy the waves safely and with respect from other surfers. By following these basic rules, you can enjoy your sessions safely and make the line-up a nicer place for everyone.
See you in the water,