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Surfing etiquette

From EverybodyWiki Bios & Wiki

Surfing etiquette
EquipmentSurfboard, leash, wetsuit, Surfboard fin
Country or regionWorldwide

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Surfing requires strong paddling and swimming skills, in addition to handling a surfboard. Surfers also learn how to catch different types of ocean waves. Surfing is a fun, challenging and at times, can be a dangerous sport. There are certain unwritten codes of conduct, or surfing etiquette, that must be learned and applied on land, and in the water. While having fun surfing, it is important to keep surfers and swimmers safe.

Surfing etiquette is mostly about being respectful to other surfers in the water and following certain rules to keep people safe.[1] With the growing popularity in surfing around the world, it's important that beginners to advanced surfers keep respectful and safe by following these basic surfing etiquette rules.

All surfers should know and follow the "do's and don'ts" of surfing etiquette.

File:Beach flag and hazard signs for surfers and swimmers.jpg
Beach flags for surfers and swimmers

Observe lifeguard flags on the beach[edit]

Beach lifeguards set up specific flags to identify designated areas for swimming, body surfing and surfing. [2] Before entering the water, surfers should pay attention to flag placement on the beach and know what different beach flags mean in their area. These beach flags identify where to surf and not surf. [2] In the U.S., lifeguards will place a black ball flag (yellow flag with a centered black ball) to indicate that surfing is prohibited in a designated area.[2] A checkered flag, or quartered flag identifies where surfing and non-powered watercraft are allowed in specified areas.[2]

Certain colored flags and hazard signs also identify different weather conditions, beach hazards (sting rays, sharks, riptides or debris) or beach closures.[2] It is important for surfers, swimmers and body surfers to familiarize themselves with different beach flags and hazard signs.

File:Surf board control.jpg
Surfers must be able to control their board

Surfers must know their surf level capability and use the right equipment[edit]

Surf experience and capability[edit]

A surfer should surf at specific surf breaks that are within their swimming and surfing capability.[1] [3] Many surf breaks are identified for beginner, intermediate, advanced to expert surfers. If individuals are unfamiliar with certain surf spots, it is important to watch the waves and incoming swell pattern for 10-15 minutes before entering the water.[1] This will allow surfers to assess the tide, water conditions and surf zone, and most importantly, if they can or cannot handle different surf breaks.[4]

It is extremely important to match one's surf ability to the surf location and conditions.[1] Learning to surf takes time and dedication to understand different wave and water conditions, how to handle a surfboard, how to pop up and catch a wave. [4] Watching other experienced surfers is recommended to become a successful surfer. Beginner surfers can ask experienced surfers questions to improve their techniques. And be respectful to experienced surfers.[5][6]

Surfboards come in all shapes and sizes, fins, and with or without leashes

Surf equipment[edit]

Surfboards come in all shapes and sizes. Boards can be long or short, heavy or light, and made from foam, epoxy or fiberglass material. Surfers may wear, or not wear surfboard leashes. And most surfboards have sharp fins. Many surf injuries are caused by a surfboard impacting a surfer, or a swimmer. [1] Surf with a surfboard applicable to one's capability and expertise.[1]

Surfer enjoying the day

Equipment control[edit]

Every surfer is responsible for being in control of their surfboard. [1][5] Surfers should not “ditch”, or throw a board aside when a large green wave rolls overhead, or if they are caught in the foamy whitewater.[5][6] Injuries can occur when a surfer falls off their board and then pushes the board away, or a wave catches the board tossing it into the air, or towards other surfers.[3]

Actions happen very quickly in surfing, which require fast thinking and surfboard control.[1] In the surf zone, all surfers need to be aware of other surfers and their capability of surfing, as well as their surf skills.[1][6] Surfers are responsible for controlling and keeping contact with their board to avoid hitting other surfers, or swimmers.[1][5]

File:Keep a safe distance when surfing.jpg
Keep a safe distance when surfing

When paddling out keep clear of other surfers[edit]

It is important to be cautious paddling out to surf.[7] In the surf zone, surfers may “line up” or congregate near the main wave break. Surfers should not paddle out through, or paddle in front of the surfing line up as they are trying to paddle out to the surf zone.[1] [5] Any surfer that turns around to catch a wave now has to dodge and avoid an inexperienced person trying to paddle out.

Surfers should paddle out where surfers are not catching waves, or in a channel north or south of the surfer line up that is situated outside of the main surf zone.[1][6] Each surfer is responsible for their actions, surfboard control and surf riding capability.

File:Right-of-way for surfing.jpg
Right-of-way rule for surfing

Right-of-way to surf a wave[edit]

Closest to the peak[edit]

Just as there are specific rules for traveling in driving or biking lanes, there is an unwritten but well know right-of-way rule in surfing. The surfer closest to the wave peak or curl has the right-of-way to catch the wave. [1][5][6] If a surfer catches the inside corner or shoulder of a wave peak, surfers are not suppose to cut in front of this surfer to glide down the wave.[1] This situation is called hacking. Be courteous, and wait for another wave.

No late take-offs or drop ins[edit]

An individual should not try to complete a late take-off, or drop in on a wave that is already being ridden by another person. The first surfer on this swell has priority riding the wave.[6] This first surfer may turn, or cut back into the swell and then collide with the second surfer's board. Each surfer should look quickly left or right before popping up to take a wave, and if another surfer is already riding the wave, stop paddling and quickly back out.[3][6] Be courteous, and wait for the next wave.

No snaking or paddling around surfers[edit]

Surfers should not paddle around other surfers trying to catch a wave. Some surfers will paddle around and when a wave rolls in, try to quickly paddle in front of a waiting surfer, then cut them off by paddling in front and attempt to sneak in to catch the wave.[5] This position is called snaking, and can start fights in the water, or on land. [5] Wait your turn for the next wave.

Do not be a bully[edit]

Pushing a surfer off their board, calling people names and being aggressive toward other surfers just to ride a wave is not acceptable. Some surfers can create a localized “agro”, or unfriendly environment assuming they control a certain surf break, and may show hostility to beginner or unknown surfers. This attitude is a form of local aggression, or "localism".[8] There are many stories of fights in the water, on the beach or in the parking lot due to individuals claiming their own surf territory. Public beaches and the open ocean are open to anyone interested in learning to surf.

File:Paddling out to surf.jpg
Paddling out to surf

Paddle behind surfers on a wave[edit]

If an individual paddles out beyond the white water and sees a surfer catch a wave, it's important to watch which direction the surfer is traveling on the wave (left or right), and paddle behind them.[1] A person paddling out to surf is required to yield to the other surfer and paddle out of the way. If caught further inside and closer to the beach, then aim your surfboard towards the whitewater and the opposite direction the surfer is traveling.[1][6]

Surfers paddle around looking for the best position in shifting wave peaks and uncrowded surf spots. When paddling around looking for an ideal wave peak, surfers should paddle further out in deeper water or above the surf line up.[3] This action will help paddlers avoid getting in the way, and possibly messing up another surfer's take off.


When paddling out, surfers should be respectful, friendly and courteous.[3][4] All surfers started out as a beginner. It takes many days and years learning to surf. Every surfer should follow the surfing etiquette rules to keep safe and others safe too.[1]

Apologize if you accidentally drop in, get in the way, lose control of a surfboard, snake or hack another surfer. Mistakes are made, so it is important to accept or give an apology, then forgive and forget the situation.[1][6]

Don't be a wave hog. Share the surf, and enjoy this time in the water.[6]

Surfers should respect the beach, respect the ocean, follow the lifeguard rules, and clean up trash.[1][5] Enjoying the beach and keeping it clean is everyone's responsibility. And have fun surfing.


  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 1.12 1.13 1.14 1.15 1.16 1.17 1.18 "The Golden Rules of Surf Etiquette". 2021. Retrieved 7 February 2021. Unknown parameter |url-status= ignored (help)
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 "The complete list of beach flags and warning signs". 2021. Retrieved 4 February 2021. Unknown parameter |url-status= ignored (help)
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 "Surfing Etiquette: The Basic Rules of Surfing". 2019. Retrieved 18 February 2021. Unknown parameter |url-status= ignored (help)
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 "Surf Etiquette". 2021. Retrieved 7 February 2021. Unknown parameter |url-status= ignored (help)
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 5.6 5.7 5.8 "The Basic Rules of Surf Etiquette". 2021. Retrieved 7 February 2021. Unknown parameter |url-status= ignored (help)
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 6.5 6.6 6.7 6.8 6.9 "Surfing Etiquette". 2021. Retrieved 7 February 2021. Unknown parameter |url-status= ignored (help)
  7. Warshaw, Matt (2003). The Encyclopedia of Surfing. Orlando: Harcourt. p. 444. ISBN 978-0151-00579-6. Search this book on
  8. Warshaw, Matt (2003). The Encyclopedia of Surfing. Orlando: Harcourt. p. 340. ISBN 978-0151-00579-6. Search this book on

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