As a sport, surfing stands alone with respect to the importance of etiquette. Sure, other sports like golf may have their own strict rules of etiquette, but in surfing, adhering to proper etiquette is absolutely essential in maintaining order, and most importantly, safety.
Surfing has experienced massive growth in popularity for over four decades. But guess what? The number of good surfing waves has remained the same since, well, a really long time ago. The fact that surfing revolves around a limited resource (good surfing waves) means that as lineups continue to experience overcrowding, it’s never been more critical to follow the guidelines of surfing etiquette.
Paddling out to a crowded surf spot unaware of your responsibility as a surfer is dangerous to yourself and those around you, and can quickly result in a precarious situation. Learn the rules, and follow them. If you don’t, you’ll inevitably learn them the hard way.
The Ten Universal Commandments of Surfing Etiquette
- Respect the ocean and other surfers.
- Choose a surf spot that matches your ability. If you’re unsure, play it safe.
- Look out for other surfers’ safety, and always lend help in the event of an emergency.
- Don’t drop in on another surfer. The first surfer on the wave always has priority.
- When paddling out, avoid getting in the way of other surfers. If a surfer is on a wave, paddle towards the whitewater to avoid a collision.
- Hold on to your board at all costs. A loose board barreling through the lineup can be extremely dangerous.
- Take turns and respect social hierarchy, especially if you’re new to a spot or you’re traveling. Remember, if you’re riding a longboard, it’s much easier for you to catch waves than it is for the shortboarders, so be generous.
- Always be conscious of crowds. If you’re surfing a beach break, make an effort to choose a peak that is less crowded. Also, don’t show up to a crowded break with more than one other surfer.
- Don’t be afraid to apologize; mistakes do happen. If you drop in on someone or get tangled up in the whitewash, a quick apology can go a long way. Breaking the silence can help ease tension in the lineup
- Enjoy yourself and stay positive. Don’t forget that this is surfing – it’s supposed to be fun.
The Guiding Principle
While all of the aforementioned rules are crucial, the one principle that underlies all of surfing etiquette is respect, both for fellow surfers and the environment around you. Keep in mind that you’re pretty lucky to be enjoying the beach in the first place, and that other surfers have been doing the same for generations before you. Set a good example for other beachgoers by always packing your trash and obeying the rules of the beach. Spread stoke, have fun, and keep surfing.