Most sports have lists of both “official” and “unofficial” rules. In skiing, for example, you should always yield to the person on the higher portion of an intersection. The rule is rarely put in writing, but most people who practice the sport know to do it. Surfing is similar and understanding surfing etiquette is one of the best ways to learn the sport and make some friends along the way. Without these rules, the sport would see more injuries, fewer participants, and a decrease in the iconic “laid back” attitude.
So, without further ado, here are the rules of the waves.
- Don’t drop in on other surfers. If you’re paddling for a wave on the right and another is paddling in on the left, you should yield to that surfer. Whoever is closest to the break of the wave should get the ride. You should only ever drop in on someone if you are sure that they have fallen or if you are certain they will not make the section between you.
- The paddling surfer yields to the riding surfer. If you’re are initially paddling out from the beach, don’t aim straight into the heart of the lineup. If you do this, you risk the chance of being in someone’s way. Instead, paddling out through a channel to the outside. When you’re ready, paddle parallel to the beach toward the lineup.
- Never ditch your board. If you’re ready to paddle out in a lineup, you must be able to control your surfboard at all times. If you plan to ditch your board whenever a big wave comes through, you could end up injuring yourself or someone else. This equipment is large and heavy, and the fins are sharp. Don’t rely on your leash (cords frequently break); instead, learn to duck, dive, or turtle roll if you want to avoid certain waves.
- Don’t steal someone else’s wave. The term for this is “snake.” When another surfer “snakes” you, they intentionally paddle around in order to gain right-of-way on a breaking wave you are paddling toward. Don’t do it. Wait your turn.