Surf Etiquette

Whether you are new to surfing or a seasoned surfer, line-ups can sometimes be a daunting place. The image of surfers being of relaxed, chilled-out nature, simply isn’t always true.
It might be rare and specific to certain destinations, but localism and passive aggression is happening in surf spots around the world.
To an outsider, the line-up might seem like a group of people randomly floating around just off the shore, but surfers know it’s (or it should be) a type of organised chaos.

While it might make you nervous to enter the water in a busy line-up, there are certainly ways to avoid bad vibes in the water. When learning to surf, you should make yourself familiar with the ‘surf etiquette’. A few simple rules that will keep everyone not only happy but most of all safe. Follow them and you’re sure to get only smiles and cheers from fellow surfers.

Here are the main surfing rules


  1. Paddling out to the line-up

    Let’s start with the paddle out. This of course might depend a little on the type of break you are surfing (beach, reef, …) but you’d want to look for an easy and quick way of getting out the back without getting in the way of people on the waves. Look for the rip or area where waves aren’t breaking, then remember to paddle wide around the breaking waves to give plenty of space for those surfing the waves.
    If it happens that you and a surfer on a wave are heading towards each other, then you should aim for the white water to avoid collisions. If you get caught inside (where the waves are breaking), you should stay in the white water.


  1. Position in the line-up and take off

    This is where confidence will help you get more waves. You could see positioning as a conveyor belt where you can catch a wave one-by-one by waiting for your turn, first come first surf, that is if the waves always break in the same place…
    Unfortunately, depending on the type of break, it won’t always work this way. Most beach breaks will have several peaks. So, there are a few important things to remember to work out who has right of way to a wave.
    These are some of the most important things to remember to avoid agitation in busy line-ups.

    You have right of way if you are:

  2. Furthest out: you will be able to paddle and catch the wave before anyone else does.
  3. Closest to the peak: you have the right to the wave if you paddle into the wave closest to the peak (where it starts breaking)


Remember to COMMUNICATE, if the peak can be surfed left or right, call out which way you want to go, so someone else can catch the wave to surf the other way.


  1. Don’t drop in

    If you haven’t got right of way to the wave, don’t catch it. If someone catches it further out or closer to the peak and you decide to paddle into the wave, then you are dropping in. Not only are you spoiling someone else’s ride, this can cause dangerous situations and collisions. It’s not always clear if someone will catch a wave (always paddle hard for a wave so you make it obvious you want to catch it) or it might happen that you just didn’t see the other surfer (hoods in winter…). If that’s the case, you should safely exit the wave so the surfer with right of way can carry on. Don’t just jump off as the board might hit the other surfer. Always acknowledge your mistake, say sorry or wave as an apology. This simple gesture goes a long way.


  1. Be aware of others around you

    Whether you are paddling out or on a wave, be aware of other surfers around you.
    That big set might freak you out, but do not simply let go of your board or jump off where it might hit someone close to you. Look over your shoulder when paddling out so you are aware of others near you. Surf waves within your ability so you can safely head out and ride the waves without endangering yourself or others. Look out for fellow surfers who might need assistance, accidents can happen to anyone.


  1. Be friendly

    We all have our surfing personalities; some like to float around chatting for hours,
    others like the peace, quiet and solitude when surfing. Whatever you prefer, it helps to acknowledge people around you, even if it is only with a smile, creating a friendly atmosphere.