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By out there , 09-05-2011
- Surfing Etiquette
Surfing is a great feeling. The joy of a stoke-filled session - unfettered by work, family and societal pressures - makes surfing appealing and, at times, addictive. But the thirst for great waves needs to be balanced with respect for your fellow surfers.
To put it in perspective, think about how excited you were as a 10-year-old on Christmas morning. Now imagine having to give the majority of your presents away to siblings and even strangers. Just as you don’t always get the biggest or best present under the tree, you don’t always get to ride the best wave of the set –and you definitely have to share.
Surfing etiquette demands that we divide the waves up as equitably as possible. Imagine the chaos if we didn’t! All it takes is patience, charity, and willingness to follow some basic guidelines. Following the surf rules below will help you to avoid accidents and potential confrontations with other waveriders.
The 8 Basic Surf Rules
So…in the spirit of keeping everyone’s surf experience fun and trouble-free, let’s cover the basics of surf protocol.
Rule #1. Have Fun and Be Patient.
This rule provides the foundation for all the others. You’re surfing to have fun. And the best way to enjoy a killer session is to catch lots of waves and surf them any way you want, right? Well, luckily, there are plenty of waves to go around, so take a deep breath and wait your turn. It takes patience and wisdom to know that the wave you are presently looking at is not always the “wave of the day.”
Sounds easy, but sometimes it’s not. At times it takes a conscious effort not to be a wave hog. Let a friend or stranger have the next wave, I promise you the karmic wheel will reward you with plenty of nice swells in return.
Another solid tip is to show tolerance for those who break the rules. Unless yelling and fighting is your goal, let it go. Maintaining your cool goes a long way in preserving a good session. Focus on having a good time and not on the number of waves you catch. I promise you’ll not only catch more waves, but better quality ones as well.
Rule #2: Who Gets the Next Wave?
The person closest to the curl (breaking part of the wave) has the “right of way.” If the wave is breaking right, the surfer to the outside (furthest left), or closest to the curl, is in position to catch the wave. The reverse is true of a left-breaking wave.
Communication is key when catching waves. If it is not easy to tell which way a surfer is going, or which way the wave is breaking, tell the other surfer you are “going left” or “going right.” Stating you are going left signals to the other surfer he is free to proceed right if the wave is breaking both ways. Often a wave will break in both directions; in this case it is good form to split the wave. At point and reef breaks, where small, defined take-off spots are the norm, queuing up is standard protocol.
Three terms to be familiar with are drop-in, cut-off, and snake. You don’t want to do, or be, any of them. A drop-in or cut-off occurs when one surfer drops in to a wave in front of the surfer who is in position. This may occur at the point of take-off or when the positioned surfer is already up and riding. A drop-in usually spoils a surfer’s ride, and can cause bad feelings. A snake occurs when a surfer purposely drops in on your wave, or when the “snake” paddles into position at the last moment before the wave breaks. Snakes are usually aggressive surfers with some skill and are to be avoided whenever possible.
However, it is important to note that most cut-offs are accidental. Our average offender is usually so focused on “their” wave that they are not aware of their surroundings. To avoid cutting someone off, keep your eyes and ears peeled for surfers already in position or “coming down the line” (already up and riding). If a surfer hoots or whistles at you, don’t take offense. They are just letting you know they are on the wave or preparing to take off in your direction.
Rule #3: Choose the Right Spot for Your Skill Level.
Simply put, surf with people close to your skill level and at surf spots that suit your ability. A beginner should not paddle out at a barreling reef spot. Likewise, it is best to find a niche in the lineup that fits your ability. Paddling right to the peak, which is usually occupied by the best surfers, will reduce your wave count and potentially cause friction. Again, the goal is to have fun, and bouncing along a razor-sharp reef after a hyper-competitive battle is not fun.
Rule #4: Respect the Locals.
You want to keep it light and fun, and hassles with locals will certainly sour your session. Some spots are known for intense localism, while others are mellow. The best way to approach the lineup is to hang on the edge of the crowd, with your ears and eyes open, to gauge the crowd’s mood. Once this is established, a good approach is to err on the side of goodwill, and let the locals have contested waves regardless of wave priority. Whether they accept the wave with thanks or entitlement, you are doing the right thing and will put yourself in a better position for the next wave.
Be mindful, locals come in all shapes and sizes, and ride all manner of watercraft. Just because someone is on a boogie board doesn’t mean they don’t deserve respect. All spots have locals, so feel out the situation and adjust accordingly.
Rule #5: Get Out of the Way!
This one is easy to understand and hard to practice. If you are paddling out and a surfer is up and riding, it is your responsibility to avoid a collision. Instead of paddling up the face of the wave and into the path of the oncoming surfer, you should either remain in place, or paddle in the opposite direction to avoid the wave rider. Often this means paddling into the foam ball (white water) and taking the wave directly on your head. In other words, the correct move is to sacrifice yourself for your fellow surfer’s ride. In doing this you avoid the surfer, and you don’t disturb the integrity of the wave face in front of the rider. Your natural inclination will not be to paddle into the exploding part of the wave, but this is where you will most likely make a friend and be safest.
Rule #6: Paddle Around the Take-Off Zone.
Paddle around a defined peak or take-off spot to avoid oncoming surfers. A surfer dropping in to a wave has little room to maneuver around you. At your average beach break, there are often many peaks, so minimize your exposure to other riders by paddling straight out when entering the line-up. Avoid taking a diagonal path out, since it exposes you to more surfers riding waves.
Rule #7: Hold on to Your Equipment.
Surf leashes enable you to spend more time surfing than swimming. However, the leash is best used as a tool of last resort, and not as a means to power through breaking waves. When confronted by a breaking wave, you should try your best to hold on to your board and not let it fly off behind you. You endanger surfers within the length of your leash and risk breaking your leash –putting even more people at risk.
A surfboard has many sharp points, and should be kept under control. If it is difficult for you to control your surfboard, you should choose a less crowded spot until you have mastered the duck dive, or other wave-avoiding techniques.
Rule #8: Share the Wealth.
Finally, relax in the knowledge that there are usually more waves than people. The gift of a good wave to your fellow surfer will pay dividends in establishing and preserving everyone’s stoke. See Rule #1.
By Anonymous , 09-05-2011
- Surfing Etiquette
Surfing Etiquette is the most important thing to learn before you set foot in the surf. These rules are not so much “rules” as they are a proper code of conduct designed to keep everyone in the water safe and happy. People who repeatedly break these rules are often given the stink-eye, a stern talking to, yelled at with obscenities, or just flat out beat up.
Don’t worry, if you accidentally drop in on someone they aren’t going to beat you up. However, there are rules of the road out there and this is the real world. If you’re constantly stealing waves or not being respectful, you’re going to have a run in.
With the growing popularity of surfing, the number of people in the water is on the rise and unfortunately surfing etiquette is gradually eroding away. The ocean is a dangerous place, and without proper thought to safety it can become deadly.
New surfers should memorize these rules, and even veterans should take a refresher course now and then.
Rule #1: Right of Way
The Surfer Closest To The Peak Has The Right Of Way.
The surfer closest to the peak of the wave has the right of way. This means if you’re paddling for a right, and a surfer on your left is also paddling for it, you must yield to him or her. There are a couple variations to this rule:
If someone is up riding a wave, don’t attempt a late takeoff between the curl/whitewater and the surfer. If the surfer who’s riding the wave wants to make a cutback she’ll run right into you.
Just because the whitewater catches up to a surfer riding a wave doesn’t give you permission to take off down the line. Many talented surfers can outrun the section and get back to the face of the wave.
The Surfer Closest To The Peak Has The Right Of Way.A-Frames or Split Peaks: If two surfers are on either side of the peak, they each have the right of way to take off on their respective sides. It’s not generally accepted to take off behind the peak unless there’s nobody on the other side. These surfers should split the peak and go opposite ways.
If a surfer riding a wave gets closed out with an impossible section or wipes out, the next surfer down the line can take off. If you’re a very new beginner I’d hold off on doing this anyway until you have a bit more experience.
If a wave is breaking towards itself (a closeout) and two surfers are taking off at each other, yes both have the right of way but this is a perilous situation and it’s advisable to kick out early to avoid a collision.
The Surfer Closest To The Peak Has The Right Of Way.
Rule #2: Don’t Drop In
This is related to Rule #1. This is probably the most important part of surfing etiquette. Dropping in means that someone with the right of way is either about to take off on a wave or is already riding
The Surfer Closest To The Peak Has The Right Of Way.
a wave, and you also take off on the same wave in front of him or her. This blocks his ride down the line, and is extremely annoying, not to mention dangerous. If you are tempted to drop in remember this: no matter how good the wave is, if you drop in on someone you’ll feel like crap, the other surfer will be pissed, and the wave will be ruined for everyone.
Rule #3: Paddling Rules:
Some common sense surfing etiquette rules that people don’t seem to realize are important. Don’t paddle straight through the heart of the lineup where people are surfing. Paddle out through the channel where the waves aren’t breaking and people aren’t surfing. Sometimes at spread out beach breaks this is hard, but usually there is a less crowded area to paddle through.
The Surfer Closest To The Peak Has The Right Of Way.When paddling back out, do NOT paddle in front of someone riding a wave unless you’re well, well in front of him. You must paddle behind those who are up and riding and take the whitewater hit or duckdive. You’ll appreciate this the next time you’re up on a wave.
Sometimes you’ll just end up in a bad spot and won’t be able to paddle behind a surfer. It’s your responsibility to speed paddle to get over the wave and out of his or her way. If you don’t do this, he or she might just run you over!
Rule #4: Don’t Ditch Your Board
This is important, especially when it gets crowded. Always try to maintain control and contact with your board. Surfboards are large, heavy, and hard. If you let your board go flying around, it is going to eventually clock someone in the head. This means if you’re paddling out and a wall of whitewater is coming, you don’t have permission to just throw your board away and dive under. If you throw your board and there is someone paddling out behind you, there is going to be carnage. This is a hard rule for beginners, but if you manage to avoid picking up the habit of throwing your board you will be a MUCH better surfer.
Rule #5: Don’t Snake
“Snaking” is when a surfer paddles around another surfer in order position himself to get the right of way for a wave. He is effectively making a big “S” around a fellow surfer. While not immediately hazardous to your health, this is incredibly annoying. You can’t cut the lineup. Patiently wait your turn. Wave hogs don’t get respect in the water. Also, being a local doesn’t give you permission to ruthlessly snake visitors who are being polite. If they’re not being polite, well…
Rule #6: Beginners: don’t paddle out to the middle of a packed lineup.
This is kind of open to interpretation, but it still stands: if you’re a beginner you should try to avoid paddling out into the middle of a pack of experienced veterans. Try to go out to a less crowded beginner break. You’ll know you’re in the wrong spot if you get the stink-eye!
Rule #7: Don’t be a wave hog.
Just because you can catch all the waves doesn’t mean you should. This generally applies to longboarders, kayakers, or stand up paddlers. Since it’s easier to catch waves on these watercraft, it becomes tempting to catch them all, leaving nothing for shortboarders on the inside. Give a wave, get a wave.
Rule #8: Respect the beach
Don’t litter. Simple as that. Pick up your trash, and try to pick up a few pieces of trash before you leave even if it’s not yours.
Rule #9: Drive responsibly
The locals who live in the residential areas near the beach deserve your respect. Don’t speed or drive recklessly.
Rule #10: If you mess up
Nobody really mentions this in surfing etiquette lists, but if you mess up and accidentally drop in or mess up someone’s wave, a quick apology is appreciated, and goes a long way to reducing tension in crowded lineups. You don’t have to grovel at their feet (well, unless you did something horrible). Honestly, if you drop in on someone and then ignore them, it’s pretty stupid.
* * *
This might seem like a lot of stuff to remember, but in time it will become second nature. Most surfing etiquette rules are common sense anyway.
Have fun in the water!
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