The 7 Finer Points of Surf Etiquette

Written by Ashley Leines


Posted on January 13 2020

There are many unspoken rules to surfing, and we’ve listed the finer ones below. Following these rules might get you the stink-eye, yelled at, sprayed in the face, and even beat up. But, that’s the price you pay for greatness. You’ve gotta fight for the best waves. Never settle for anything less.

Surfing is not “chill” and surfing is not “fun.” It’s a dog-eat-dog world out there. If you’re not the next Kelly Slater, you should probably just go home. So, let’s start there. If you’re ready to catch the best waves at any cost—morals, ethics, and “fun” aside—follow these finer rules of surfing.

The Only Surf Etiquette Rules You Need 

Just do it. If you’re a beginner, don’t read any rules before getting out there (except these, of course). Right of way, wave conditions, and board type are overrated, minor-details almost irrelevant to the sport of surfing. People have been surfing since the dawn of time. Just do it. 

Let everyone know you shred. It doesn’t matter whether you really shred or not. Just fake it ‘til you make it. When you get to the beach, talk to anyone and everyone about how much you rip. Throw some trash and blow smoke on your downwind neighbors, too, just to show them who’s boss. Once you’re out in the lineup, tell people to watch and learn. 

Don’t look out for other surfers. As you’re paddling out, position yourself right in the path of other surfers—they’ll enjoy the extra challenge of dodging you. If you’re about to catch a wave, you’re about to catch a wave. It doesn’t matter who’s already on it. He or she was probably about to kick out anyway. If you’re on a wave and someone gets in your way (especially young ones), just push them or run them over. Don’t bail, prevail! 

It’s all yours! Paddle for that first set wave, and the next one, and the one after that, and keep going—because every wave is yours, and don’t you forget it! If you’re not in the best spot, get there. Position yourself right next to that guy who’s been in the lineup waiting, especially if he’s the only one out. He’s in the perfect spot, and if you paddle around him closer to the peak, that means you’ve got the right of way.

Don’t wear a leash. The best surfers don’t wear leashes, so start sooner rather than later. No one really cares if your loose board becomes a torpedo rocketing towards their head. Ducking boards is a great test of agility and keeps other surfers on their toes. After you’ve reunited with your board, paddle right back out and snag the next wave.

It’s never too soon to put your wetsuit on. If you didn’t put your wetsuit on at home, you’ve made a mistake. Daylight is limited, and you don’t have time to waste. Make sure you’re prepared to slip from your parking spot straight into the water. Also, if you happen to make a stop for gas, you’ll look pretty gnarly in that wetsuit. ;) 

Take up Jiu-Jitsu. Learn Jiu-Jitsu and pick up some fight tips because if you follow all of these rules, you’re likely to end up in a few brawls on the beach, you know, just to prove what a bad-ass surfer you are.

Final Words 

Surfing’s not for everybody. There’s no room for mistakes out there. If someone nosedives, face slams, and ruins that great wave—make sure to call ’em out and never let ’em forget it. If you happen to make a mistake, don’t apologize or show weakness. Only the strongest will survive to catch the best waves. I mean that’s the point of surfing, right? Catching waves? If you’re not riding every other set wave, you’re not doing it right.

If you’ve read this far, you’ve no doubt figured out that this whole post is a big joke. Honestly, surf etiquette is pretty simple—it’s all about respect. Respect the beach, respect the ocean, and most of all respect your fellow surfers, and you’ll get along just fine. And, most importantly, have fun out there!