Surfing Etiquette: How Not To Be A Kook In The Waters [2023]

Last Updated January 27, 2023

Yes, even when you are shredding that wave, etiquette should be practiced. It is one of the basic and most important things to learn prior to setting your foot in the surfing area. Aside from the rules of this sport, surfing etiquette – the dos and don’ts of surfing is what you should bear in mind too, as you ride. 

Commandments in Surfing

The best thing about surfing is not having to deal with too many regulations. No need to wait for that court to free up from players nor wait for a referee to show up before riding. Just get up, paddle, and ride. 

While there is no governing authority to tell you what to do, it is still rather acceptable to surf and ride by the unspoken/unwritten commandments surfers have to abide by. 

Observing The Precedence

Study and be aware of who has the right of way. Wave priority should be practiced. This is to ensure peace and composure in the surf. Many times you will have to ask, “Your wave or my wave?” To put it simply wave priority is:

  • Farthest out – the rider that is the farthest out. He/she has been waiting the longest
  • Farthest inside – the surfer that is nearest the peak of the breaking wave
  • First to feet – the rider that is the first to feet or the first one to set foot onto the wave
  • Communication – calling “left” or “right” for waves that are dual-peaking

Never split the peak, otherwise, you will end up running into each other and crash. 

Not Dropping In

Nothing brings you into so much trouble with the locals as well as other surfers than by cutting in front of other riders who are already up and riding fast. Observing the right of way keeps you from getting jammed. 

If someone drops in on you, try to get the attention of the rider. Make a sound. Whistle. Anything to let the other person know you are preparing to catch that wave. 

Do Not Snake

Constantly paddling around a rider to get into the inside position of the wave is impolite. 

No Hogging of Waves

The ocean is vast and wide! Sure you can paddle the farthest out and catch waves quick every single time, but that is just too b*tchy a move. This will instantly get people annoyed and may start dropping in or worst, doing snake around you. Share!

Say Sorry

If by any chance you dropped in, run over, or snaked, without really intending to offend other riders, say sorry. It’s just the basic good manners even toddlers are taught as early on in life. Apologizing goes a long way especially in smoothing things over with other riders. 

Respecting the Locals

The locals know every inch of that surfing spot by heart. After all, they are the ones who run and ride the spot every day. They live and breathe in this area. 

Paddling Out the Right Way

This involves not tossing your board or paddling it into other surfer’s path. Paddle out the lineup safely and in no hurry. Paddling out should start by taking a good look at the line-up and deciding where you should be. From there, determine what is the simplest way to get there. 

If paddling wide is not possible, go for the white water of the wave rather than going to the shoulder. 

Consider a few things – the best way out, using a rip to help, the route that will not put you into incoming surfers’ path. In short, use a bit of your common sense. 

Do Not Dive with Head First

The ocean floor can brutally hurt you, whether you are surfing over reef or sand. Your surfboard can help in keeping you against the impact of any falls and protect your head (or your body) in a wipeout situation. 

Do Not Toss Your Board

Always control your board. If you get kicked out or wiped out or you get frustrated, do not throw your board. Surfboards are dangerous arsenals, not just for yourself but for others riding, too. Wear a leash to keep the board from getting ditched. 

Ride Only the Spots That Match Your Surfing Skills

It sure can be exciting to ride that huge wave, but if it is beyond your level of expertise, don’t even think about it. This will only upset other riders if you get in their way. It could also cause a great deal of hazard for everyone. 

Recognize the Break

This is often skipped but is actually a crucial step for surfers of any level. Before surfing at a new break, take a moment to watch the waves. Observe where they are breaking, where the channels are often, and the direction of the current or riptide. 

You may ask other surfers about the spot. Be sure to share what you know with other surfers who have no idea. 

Help Other Riders

Surfing, as fun and exciting as it is, is dangerous and could even be fatal. No harm in aiding another surfer caught in trouble. You would want other riders to help you out if you are in a bad predicament. 

Respect the Beach

Be sure to be part of the community that guarantees the beach will still be around 50 to 100 years from now. Take care of the surroundings, do not litter, vandalize, or do anything that will negatively impact the beach. 

Have Fun

Above all else, enjoy the waters! And, while doing that, do not forget to be polite and smile!

Your Responsibility As A Surfer

Simple. Your responsibility is to know, understand, and practice the surfing commandments by heart. Never ignore surf etiquette signs that are mostly posted around the beach. 


surfing etiquette


While these commandments aren’t carved in stones just like the 10 that was mentioned in the bible, it should be a piece of common knowledge for every surfer. They are not there for nothing. These etiquettes and manners are for the safety and respect of everyone. 

More importantly, they try to correct the kook in a rider. A kook is someone that has no understanding of social and sartorial standards of surfing. You wouldn’t want to be the kook. 

Related Resources