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Surf Etiquette

It’s summer time, the busiest time at the beach so now is a good time to post a piece I recently wrote for a local magazine. paddleout2.JPG

A Crash Course in Surf Etiquette

You grab that brand new board, wax it, and head to the busiest break in town. You paddle right into the thick of things, the middle of the line up, not a care in the world, just a big grin. You don’t even notice the “stink eye” Mister Pro Wannabe is giving you. All you know is that you made it out through all the flying bodies and boards, totally oblivious to the fact that those bodies and boards were flying because you didn’t have a clue as to where to paddle out, or how to get out of the way.

Whether you are just learning to surf or are an accomplished surfer, there are some unspoken rules to abide by when in the line up. Following these rules will help you avoid the situation described above. The rules of surfing are called “Surf Etiquette.” Take some with you the next time you paddle out. You will probably have more fun.

Here are some of the rules to get you started:

Stay out of people’s way: When you are paddling out and someone else is taking off, do what you have to do to get out of their way. Paddle into the pit if necessary. You might ruin someone’s ride or worse, take a skeg in the head. Additionally, don’t paddle out in the middle of the pack. Take a look at where surfers are positioned in the water before you paddle out, and choose a path that’s going to keep you out of the way.

Surf locations and conditions that suit your ability: Know your limits. If you are an inexperienced surfer, you should not paddle out at the premier breaks. Paddling out at Masonboro on a solid hurricane swell isn’t a good idea, to say the least. You’ll be putting yourself and others at risk. Big waves can hurt you, even drown you. Respect the ocean.

Respect: When you show up at a break you don’t know, treat the locals with respect and they should respect you. This is especially true when traveling.

Surf Hierarchy: This ties in with surfing locations that suit your ability. As a beginner, don’t try to surf world class waves or overly crowded spots. You probably won’t get a wave and will most likely anger other more experienced surfers. If you find yourself in an intimidating situation, exit the water and opt for a less crowded place. It may not have the best waves, but you will have a better, safer time while learning how to surf.

Don’t drop in: This is the golden rule. When someone has the inside position or is already up and riding, the wave is theirs so you must not take off. If you do, apologize and get off the wave quickly, before someone gets hurt.

Control your board: Wear a leash, and when paddling out don’t just let your board flailconnie.jpg behind you, hang onto it. When you wipeout, regain control of your board as soon as possible. A loose board becomes a weapon, and can seriously injure someone, so pay attention when you are in the water. Always be responsible for your equipment and respectful of other’s.

No Littering: Do not litter in the parking lot, on your way to the beach, or on the beach. This does include cigarette butts. Be a steward and clean up some trash and dispose of it properly on your way to the water. You may set a great example for a young grom.

Look out for one another: Surfing is fun, however, the ocean can be a dangerous place so be aware of those around you and the ever changing conditions. Always aid another surfer in trouble in a way that you don’t end up in trouble too. One never knows when a rogue set may come through and catch everyone off guard or someone may have a freak accident and not come up. You may save someone’s life just by paying attention or someone may save yours in the same manner.

Have fun: If you aren’t having fun in the water, then it’s time to get out.And if the etiquette isn’t enough to deter you, check out our own local rules and regulations. By local, I mean where I surf in Wrightsville Beach, NC

New Wrightsville Beach Surf Zones for 2007

Surfing Regulations:
To help ensure the safety of all beach patrons, surfers must be securely attached to their board with a leash.

Surfing is always prohibited in the following areas:
Within 500 feet of Johnnie Mercer’s Pier (between Beach Access 15 and 16)

Within 100 feet of Crystal Pier at Oceanic Restaurant (between Beach Access 36 and 37)

Within 100 feet of the Masonboro Inlet Jetty (between Beach Access 42 and 43)

From Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend, surfing is prohibited within 100 yards of each lifeguard stand. Surfing is prohibited in these areas whenever lifeguards are on duty. Lifeguard stands are normally staffed from 10 AM until 5 PM, but these hours may be extended when the beach is busy. “No Surfing” areas will be clearly marked with flags. Additional “No Surfing” areas may be posted on other locations due to weather conditions, beach population, special events, etc. These areas will also be marked with flags. Surfers are reminded to respect the “space” of other beach patrons. Reckless surfing that endangers another person is prohibited. For more information about surfing at Wrightsville
Beach, check with a lifeguard.

Sources:,,,,, my own experience

Ocean Priselac

Categories: General, Ocean\'s oasis.

Comment Feed

2 Responses

  1. Excellent points – now if only we can get the radical rippers to also keep some of these in mind… we’ll have a good lineup again. I can remember when there just weren’t enough people in the water that it even mattered, but now it certainly does.

  2. I got a question ’bout etiquette. I am a begginer Longboarder who is working “in the soup” on balance and standing up and what not. Is having begginers in this area annoying to accomplished surfers?

    kleeJuly 8, 2007 @ 8:09 am

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