Surfing Etiquette: 8 Tips for Beginners

If you’ve just discovered the joys of surfing, congratulations. It can be a really exhilarating sport. But there are a lot of people who already do this, and we all need to share the water with them. So before you jump into the waves armed with your board, keep these eight surfing etiquette tips in mind.

Wait Your Turn

Rule number one of surfing, much like anything else in life, is to wait your turn. What I mean by this is don’t try to ride a wave someone else is already riding or is getting ready to. If you jump in at the same time you are going to block the other person from being able to complete their jump.

Do the considerate thing and wait for them to finish riding the wave. You’ll get the next one. This way everybody gets to do it and you don’t have to worry about hurting and/or angering your fellow surfer.

Another way to look at it is that the situation is similar to an intersection. One driver has the right-of-way and everyone else needs to yield to them. The surfing equivalent of this is yielding to who is already in a wave you want to ride.

Whoever is closest to the peak gets first dibs on the wave. If they don’t want it, right-of-way goes to the next closest surfer to the peak. This continues until everyone has had a chance.

There are other scenarios you might encounter. One is a split-peak or a-frame. Splitting a peak means that you ride one side of a wave. The other surfer rides the other side of it. This is the fair way to share a wave so nobody waits.

However, if you are a beginner surfer, it’s best to just stick to one person per wave at a time. Don’t event attempt to split the wave until you have more experience under your belt.

Know Where To Surf

As a beginner, you don’t have a huge choice in surfing locations. Shallow waters are the best place to start. Before you plunge in, practice riding the small waves. Ride them after they’ve broken until you feel a little more comfortable.

Longtime surfers don’t want us newbies in their way. Let them have the big waves. They’ll be happier and so will you. It takes time to work your way up to the waves you see more experienced surfers riding.

If you can’t figure out the best place to surf at a particular beach, ask. It can be someone who’s more experienced or the lifeguard on duty. Either way, they will point you in the right direction.

Stay With Your Board

A common rookie mistake is to give up your grip on your board in response to a large wave coming in. Your first instinct will probably be to dive under the water. Ignore that instinct.

Letting go of your board is a dangerous idea. You don’t know if anyone may get hit by your board when you let it go. The best way to avoid this is to stay out of the large waves until you have significant experience in surfing. Don’t be discouraged if it takes you awhile to learn the art of negotiating waves.

Pay Attention To Paddling

It’s not too often you’ll be the only one surfing. So it is important to avoid paddling through everyone around you. The better option is to paddle through the channel. The waves won’t be breaking here, so you won’t be in anyone’s way.

You’ll need to watch where you go when you need to reach the waves. Cutting off someone while they are riding a wave is inconsiderate. You need to be far ahead of the other surfer to avoid getting in their way. In the event you cross their path you need to get out of it as fast as possible.

Respect Your Peers

Another rule of life that also applies to surfing is to respect the people around you. No matter where you are or when you are there, others may be doing the same thing. Keep your distance from fellow surfers so everyone can enjoy themselves.

Whether you are surfing at home, or in a completely new environment, it doesn’t matter. This means if you’re on vacation, and you’re surfing at a beach locals frequent, let them have their turn first. Especially if they are more experienced than you are. Even if they are simply older than you, step aside and let them finish.

Keep in mind it isn’t just adults who go surfing. One of the biggest surfing etiquette rules is to avoid cutting off any child. Taking over a wave they were about to ride is considered tacky and rude. Even with children, a little respect goes a long way.

When you are in the water you have to lay your claim on a wave. This way those around you know that you’ve got it. Yet this can be tricky for a beginner. It’s best to avoid claiming a wave unless you are completely sure that you can catch it. Otherwise, you are wasting everyone’s time.

Consequently if someone else claims a wave, step aside. Competing for the same one will only lead to problems you don’t. want. When everyone takes a fair turn, everyone can enjoy the experience.

Even child surfers are taught to respect their peers. This is something everyone that does this for fun expects from everyone else who does too.

Want to know what to do? Check out this YouTube video and “Don’t be THAT Guy!”

Be Quick To Apologize

No matter how good we think we are, beginners often make mistakes. Sometimes these mistakes have a negative effect on other surfers. If this is the case, push aside your pride, no matter how strong it is.

When you screw up, admit it. I sincere apology to the other surfers around you goes a long way. Especially if you want to keep surfing wherever you made the mistake. Experienced surfers are generally forgiving if you apologize. The biggest mistake you can make is to refuse to say you’re sorry.

However, this goes both ways. You may find yourself in a position where someone else’s actions interfere with your wave. If that is the case, make sure you are open to forgiving and forgetting.

Keep The Lines Of Communication Open

Part of being considerate to others is proper communication. There will be times when you encounter other surfers. Ideally you want to talk to them. This way they know what you are doing and you know what they are doing.

If talking isn’t a viable option, learn the hand signals that are relevant to the situation. A simple hand signal can be enough to tell a fellow surfer if you’re moving left or right.

Keep Your Favorite Beach Clean

After some time, most surfers have a favorite beach to go to. If it’s exceptionally good for this activity, your favorite might be many others favorite too. When this happens, everyone needs to pitch in to keep the beach clean. Don’t leave anything behind when you are done. This includes trash and discarded equipment.

If everyone that uses a particular beach cleans up, it will keep being a great place to surf. Most in this community understand that keeping their beach and ocean free of litter and debris benefits everyone.


Following these rules of etiquette shouldn’t be difficult to do. They are the basics that you should know before you begin. When you follow the rules of etiquette everybody has a great time.

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