Surfing News Daily welcomes Alex Wilkinson as a contributing editor. Alex and his wife Laura own and operate Pureline Surf Coaching, customized, private surf lessons and guiding in Costa Rica. As a long-time instructor Alex stresses surf etiquette is important when you learn to surf. Here he explains what you need to know to be welcome to the lineup.
When a wave rolls in and several surfers start paddling for the same wave, it’s the surfer who’s closest to the peak that has priority. So, when you’re paddling, be aware of who’s around you and who has the right of way. If you’re closest to the peak, take it! If you’re not, let the other surfer go and get in a better position for the next wave.
Some surfers wrongly think that, even when there’s already another surfer up and riding the wave, they can take off closer to the peak and have priority. Taking priority by being closest to the peak only works if the wave isn’t already claimed. The first surfer up and riding has the right of way and dropping into a wave behind someone and claiming the wave as your own isn’t cool. And you’ll probably get hit if the surfer in front decides to do a cutback!
FIRST ON THE WAVE HAS PRIORITY
The first surfer up and riding has the right of way. Just like crossing a road, always look both ways before paddling into a wave – if there’s another surfer on the wave, stop paddling and let them go.
When you’re paddling for a wave, don’t forget to look over your shoulders! It’s possible that a surfer behind you will be up and riding that wave before it even reaches you so stay out of their way – the surfer already up and riding has priority.
DON’T DROP IN
If you continue paddling for a wave when another surfer is already on the wave and drop into the wave in front of them, not only will you ruin their wave, but there’s a high likelihood that they’ll end up hitting you – and a fin to the face is not a good look. Make sure you look both ways before you take the plunge!
If you’re thinking about dropping in on someone that has a large section in their way (essentially ending their ride), make sure they’re not able to get around that section before you take the wave. Most experienced surfers are able to get past big sections so don’t drop in on them – the wave is still theirs.
SPLIT THE PEAK
If the peak is splitting both left and right, make sure you communicate to the surfer nearest to you which direction you intend to surf so you don’t end up smacking into each other before the wave even begins. Yell “LEFT!” or “RIGHT!” as you’re paddling for the peak.
Essentially the “line up” is where you wait your turn to ride the wave. This works very well for a point break or reef break where the peak is consistent – everyone waits their turn and everyone gets a ride. But organising a line up for a beach break is more difficult since the peaks are constantly changing. Do your best to take turns and don’t paddle around someone (“snaking”) to get the better position.
Snaking a wave is when you paddle around the surfer that’s closest to the peak and steal their wave by obtaining priority. When you’re surfing point and reef breaks where the peak is consistent and a “line up” forms – wait your turn and don’t “snake” someone’s wave.
STAY OUT OF THE WAY OF SURFERS ALREADY RIDING
Always paddle out around the break so that you don’t get in anyone’s way. If you must paddle out in the middle of the break (like when you’re surfing a shifty beach break) and there’s a surfer on the wave that’s just in front of you, you MUST paddle behind them into the whitewash and take the wave on the head – DON’T paddle into their path and ruin their wave.
The only time it’s OK to paddle in front of a surfer that’s up and riding is when you have plenty of room to cross their path without any worry that you might get in their way – don’t try this unless you’re an experienced surfer.
After you wipe out, quickly familiarize yourself with where others are around you and paddle back out safely without getting in anyone’s way. Don’t waste time fixing your hair, grab your board and get back out there!
NEVER LET GO OF YOUR BOARD
When a big set comes, it might be tempting to just ditch your board and swim, but with your board on the loose, it could (and most likely will) end up hitting someone. Remember that your leash allows your board travel a long distance so be kind to others around you and keep your board where it belongs. And after wiping out, quickly locate your board and keep control of it.
If you’re new to surfing, you’re also new to the lineup. Keep these rules in mind and you’ll be welcomed by the regulars. Break these rules and….well – just don’t break the rules! Remember, surf etiquette is important when you learn to surf.