The Surfers’ Code: what to know before you start surfing


So, you’re keen to start surfing! It doesn’t matter if it’s your first time on a board, or if you were born cresting a wave, just as there are rules of the road for motorists and cyclists, there are ways of the water to learn and live by: both to keep yourself and other surfers safe, but also because it’s just good manners! 

The good news is, you don’t need to study the Highway Code and take an exam, whether you’re in California or Cornwall, everything you need to know about the Surfers’ Code is right here…

Start surfing and learn Surf Etiquette for Widemouth Bay
  1. Right of Way

If you only remember one thing when you start surfing, make it this: the surfer closest to the peak of the wave gets the wave! They take priority over anyone else paddling to catch it. Like we said – it’s just good manners!

2. Don’t Drop In

With that in mind, a general common sense rule is ‘one surfer per wave’. If a fellow surfer is paddling closer to the peak and they take off, let them have it – do not ‘drop in’ and attempt to ride the wave ahead of them. It’s the biggest no-no that there is!

3. Don’t Get In The Way

Once you’re in the water with your eyes on the breakers, make sure you’re not so focused on reaching them that you paddle into another surfer’s path – easy to do when you first start surfing.

Paddle wide of the peak, never through it, and if a surfer is riding the wave and you’re inside the breaking waves, stay where you are or paddle in the direction they’ve come from. That way, you’ll end up behind them rather than in their path. Once they’ve passed you, carry on paddling out. 

4. Don’t Snake

‘Snaking’ is the term used for paddling around fellow surfers to get ahead of them and claim priority on the next wave. It’s just not polite!

5. Don’t Throw Your Board

It goes without saying that when not used properly, a surfboard is a dangerous weapon and can cause serious damage to you and those around you. When you first start surfing, you’re going to fall off a lot, but regardless of how experienced you are, ALWAYS wear a leash, and don’t ditch your board. If you fall, wipe out or kick out, do your best to keep it under control. 

6. Communicate 

If you and another surfer are at the middle of the peak and the wave is opening to both sides – an A frame – let each other know if you’re going left or right. 

7. The Furthest Out Gets Priority 

Don’t call priority for all the waves all the time, even though you might be able to catch every wave that comes through it is recommended to leave some for other surfers. Don’t be a wave hog!

8. R E S P E C T 

It’s another common sense one, but unfortunately not always adhered to. If you’re new to an area, respect the locals, respect fellow surfers and share the waves, and respect the area: don’t litter, and when you leave, take any plastics or rubbish that other selfish people might have left behind with you. 

Simple! Now you’re up to speed, you’re ready to start surfing! If you are still looking for some more guidance then our surf coaches do run through the surfers code during our surf lessons.

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