Surfing Etiquette: How Not To Be A Kook In The Waters 2022

Flo Farmer
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Commandments in Surfing

  • Don’t go out all by yourself, unless you are a shore break expert. And even then, it’s probably not the best idea.
  • Don’t drop in on other surfers.
  • Don’t drop in on someone you are not friends with. Make sure they’re cool with it. You don’t want to kick up a lot of sand and make him mad.
  • Don’t snap off your fins.
  • Don’t give someone shit.
  • Don’t act like a superstar. Even if you are one.
  • Don’t be afraid to catch a wave.
  • Don’t be boxed out.
  • Don’t surf anywhere where there are no other surfers.
  • Don’t wear a shirt when paddle out.
  • Don’t take the last wave of a set.
  • Don’t get butt hurt.

Observing The Precedence

Riding waves is a team sport. You’re the only one out in the water, but it is not a selfish sport. It’s still a group of people that surf together in the same area. Even though you will spend plenty of time by yourself, you are still in a place where other people are teaching and improving your skills.

Surfing etiquette comes with its own set of common practices. The experts will tell you that if you are respectful to others and yourself in the water, it will improve your performance and surfing experience.

Not Dropping In

When you are out on the wave, and you notice another surfer ready to catch the water on his sought-after wave, there are proper and inappropriate ways to do this.

Although it is a given that, in most cases, you need to give the person space and time to catch the current wave, it is not a given that you must wait for the wave to finish.

If the other surfer is a kook, you may consider dropping into the same wave. However, make sure to not drop in on the kook's line. Make sure to do so in a way that will not hurt either surfer. This means that you should drop in from the side, not the front or from the back of him.

If you decide to drop in on a kook, do so from the side, not the rear. Never drop in from the front, hitting the kook from the rear.

Do Not Snake

Sneaking in between someone who is waiting to catch a wave is called “snaking,” a major no-no in the surfing world. Snaking is when you are in the lineup and someone is already catching a wave and you go right between them instead of waiting in the back.

Snaking is so rude, and it is also dangerous because the person riding the wave might not see you coming. It is a fun activity for younger surfers, but if you are an adult, you should know better than to snake.

If you enjoy surfing, get to know the people in the water with you and each other, because you never know when you might need their help. And always catch waves with a smile on your face.

No Hogging of Waves

If you’re a regular pool player, then you know the three tenets of respect:

  • o Play to the best of your ability
  • o Be respectful of the other players, and
  • o Play the ball, not the player

These 3 tenets also apply to the ocean.

Sitting and waiting for waves is neither; it is, in fact, quite the opposite. It’s lacking the respect that should go hand-in-hand with the purity one can find while both on and off the water. Even though there are some notable kooks in the water, the majority of surfers are kind and laid-back, and they’re clearly having a blast. What’s not to love?

Here are a couple of tips to help you be a more responsible surfer:

  • Practice good lineup etiquette by sharing waves equally.
  • Practice good safety etiquette by not sitting directly behind others, and instead, sit further out so that you give those in the back adequate room to duck dive.
  • If you need to paddle out of the way to catch a wave, do so.
  • Avoid paddle-dropping … no one wants a face full of gnarly waterborne snot.

Say Sorry

It doesn’t matter if you’ve only been going to a specific break for a few weeks, or if you’ve been surfing there for years; if, when you’re out in the water, you run into someone else, it’s always best to just say sorry.

It’s true that people will often become territorial in the water. I’ve seen newbies tell long-time local surfers where to go and I’ve watched guys with a handful of sessions on their belts complain about the break being “sketchy”.

However, 99% of the time they’ll be right. If you’re in their way or you’re doing something that they can get hurt doing, then it makes sense for them to speak up.

As surfers, we’re not a very confrontational bunch. If you’re a newbie or a local, the best thing to do in this case is just to say sorry and be on your way.

Respecting the Locals

We find that most kooks are clueless about local surf etiquette, and that’s because most surfers haven’t communicated to them the unspoken rules of the local surf break.

Even if you’re the friendliest person on the planet, you’ll still get called a kook if you’re doing something that grates on the locals, especially if the locals don’t have to do that thing that you’re doing.

For example, if you’re a beach goer, the locals would most likely find you a kook if you’re stealing the best spots in the lineup leadin to a beating from the locals. Everyone’s entitled to his or her own private spot, and if you’re unaware of that, you’ll invariably get called a kook.

Also, if you’re the kind of surfer who lives to chase the biggest and baddest waves out there, being called a kook is just par for the course. It’s a given, really. But it’s a fact of life, and you’d better be prepared to shoulder that cross.

Paddling Out the Right Way

So you've just paddled out, and the sun is warm on your face and the first waves heading your way!

Congratulations, that's a big step. Let's go over some basic surfing etiquette to make sure you have a great time in the water and you don't endanger anyone else's fun.

You'll notice these guidelines boil down to three imperatives:

  • take care of others in the water
  • be respectful of the ocean's power

Do Not Dive with Head First

A surfboard is not a diving board. Most surfers want to relax, enjoy their boards, and feel safe in the water. One of the unsportsmanlike things you can do while surfing is diving with your head first from the board.

This can be a great activity for you to do in your backyard. However, when you are at the beach, there are other beach users. A good surfer will always take this into consideration.

Responsible surfers will never dive with head first. They are also aware of their surroundings and will not dive with the board so close to others. The first thing you learn when you learn to surf is that you do not dive with head first from the board. Your safety, and the safety of others, is always first.

Do Not Toss Your Board

That is probably the number one rule every surfer should follow, whether you’re a beginner or an experienced pro. If any surf contest has taught me anything (besides the fact that I’m better off as a spectator), it’s that surfing is a big “team sport.”

The coolest part about it is that you don’t need to be an individually-tough athlete to be a part of it. It’s like basketball: you can be the slowest dude in the water but still help your team to win. You just need to know your roles and play the game properly.

Because most surf spots are known to be crowded, having the right attitude and right behavior is extremely important. If you’re competitive and your goal is to get the best wave possible, always remember that this means risking someone else’s wave.

Ride Only the Spots That Match Your Surfing Skills

If you are a beginner surfer, you should always ride the waves that are not too big or too small for you. If you try to surf on big waves, there's a great chance of you getting hurt badly, and then you'll never be able to surf again. If you try to surf little waves, you can easily fall off the board and hurt yourself. It's best to pick a middle ground and keep on practicing until you get the hang of it. It's a travesty to realize after an injury that you should have stuck to smaller waves.

If you are a beginner surfer, you should always ride the waves that are not too big or too small for you. If you try to surf on big waves, there's a great chance of you getting hurt badly, and then you'll never be able to surf again. If you try to surf little waves, you can easily fall off the board and hurt yourself. It's best to pick a middle ground and keep on practicing until you get the hang of it. It's a travesty to realize after an injury that you should have stuck to smaller waves.

Recognize the Break

The first thought most surfers have before entering the water is, “Where’s the wave?” As you paddle out, look to your left. If there is already a surfboard rider in the water, you can look for bubbles on the surface to estimate where the surfer is.

If you are alone, paddle toward the shallow water in the direction you want to ride the wave. If you are using a shortboard, have a longer board ride in front of you. If you’re using a longboard, have a short board paddling in front of you.

Once the wave is set, think of it as one continuous motion. Stay in midsection, trying to get your back facing the oncoming wave. Each time you are in the path of the wave, you are just a few paddles away from catching a wave. Stay focused in the direction of your destination.

If you see another wave approaching, turn your back to the direction you are traveling and do a couple of quick arm strokes forward so that someone else can catch a wave.

If you see someone else paddling up behind you, move to the side to yield. He or she is going to catch the wave. If you’re not going to catch the wave, move out of the way and yield to the other person.

Help Other Riders

Once in awhile someone will try and muscle their way into the lineup before everyone is clear. Be courteous and patient. Let them know that it's not their wave. Ask if they need a wave and if they do, help them out. Once the lineup is clear let other people know your riding ability in the lineup. Maybe a beginner is trying to catch a wave from a more advanced rider. If they ask, "Hey can you let me catch a wave?" telling them you're not going that slow can help them risk it.

Respect the Beach

Somewhere in time, someone decided that surfers were different from other people. That’s why in a lot of places, surfers have the privilege of romping across public lands as if they own the place. This is especially evident in a crowded surf spot such as Rincon in Puerto Rico, or in Hawaii’s Pipeline where surfers make like a Red Sea parting at their approach and everyone else is treated like the locals did the Jews.

In other places, like San Diego’s La Jolla and Malibu, you just have to sit and wait and allow the surfers to choof off the waves on their way to shore. Sometimes this is just a matter of waiting for the high tide since a lot surfers don’t know how to swim. In fact, it’s a good idea to watch your step especially in the aftermath of a big swell that has deposited a mucky layer on the beach. Here’s a visual of what you could deal with.

When you’re at the beach and you’re not surfing, the least you can do is not monopolize the place. If beach space is at a premium, avoid climbing all over the rocks and boulders. You should stick to the wet sand and stick to a few areas.

Have Fun

Though there may be a few exceptions out there, most surfers are like-minded and easy-going people who like to have fun in the sun. Unfortunately, after a decade, you still get the odd surfer who is being more of a “kook” than anything else.

Surfing etiquette does not really exist, because the waves are out there for everyone to enjoy. We all know that nobody owns the waves and we all also know that there are thousands of surfers in line behind us who will be waiting for waves so don’t even bother trying to tell anyone that you are going to “save” a wave for your friends.

For anyone who is visiting from another part of the world ,(where surfing is not a part of life) we just want to warn you if you’re not aware of it already, you need to know that it is the norm for everyone in the surf to have “line mates”(passengers in their car) and it’s also a fact that they will talk to each other while they are waiting for the next set of waves. The same goes for you if you’re only there in a group.

Your Responsibility As A Surfer

Waves, sun, and sand. They're the reasons why we love surfing so much. But with these comes responsibility.

As far as I'm concerned, becoming a surfer is a privilege, not a right. It means you have a responsibility to respect the ocean, the waves and other people in the lineup. It means that you need to act with common sense, self-control, and a little regard for other people's space.

It means that you don't take waves bigger and better than the people around you. It means that you have to share, and that you have to be humble and respectful of other people's space.

It means that you shouldn't surf in a way that puts you or anyone else in danger. It means you don't leave anything at the beach and that you recycle everything.

It means you do everything you can to prevent polluting the ocean.

Surfing can be very political. People fight over who loves the ocean more. Some surfers are territorial and they want to crush the water in a cruel display of power.

I'm not saying that you should become a saint when you put on your wetsuit. But it means that you need to be conscious and respect the fact that you are in someone else's space and that they may not want to be there with you.


As I said above, this new edition with the additions is due to the many questions I got from you. Many lessons here are still the same as the first edition. But some are modified and expanded based on your questions. The common questions I got are, how to learn, how to practice, what to learn and how to practice. Therefore I will share with you the fighting system to save you the cost of long hours of private lessons. Plus what equipment you need. And how to maintain your board.

Some are little known and rarely used at the moment. But most of these secrets will be as important in another 30- years as they were here.

It has been said that, ’The art of war is at the basis of all things.’ So begin here. These are the fighting keys of the warriors. One at a time, but don’t leave any out. Memorize them and understand them.

Then you will have some day battled and won and served the world with your life lessons.

Introduction to Jujitsu

A man is but the product of his thoughts. What he thinks, he becomes. — Mahatma Gandhi