While a 29 year old surfer in Byron Bay is facing criminal charges after hitting another surfer in the face with his board, I thought it might be time to re-address some etiquette. To avoid ending up in a situation much like the end of the movie Point Break or becoming a victim out in the water, here is a quick overview of the unwritten surfing rules that every surfer should know.
When do I have wave priority?
Furthest Out- if you are the surfer that is the furtherest out or has been waiting the longest for a wave.
Furthest Inside- if you are the surfer closest to the peak of the breaking wave.
First to Feet- the first to their feet or first onto the wave (this is more relative to beach breaks with multiple peaks or rights and lefts)
Communication - If you call what way you are going and the wave has a dual peak, you may call right or left to let the other surfers go the other direction the wave is pealing. This may also be used just in the surf if the person furthest in the line up offers you a wave or communicates that the next wave is yours if you want it.
Dropping in is when you basically cut another surfer off. Think of it like your driving your car and someone from the outside lane cuts your lunch. Well when a surfer takes off from the peak and has chosen a direction to surf across the wave (left or right) then they have priority when closes to the peak and if you pull in in front of the direction they are heading then... you're dropping in. This is very disrespectful to the surfer already on the wave so be sure to avoid this at all costs, however, if the surfer on the wave calls you on and is willing to share a party wave then go for it!
Snaking is repeatedly paddling around someone to steal the inside position. You need to wait your turn, even if you paddle up round the inside because you simply want to take off deeper, let a set go by and the people who have been waiting longer take the wave first!
Basically be respectful of all other surfers, even if you have the ability to paddle out and catch every single wave from behind the rock point, don't. Share the waves and keep the good vibes going. If you end up hogging all the waves you might find others start to drop in as they get frustrated.
You can't always predict the surf or control where other people are in front of you, so... if you do run over someone or accidentally drop in simply apologise. Accidents happen and quite often if you recognise your mistake most surfers will appreciate an apology. On the other hand if you purposefully break the etiquette rules during a session, don't expect to be treated nicely.
Take your time to figure out a new surf spot, quite often local knowledge is key so be respectful and maybe start up a conversation so you can gain some insight into someones local break.
Paddle Out of the Way
Something you don't want to do is bail you board in front of another surfer. There is a right way to paddle out making sure you don't get run over on the way. It may depend on the type of break, for example on a point or reef you can paddle wider out of the way. If there is a surfer on the wave coming towards you then don't paddle in front of them, sometimes you gotta cop it on the head and hopefully they will do the same for you when you're surfing across the face.
Know Your Ability
It's super important that you know your limits and choose suitable breaks for your own ability. Have a chat to locals and check the forecasted conditions for that day so you can see what break will be best for you!
Surfing can provide a different experience for everyone, but ultimately if you're not having fun then really, what's the point? Remember if you are the one who get's dropped in on then it might not always be the other persons fault if they are just starting out or even got sucked over the falls. Take a minute to sit back and assess the situation before catapulting your board in someones face. Maybe take a minute to share the rules with them if they seem like they are unsure what they are doing or let them know that you had right of way. Sharing this knowledge is key and having fun is the most important part of the sport.