Surf Etiquette 101 for Beginners

Allison Harter
Nov 15, 2019 · 5 min read

Surf Etiquette made easy

Why make the respect of surfing difficult?

Here’s an easy, quick breakdown of how to guide your way in the lineup, and get ready to catch your first wave. With a few tips to keep you out of trouble with the locals — Make sure to check out, Learn How To Surf once you’ve got the etiquette dialed in!


It certainly depends on where you’re positioned in the lineup to how priority works. A few examples would be:

  • If a surfer has been waiting the longest or is the furthest out in the lineup
  • Depending on your choice of direction, whoever is closer (deeper) to the center of the highest point of the breaking wave


It’s easy to let the excitement of the perfect wave get the best of you. Especially when four other surfers all have the same eye on the price! Always keep a lookout on both directions when going for a wave. The last thing you want is a collision or conflict in the water. So always do a double take before enjoying your next wave.


Things can get a little hectic when the waves are good. Or the surf break has a million people out all trying to get their fill. Sometimes it’s hard to avoid getting in the way, dealing with multiple surfers dropping in, or even holding your own out in the lineup. When in doubt- sorry it out!

If there’s any butting heads, do not hesitate to apologize that you were in the wrong.

Because at least you’re acknowledging you messed up- always try to keep the good vibes rolling.


Snaking a wave means that, you know and see someone else is already up and riding. Or even those who have priority and are going for the wave. Yet you have no cares in the world and still want the same wave. If you’re snaking the surfer already on the wave and dropping in hoping that they won’t notice…


Save yourself the headache of being yelled at and shunned for a few minutes, and don’t be a snake. Unless it’s all fun and games with your friends, then snake away!


Have you ever been so hungry at a pizza party and everyone there already had 3 slices? And still you’ve yet to eat one? You go to grab the last slice, with your lips watering and the pizza excitement starts to rise. Then right in front of your eyes, the same dude who already ate 7 slices snakes the last one left. What!

Now replace the pizza with waves- wouldn’t you want some too?

Don’t be a wave hog. No matter how good the conditions are. Or pizza.


This tip is crucial and very important so pay attention. How cool is it that you can connect on such deeper levels with nature by experiencing the rush of riding waves? You get to indulge in the sun and sand, while all your worries suddenly disappear. You must always hold a high level of respect for all the beaches you step foot on, and all the oceans you dip into. Never leave trash behind, and don’t skip picking up the trash others may have left behind. Respect your experience each and every visit to the beach no matter if it’s your home break or not. Because truth is- it’s nature’s home, and doing your part goes a long way.

Respect not only applies to the beaches and ocean waters, it also applies to the locals. Locals usually surf the same spots all the time and have a pretty good idea to who is new to the spot. Be sure to show your respect by keeping 100% aware of surf etiquette, and friendly gestures in the water. The last thing you want is to be kicked out of the lineup by rubbing a local the wrong way.


This one you would think is common sense, right? Wrong!

Paddling out to the lineup can be difficult if the ocean is jam packed with surfers, swimmers, and body boarders. But also if the swell is pumping or even non-stop waves are rolling in. Which can create a challenge to make it out.

Don’t let this discourage you from being a warrior and conquering the obstacles! But steer clear of incoming wave riders and always try to stay out of their way. Beginner surfers sometimes don’t understand how dangerous surfing can be. If you end up in the wrong place and at wrong time you can potentially get very hurt, fin slices and boards to the head DO happen. But they don’t have to!

Surf Tip:

If you’re paddling out and a surfer is on a wave going left- you should paddle behind the direction they’re going, NOT in front of them. Don’t be afraid to take a wave on the head, it’s better than a board.


Everyone loves a good adrenaline rush. But if you’re a beginner in the ocean, I advise to take it one step at a time when it comes to surfing certain spots and swells. Start on a small day (1–2 foot waves) and work your way up. Make sure you’re comfortable and ready when paddling out into your first big swell. The ocean is a powerful place, filled with extreme energy and force when the waves are throbbing. Be sure to know what you can, and cannot handle before you decide to paddle out.

Remember- if you keep practicing and pushing yourself, you WILL be able to handle the big swells. But like everything new [it takes time.] Stay consistent and patient. I promise you’ll get there.


The easiest and most enjoyable tip yet!

Sharing positive vibrations with smiles, laughs, and memories. Nothing can compare to an epic surf session surrounded by pure STOKE!

When you’re in the ocean, even if the waves are firing or flat — there should be no option for a negative poor attitude. Energies travel, and the person surfing next to you doesn’t want to hear about your negative attitude or opinion. Keep those bad vibes out of the water. Everybody is trying to enjoy the magic of the atmosphere, so don’t ruin it for everyone else. If you find yourself having a bad surf session, the best advice is to not take yourself or your surfing too seriously. Instead change your outlook on the current moment, smile and just have fun!

Because that’s what surfing is all about.

Allison Harter

Written by

Creative Copywriter Specialist •Dabble into my work, my mind, my expression. Check me out at:

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