Surf Etiquette Part 1 - Observing and entering the lineup

August 15, 2013

These tips outline an overall way of approaching surfing with all the right intentions in mind. Here we’ll cover what to look for in finding the right spot for you. We’ll also tell you what to observe once you’re out there.

Location, location, location.

To start, it’s wise to look for a wave that suits your skills and intentions.  Pick a place that feels the most comfortable. Make an honest effort in observing the characteristics of the surf break. Too often, beginners see an appealing wave only to find out in the lineup that an aggressive wave creates an aggressive vibe in the water. That said, beginners will find that their skills advance much quicker within a lineup that’s relaxed and inviting. That’s not to discourage beginners from paddling out at a good wave, just be prepared to do more second-hand learning until the timing is right to paddle for a wave.

On the flip side, if you’re an intermediate or advanced surfer, bring a relaxed and stoked vibe to a lineup with an easy wave. Encourage those around you that may be less skilled. It’s difficult to feel courageous when a bunch of young rippers take over a relaxed wave and change the vibe to a competitive one.  We’re not saying not to go surf an easy wave if you can surf a better one. We’re saying that when you do, lead by example.

When observing a surf break from land, note the ratio of waves to surfers. Locate the entry and exit points between the beach and the lineup, the direction(s) the wave breaks, submerged obstacles like rocks/reef, the level and variety of surfing skill, the type of boards being ridden and how they perform. These factors will answer “to paddle or not to paddle.” If you choose to paddle, these factors will tell you where to do so.

Now that you’ve noticed where others paddled out, follow suit.  Beach breaks can shift with time so sometimes you’re just looking for a slight channel to make things easier. Most popular waves break in a fairly consistent location. It’s best to paddle out well off to the side and work your way over to the lineup.

When observing a surf break from the lineup, pay attention to overall vibe, is it calm or competitive? Go with the flow. Are the waves breaking in a focused zone or are they scattered among a few peaks? Sit in a safe spot and respectfully work your way into the queue.

A break where etiquette is still respected creates a natural pecking order that rewards those that wait their turn.  Provided that the person that’s waited the longest is in a good position for the next wave, they get priority. If you’re often in best spot, grab one then let a few through. Rule of thumb, share and communicate!

The situation to avoid - If it seems like everybody is out for themselves, be cautious, that’s not what surfing should be about. Often times, etiquette is thrown away at that point and that’s what causes dangerous situations. I’d go find a different wave.

Stay tuned next week when we lay out the rules of the road in the lineup. Some are written, some are not, we’ll explain them all.

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