7 Rules of Surfing Etiquette

🕓   5 min read

✏️   Updated on 26th March 2024


In this post I’ll be taking you guys through the unwritten ‘7 Rules of Surfing Etiquette’.

Before we start… yes I did draw the impressive illustrations below and no, I’m not currently taking any commissions. These rules are super important to keep you safe whilst surfing – so take note!

1. Don’t drop in
2. Don’t be a snake
3. Don’t paddle into someone’s line
4. Don’t be a wave hoarder
5. Don’t let go of your surfboard
6. Don’t be THAT local surfer
7. Don’t be stupid

Hope you enjoy the pictures and let’s crack on!




1. Don’t drop in

Rule number one, don’t drop in.

This is one of the main rules of surfing etiquette and is illustrated beautifully in image one below. Whoever is closest to the whitewater break in the wave has first dibs, simple as.

If someone pops up next to the whitewater on a wave, they have right of way. If you than also decide to drop in on this wave be prepared for some salty looks and colourful language.

It is also possible for two riders to have the right of way on a single wave if the peak is in the middle and each rider goes in the opposite direction.


Rule #1 – Don’t drop in on someone


2. Don’t be a snake

Rule number two, don’t be a snake.

This rule is aimed at the more skilled / experienced surfers among us as they’re the worst culprits. Snaking occurs when a better surfer in a worse position on the waves tries to steal it off of a worse surfer in a better position on the wave.

The better surfer then ‘snakes’ around the less experienced surfer and proceeds to catch the wave, effectively stealing it. If you’re doing the snaking, stop being a d***.



Rule #2 – Don’t be a snake


3. Don’t paddle into someone’s line

Rule number three, don’t paddle into someones line.

This is an easy rule of surfing etiquette but sometimes forgotten by even the most experienced surfers. If someone is riding a wave as you’re paddling out, make sure to paddle behind them not in front.

This is sometimes referred to as ‘A paddling surfer yielding to a surfer riding a wave’. Obviously there are times where this isn’t possible but it’s your responsibility to get out of their way. Duck diving or speed paddling are both better options than getting hit!


Rule #3 – Don’t paddle into someone’s line




4. Don’t be a wave hoarder

Rule number four, don’t be a wave hoarder.

Yes you might have a longboard, yes you can paddle everywhere quickly, yes you catch every wave imaginable – but it doesn’t mean you should. This rule is increasingly important if there are others waiting in the lineup for a wave.

The more waves you hoard for yourself the more annoyed other surfers will get. The more annoyed they get, the more drop ins and snaking you’re likely to experience – not to mention the salty looks. Try to get a wave, give a wave – after all sharing is caring.



Rule #4 – Don’t be a wave hoarder


5. Don’t let go of your surfboard, if you can help it

Rule number five, keep hold of your surfboard.

This is the easiest rule of all 7 rules of surfing etiquette – don’t let go of your surfboard, if you can help it.

Obviously if you stack it on a wave there’s not much you can do about losing your surfboard. I’m talking about when you’re paddling out to get past the incoming waves. If you see some big whitewater coming don’t think you can just let go of your surfboard and dive under it yourself.

Take care of your surfboard and everyone around you by holding on to it. Surfboards pack a serious punch if let loose, holding onto it reduces that risk to you and others around you.


Rule #5 – Don’t let go of your surfboard


6. Don’t be THAT local surfer

Rule number six, dont be THAT local.

We get it, you grew up in the local coastal town and have been surfing this break your whole life. You’re the first in and last out and anyone else surfing ‘your’ break is a waste of space.

Well, guess what – you weren’t the first and certainly wont be the last to surf that break. So, give everyone else a bit of space and stop acting like you own the place – because ya don’t!

Rule #6 – Don’t be THAT local


7. Don’t be stupid

Rule number seven, dont be stupid.

We’ve all done this at some point – paddling out for waves we couldn’t conquer. We all want to be out the back shredding those bigger sets, but there is no need to force it. If you do, the best thing that happens is you catch a wave and you don’t die. At worst you get eaten alive and are mildly traumatised by the experience, setting you back a bit in your surfing journey. Take a guess at which of those two happened to me.

More importantly though, you’re putting yourself and others at risk if you cant handle the conditions. So take your time with your progression and it will happen eventually.

Rule #7 – Don’t be stupid





Well guys I hope you’ve learnt something from this ‘7 Rules of Surfing Etiquette’ post.

It’s best you learn them here rather than amongst the waves. If it was up to me, these rules would be taught before every surfing lesson.

If there are any other rules you’ve come across whilst surfing, let me know in the comments! As always, be sure to follow on the usual socials below to keep up to date with the latest surfing content!


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Next read: ‘Coco Loco Wetsuit Cleaner Review’


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