These ‘rules’ are a guide to safe and happy surfing for everyone, a code of conduct to be respected in the water by all surfers and a must for beginners to know. Familiarise yourself with the below points to get the most out of your surfing sesh!


Make sure you choose the right surf break according to your level and ability.

The type of wave depends on the surf spot and daily conditions.  On the same day, spots more exposed to the swell can have powerful waves, whilst other spots may have smaller, more mellow waves. As a beginner if you aren’t sure where the best spot for your level is, ask a more experienced surfer or your surf coach before getting in the water and always try to surf with a buddy!


When you paddle out to the line up, don’t get in the way of other surfers while they are riding a wave.

Never paddle straight towards the peak or in front of a surfer riding a wave. Paddle wide, use the channel around the peak and take the white water hit if necessary, behind the surfer.  For a reef or point break this is an easy route back, but with beach breaks it can be a little more tricky if there’s more than one peak. The same rule applies, look for the peaks and paddle between them.


The general rule is that the surfer who is closest to the peak has the right of way or priority – surfer A in the example below.

B can only take the wave if A doesn’t catch it or wipes out.

To avoid drop ins, always pay attention to what’s happening around you. Look at the peak when you paddle for the wave to see if there’s someone deeper than you and if so, give them right of way. If you see you have dropped in on someone else’s wave, go over the shoulder and get off the back of the wave as soon as you realise – they will thank you for it!


When a surfer is already up on his feet and riding the face but you are between him and the peak, don’t do a late take off and go for the wave. Even though you are closer to the peak, the first surfer on his feet has priority. If the surfer goes for a cutback you will block them – this is called backpaddling and is just as bad as a drop in!

Sometimes surfers don’t make the wave, get caught in the white water or they wipe out. In this case, and only if you are 100% certain that the surfer won’t make it, you can drop in.  


Snaking means claiming someone else’s wave by getting closer to the peak before the other surfer has a chance to ride it. See the below example – surfer A is waiting for an incoming wave. Surfer B ‘the snake’ waits for surfer A to paddle and then paddles closer to the peak to claim the wave. When both surfers take the wave, it seems like surfer A has dropped into surfer’s B wave but it’s not the case.

Snaking is often perceived as more offensive than dropping in.  It is usually done by experienced surfers who know what they are doing, it’s rarely a mistake.


  • TAKE TURNS. Each spot has a take off area, especially clear in reef and point breaks. The surfer who has been waiting the longest will sit closest to the peak and therefore will be the next to paddle for a wave. If you are paddling back from a wave, you’ll join the end of the line. Even if you don’t catch the wave you go for, you must go back to the end of the line and wait your turn to try again. In some spots (beach breaks) you often find many peaks, which means there will be different line-ups.
  • COMMUNICATION. Communicate with other surfers when you see them paddling for the same wave. Let them know your intention to go left or right on the wave when  you are taking an A frame wave (splitting the peak). It’s important to avoid collisions and to stay safe, so if you see someone about to drop into your wave, yell at them to stop paddling!
  • RESPECT THE LOCALS. Always pay attention if you are surfing in a new spot. Sometimes locals have their own specific surf ethics, observe and accept the rules of the place if you want to keep surfing there!
  • APOLOGISE. Say sorry if you mess up. In most cases advanced surfers can tell if you did something wrong on purpose. If you drop into someone’s wave or you get in his or her way, apologising makes a big difference!

It might seem like a lot to remember but most of these ‘rules’ are common sense and will become second nature very quickly!

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