Surfing Etiquette: 4 Rules Every Surfer Needs to Know

Surfing might be too popular. It’s often hard for surfers to find a wave, probably because there are only a limited number of surf spots. 

At its best, surfing can be a spiritual experience like nothing else. But a crowded beach full of inconsiderate surfers can lead to something known as surf rage.  

Understanding surfing etiquette will save you a lot of trouble when you grab your board and head for the waves. It will also make life more pleasant for the surfers around you.



If someone else has a better claim to a wave than you do, you can’t hurry over and drop in any way. That’s impolite and reckless.

Whoever is closest to the wave’s peak has the right of way. Think of a wave as a bit like a plane’s runway.

You shouldn’t jump out in front of a plane speeding down the runway for takeoff and say, “Don’t mind me!” You also shouldn’t do that to another surfer who is about to take off. It’s even worse if they’re already riding the said wave.

Blocking someone else’s surf line is one of the worst violations of surfing etiquette out there. Doing it can turn you into a beach pariah.


Speaking of getting in the way: You have to be careful about your strategy when you paddle out. Go through the channel rather than immediately diving into the breaking waves.

Paddling out can feel stressful if you’re a newbie at a crowded beach. If you accidentally get in someone’s way, try your best to apologize. Then move on and do better next time.

If this happens more than once, you need to change your strategy. Look for beginner-friendly surfing spots with less intimidating waves.


You have a surfboard, not Captain America’s shield. Do not wield it like a weapon that will help you defeat Thanos.

If a set wave is coming at you, don’t fling your board at random and dive. You risk bonking another surfer in the head. As a general rule, surfers do not like getting bonked in the head.

Surfing waves means dealing with surprises and rapid changes in circumstances. If you can’t do that without flinging your surfboard around like a maniac, then you need to step back and find a new strategy.


You’re riding an unbroken string of waves and don’t want to stop. But if you don’t stop and give other surfers a chance, you risk getting labeled a wave hog.

As far as surfing terms go, it’s not a compliment. A wave hog thinks the world revolves around them. And if the world revolves around them, then the waves must as well.

Share with your fellow surfers. It’s the polite thing to do.


Surf breaks will often post signs with surfing etiquette rules. But you need to follow the rules even if they’re not written down and attached to a pole in the sand.

You’ll get confidence as you gain surfing experience. You can also boost your surf skills via strengthening workouts. Check out our blog post on that topic to learn some useful moves.