May 16, 2023 7 min read

Surfing is an exhilarating way to get out and enjoy the ocean, but there are some rules of etiquette that all surfers should follow. These guidelines help keep everyone safe in the water and show respect for other surfers and those around them.  

This article will discuss what you must wear while surfing and how to behave on your board. From proper beach attire to understanding wave-sharing protocols, it's vital to understand surf etiquette before hitting the waves. So, keep reading!

The Ethics Of Surfing 

The ocean is a place of immense beauty and power that should be respected and revered. It can also bring joy to those who choose to honor its many wonders by adhering to the ethics of surfing. Those who take up this pastime must always remember their responsibility towards the environment and fellow surfers. In doing so, they can ensure a safe, enjoyable experience for all.

From wearing appropriate clothing to being mindful when paddling out and not taking waves from others, these simple acts help maintain the harmony between nature and people while allowing everyone to enjoy time in the water.

Appropriate Attire For Surfing 

It's essential to wear appropriate apparel when surfing, as it keeps you safe and can improve your performance. Below are your essentials:

Surf Accessories 

    Surfing requires more than just the right board and a good wave. Certain accessories can help make your time in the water easier, safer, and more enjoyable. Accessories to consider include: 
    • Reusable Wax Comb: This tool helps keep your surfboard wax clean and evenly distributed for better grip.
    • Surf Jewelry: If you want to incorporate jewelry in your ensemble to stay stylish while surfing, you can wear anklets and rings. It would be best to wear appropriate ones, such as silicone rings, for safety.
    • Surf Leash: Attaching a leash to your ankle keeps you connected to your board so it does not drift too far away. 
    • Waterproof Wallet Or Bag:If you want to take any electronic device with you, such as a phone or camera, using a waterproof wallet or bag ensures they stay dry. 

      Having all the necessary equipment before hitting the waves allows surfers to be prepared and have fun.

      Choosing The Right Wetsuit

      Finding the right wetsuit is vital to staying safe and comfortable in the surf. Ensuring that your wetsuit fits you snugly and securely is essential, as a poorly fitting one can be dangerous. Here are five things to consider when choosing a wetsuit:  

      • Fit: Make sure it fits appropriately—not too tight or loose. 
      • Thickness:Choose a thickness suitable for the water temperature.  
      • Style:Select a style that suits your surfing needs. You can choose a full-body or short sleeve suit. 
      • Durability: Look for high-quality materials so your suit lasts longer.  
      • Price Point: Consider how much money you will spend on a wetsuit.  

      All these factors should be considered when selecting a wetsuit, but most importantly, make sure it fits well.

      surf etiquette

      Proper Surfboard Selection

      When it comes to surfing, choosing the right surfboard is crucial to having a great time in the water.

      Whether you are a beginner or an experienced surfer, selecting the right board that matches your skill level is essential.

      If you choose a board that is too advanced for your abilities, you may find catching waves or performing maneuvers challenging, leading to frustration and injury.

      Various surfboards, such as shortboards, longboards, fish boards, and fun shapes, are available. Shortboards are typically narrow and designed for more advanced surfers looking to perform maneuvers like cutbacks and aerials. Longboards are broader and more stable, making them an excellent option for beginners still learning to catch waves and balance on the board. Fish boards are shorter and broader than shortboards, making them ideal for small to medium-sized waves. Fun shapes are versatile boards that combine features of both shortboards and longboards and are suitable for a wide range of conditions and skill levels. 

      When selecting a surfboard, consider your skill level, the type of waves you will be surfing, and your personal preferences. A good rule of thumb is to choose a board that is approximately six to eight inches taller than you are, as this will provide enough flotation and stability for most riders. Also, consider the width and thickness of the board, as this can affect how easy it is to paddle and catch waves.

      Basic Surf Etiquette

      When surfing, it's essential to follow some basic etiquette, including the following:

    • Priority Rules In The Lineup 
    • Surfing etiquette dictates that you should take turns catching waves and not drop in on someone else's wave. This means that the person farthest out has priority over people closer to shore, so respect your fellow surfer by taking a backseat if they're further away from land. Additionally, when paddling for a wave, give way to anyone already riding it. Otherwise, this is known as 'snaking' or 'stealing' and will only cause tension between surfers.

    • Paddling Interference And Avoidance 
    • When surfing, a certain responsibility comes with using good judgment when choosing which waves to take or let go of. Avoid dropping in on someone else's ride when catching a wave by cutting them off from their intended path.  

      Paddling out into an area where another surfer already has a position can also cause disruption and danger, so always check before you paddle out.

      Respectful behavior is critical while at the beach, and being aware of your surroundings will help make sure everyone gets a fair share of waves without any conflict.

    • Proper Communication And Use Of Gestures And Signals 
    • Proper gestures and signals are crucial when surfing to maintain order and safety in the lineup. One standard signal is a wave of the hand to indicate that someone has priority over the wave.

      Additionally, it's important to give other surfers space by paddling around them instead of crowding them. This is especially important on crowded beach days, where overcrowding can be dangerous for everyone in the water. 

      Furthermore, effective communication with other surfers is also essential for a positive surfing experience. Speaking politely and clearly when interacting with other surfers is crucial. It's appropriate to offer advice if someone is struggling, but don't take over, as they may not want help. Patience is also essential, as unexpected waves can interfere with other surfers' plans. Above all, remember that everyone is trying to enjoy themselves, so staying courteous and mindful of those around you is critical.

    • Surfing Within Your Abilities
    • Surfing is an exhilarating experience, but it also carries some inherent risks. You should always surf within your abilities and take extra care to ensure you are not putting yourself or others at risk by attempting a maneuver beyond your skill level. 

    • Watching Out For Others
    • When you're out in the surf, you must keep an eye on your fellow wave riders. Everyone is responsible for ensuring everyone else is safe and having a good time. Here are some of the ways you can be mindful of others while catching waves:

      • Respect personal space – don't drop into someone else's wave without asking first. 
      • Make sure everyone has enough room to ride their wave comfortably.
      • Stay aware of other dangers like boats or jet skis nearby.

      Remembering these few points will help ensure everyone in the water has a great session. 

      a lot of surfers

      Etiquette For Crowded Surf Breaks

      When surfing crowded breaks, being conscious of your behavior and respecting the other surfers is important.

      It can be intimidating to enter a lineup full of experienced riders, so always try to stay aware of your surroundings and ensure you don't interfere with someone else's ride or drop in on them.  

      It's also wise to wear a leash with a quick-release tab so that if you do wipe it out, it won't get tangled up in anyone else's board.

      Remember that safety is paramount when it comes to surfing, so remember basic rules like never diving headfirst into waves and being careful not to damage coral reefs while paddling out. Lastly, remember that everyone is there for the same reason. So, show patience and kindness towards those around you. 

      Choosing The Right Surf Spot

      When it comes to selecting a surf spot, you need to take several factors into account. First and foremost, you should pay attention to the local conditions of the area. What is the tide like? Are there any currents or rip tides that could make surfing dangerous? Next, consider the size of your board. Some spots are better suited for long boards than short boards. Finally, think about how crowded it will be. Too many people in one spot can interfere with safety and enjoyment.  

      Here are five simple tips for picking the perfect spot: 

      • Look up local weather reports before heading out 
      • Check out online reviews from experienced surfers 
      • Consider whether the environment is appropriate for your board size 
      • Ensure that the waves match your skill level 
      • Gauge how busy it will be on any given day

      No matter where you surf, always respect your fellow ocean-goers by giving them enough room and not dropping in on their wave. This consideration goes a long way toward ensuring everyone has an enjoyable experience while respecting each other's space and time.

      Environmental Considerations 

      As surfers, we should all be aware of our environmental impact.

      From the materials used to create our equipment and clothing to respecting wildlife in their natural habitat, we must take responsibility for protecting our oceans and beaches. 

      A few simple steps can help us reduce our environmental footprint while surfing: using biodegradable sunscreen, picking up litter from beach areas, avoiding venturing into protected habitats such as coral reefs, and minimizing plastic waste by bringing reusable containers instead of single-use products like water bottles or straws. Let's make sure that every wave is a conscious one. 


      Surfing etiquette is vital for the health of the surfing community and our environment. We must all do our part to respect each other, select appropriate spots for our abilities, wear proper attire and surfboards, watch out for others in crowded conditions, and be mindful of environmental considerations. Following these guidelines can help preserve a safe, fun atmosphere where everyone feels welcome and respected.

      Author - Aleksandra Djurdjevic
      Aleksandra Djurdjevic          

      Senior Content Creator

      Aleksandra Djurdjevic is a senior writer and editor, covering surf, kayak and various watersports activities. She has previously worked as ESL teacher for English Tochka. Aleksandra graduated from the Comparative Literature department at the Faculty of Philosophy in Serbia. Aleksandra’s love for the ocean / rivers, getting out waves, season after season, seeking epic adventures across the globe helps her continue to be a top expert at CSG.

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