Surf Etiquette: Safety first. Learn how to earn respect in the lineup.
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Surf Thailand surfing Surin Beach

Surf Etiquette

Learn the code of conduct that is universal in the surfing world.

Spread positive vibes for a fun and peaceful surf session.

Earn respect and credibility in the lineup.

Stay safe and enjoy surfing!

surf etiquette choking maneuver
Leave the chokehold maneuvers for MMA professionals.

Good surf etiquettes rules!

Click each tab below for drawings and descriptions.

The inside surfer has right of way (aka priority)

The surfer who is on the ‘inside’ is closest to the peak of the wave and therefore has the right to claim the wave.  As a beginner, you must learn to look both ways (just as you do before crossing a street) before you take off on any wave. 

surfer closes to peak of wave has inside position and right of way. other surfers can't drop in

If you catch a wave that somebody has better position on (surfer who is inside) or is already up and riding on, you have just dropped in on them.  Worse yet, you can potentially cause a crash, a fall, and dinged boards, which will almost certainly make that surfer feel a bit peeved! 

surfer looking down the line and not dropping in on another surfer

Dropping in on someone is usually unintentional by a less experienced surfer who may not understand the rule or just hasn’t developed the skill of looking down the line while paddling for a wave.  It’s best to apologize and learn from it.  (Try to get off the wave quickly and safely if you’ve realized you dropped in on someone).  Someone who “drops in” intentionally will surely create tension and negative vibes.  It’s best to avoid these kind of surfers who unfortunately do exist. 


Two surfer figures ready to fight after one dropped in on the other
C'mon on now, fellas...can we please just be civil about this?
Snaking is the lowest of the lows

A “snake” is a surfer who purposely paddles under or around another surfer whom he/she will commit the act of snaking on.  The surfer being snaked clearly has better position (or it’s their turn in the lineup) and may already be paddling for that wave.

surfer snaking another surfer drawing


The sneaky, slimy, scummy snake paddles towards the inside to gain inside position by cutting off the other surfer completely disregarding him/her in order to steal the wave.  If both surfers end up riding the wave, the snaked surfer appears to have dropped in on the slithering, suck face snake.  However, experienced surfers can distinguish this heinous act and is aware of who’s in the wrong. 

Snakes are really not cool.  Don’t be one.

Respect the lineup

On any given day you may find that each surf break has its own vibe, its regular locals, and possibly its own localized rules. Often times, the vibe is dependent on the quality and conditions of the waves, crowd factor, and the type of surfers in the lineup.

surfer paddling out to lineup

Be observant when paddling out to any lineup, especially if you’re new to that spot or if you’re surfing in another country unfamiliar to you. Be considerate of any local customs or differences. Some lineups are mellow and some are highly aggressive. Some follow a pecking order and others don’t. Some are just more welcoming than others. Feel it out, practice good surf etiquette, and you’ll be fine.

Sharing is Caring & Communication is Key

If two surfers are on the same peak paddling for the wave, it’s common courtesy to let one another know which direction (i.e. “going left!” or “going right!”) they are going so that the wave is not “wasted” while also allowing both surfers to enjoy that wave.

two surfer communicating and sharing one wave

Also, in a crowded lineup as you’re paddling for a wave but realize that you can’t get into it, let other surfers in position know that they should “go for it!”  Surfers will appreciate this kind gesture and will likely return the favor.

surfer telling another surfer to go for wave by communicating

Let Other Surfers Make the most of their Wave

When paddling out to the lineup, look to see where surfers are taking off and making their way down the line.  Avoid paddling straight into this area so that you don’t get in the way of a stoked surfer enjoying their wave.

surfer paddling towards whitewater to avoid crossing surfer riding wave

Paddle towards the broken section (whitewater) of the wave.  It will be more of a challenge duck diving or turtle rolling the foam but this is the common code that all experienced and respectful surfers abide by.

Grip Your Stick

What do you do when waves are breaking and whitewater is coming right at you?!

Get a grip of your stick!


Hold your breath and hold on!

Letting go of your board may endanger surfers who are paddling behind or around you.  A loose surfboard can turn into a weapon possibly causing bodily injury to yourself or others around you.  Unless you’re caught in huge surf with no else around you, letting go and ditching your stick is a big time kook move.

surfer holding onto his surfboard with big wave coming

Surf A Spot That Suits Your Skill Level

For everyone’s safety (including yourself), please be aware of your surfing ability.  Bring your surfboard and your learning potential to mellow surf breaks where you feel most comfortable developing your fundamentals and gaining more experience.

two surfers looking at beginner and advanced surf spots

Surfing requires a high level of aerobic endurance and muscular power.  It takes a lot of time and practice to develop the mental and physical strength as well as the knowledge and skill to paddle out into big surf or into a crowded, aggressive lineup.  Patience, persistence, and preparation will help you reach your goals.

Be A Mentor & Pay It Forward

We all start off as beginners.  Help newbies and guide them in the right direction.  They’ll appreciate it and will forever remember your generous act of kindness.  And you just might give someone their most memorable surf session ever.

older surfer mentoring younger surfer on the beach drawing

Respect & Help Conserve Our Planet

The ocean is home to over 1 million known species of plants and animals, and scientists say there may be as many 9 million species we haven’t discovered yet.

Let’s show love, respect, and care for sea life as we share the marine ecosystem that is critical in maintaining its life-support systems, moderating its climate, and in sustaining plants and animals.  Contributing to the preservation of one of our most important resources will help to conserve its environment so that surfers, beachgoers, and fisherman alike can continue to enjoy the beauty of our precious Mother Earth.

Dolphin, fish, recycle, throw trash, respect and love Earth

Smile In The Lineup!

You’re surfing!

Why not take surf lessons while on holiday vacation?

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