Surfing etiquette

Surfers dropping in. Image by Mark Evans

Whose wave is it anyway? Image by Mark Evans.

These basic rules will help keep you and others around you safe, while surfing in Wales.

The drop in rule

There are very few rules in surfing which you must abide by, but the 'drop in rule' is one of them. This is the single most important rule to learn and adhere to while out surfing.

A drop in occurs when a surfer paddles for and catches a wave that someone else is already up and riding.

The surfer already on the wave ends up behind the other surfer who is deemed to have 'dropped in'. In the image above, the surfer on the orange board has been dropped in on by the surfer with the green board.

When surfing with friends, it doesn't matter quite so much (as long as they don't mind) but it's considered bad practice to drop in on strangers or even on friends, if it's a good wave.

Dropping in on strangers can result in both verbal and even physical abuse - creating a bad atmosphere in the water which is the last thing you want when the waves are nice.

Multiple 'drop ins' on the same wave

Surfers sharing a wave
Image by Claire Beach from Porthcawl

Luckily, we don't have much of a problem here in Wales (it's too cold for temper tantrums), compared to other countries e.g. Australia, America and South Africa but as the sport grows and numbers swell - it's only a matter of time before surfers become less tolerant.

Accidents do happen

Accidental 'drop ins' do happen, especially on crowded summer days. If you accidentally 'drop in' - just 'kick out' (surf over the back of the wave and off it) as quickly as possible and allow the surfer behind you (with wave priority) to continue on their way.

Apologise if necessary. A quick apology or gesture can go a long way and remember - surfing is supposed to be fun, so be gracious if you're on the receiving end. We were all learners once upon a time.

Look before you leap

A surfer taking off on a wave may occasionally shout or whistle if they think you're paddling for a wave which they have priority on. This helps prevent 'drop ins' and avoid accidents so don't take it personally.

As a secondary measure, it's always worth glancing back as you take off on a wave, just to make sure that no-one is behind you. If they are, kick out and over the back of the wave.

When paddling, stay focussed on the take off area in front of you. Many learners become so fixated by the approaching waves that they forget to look ahead and paddle whilst looking at the wave behind them.

This is dangerous as it leaves you little time to react if another surfer suddenly appears in front of you, paddling back out.

So, always look ahead when paddling, glancing sideways occasionally to check on the waves progress and to adjust your stroke accordingly i.e. paddling faster or slower.

Read the next page of this article.

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BBC Wales surfing map

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Places to go

A fishing boat at Fishguard

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Use our guides to get out and about in Wales this summer.

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