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16 October 2014
Wales Surfing - Learn

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The Surfing Code

Surfers code @ Rest BayImages by Papparattzi

It doesn't matter where you surf as these rules are global.

Don't drop in

A drop in occurs when a surfer takes off on a wave that someone else is already riding. The surfer on the wave first, ends up behind the other surfer.

It's the equivalent of queue barging or pushing in s don't do it!

A surfer who is nearest to the white water or breaking part of a wave in either direction - left or right, always has priority on that wave. In other words - they decide if they want it.

If surfing with friends, it doesn't matter quite so much, as long as they don't mind! But it's generally considered bad practice to drop in on anyone, if it's a really nice wave.

'Dropping in' on strangers can result in both verbal & physical abuse and creates a bad vibe in the water.

Sometimes it happens accidentally, especially when there are lots of surfers, in close proximity or it's a crowded summer day.

If this happens, just 'kick out' (surf over the back of the wave and off it) as quick as possible and allow the surfer behind (with priority) to continue on their way.

Apologise if necessary. A quick "sorry" can go a long way and remember, surfing is meant to be fun, so be gracious if you're on the receiving end.

A surfer taking off, may shout or whistle at you if they think you're going to take a wave which they have priority for, and therefore 'drop in'.

Surfers sitting deeper than you and therefore nearest the critical, breaking part of the wave always have the right of way.

dropping in from the left

Surfer B on the left has 'dropped in' on Surfer A.

You'll sometimes encounter surfers who shout for every wave, no matter what. In this situation a bit of common sense works wonders.

Just do your thing - paddle for the wave and compete for the wave but the 'drop in' rule remains the same, so you may have to adjust your tactics if you find you're not catching waves.


'Snaking' occurs when a surfer deliberately paddles inside of another surfer in order to steal wave priority and get closest to the breaking part of the wave.

You'll occasionally encounter surfers who paddle across you at the last minute in order to take off deeper, thus claiming priority. This is considered to be 'snaking' and is not looked upon favourably.


Try not to paddle across or in front of, any surfer who is up and riding on the wave.

Paddling across someone can not only ruin the surfers ride but also put you both at risk of injury.

If you paddle for the shoulder and don't make it - you could end up being run over and injured by the nose or fins of the other surfboard. Equally, your own board could injure either party.

If surfing over reef, the surfer up and riding may have to take evasive action, putting their own life in danger by turning towards rocks to avoid you.

Most competent surfers will do their best to avoid you by cutting back or steering around you and ultimately the rider has responsibility and control over the situation.

don't paddle across surfers path

The surfer paddling in this image should be paddling to the right hand side, towards the white water.

If you have plenty of time, then head for the shoulder of the wave.

You should always aim to never spoil the ride of the surfer on the wave.

Avoiding interference

Here are a few options, depending on the scenario:

  • Stop and wait for the surfer riding to pass by and duck dive the white water. If it's going to be a close call, then don't stop.
  • Paddle towards the shore. It doesn't feel like the most natural thing in the world but it's a good way to avoid a collision and both surfers know where they are.
  • Paddle in the opposite direction to the rider as fast as you can and prepare to duck dive the breaking wave.

It is your duty as a surfer, not to disrupt the ride and to take any punishment that the wave dishes out.

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