Don't be a Kook

If you're keen on truly enjoying the surfing experience in a friendly environment, understanding some fundamental rules of surfing etiquette is crucial. Failing to do so may earn you the reputation of a "kook," potentially making your surfing less enjoyable and fascinating.

Before coming to the essential surfing rules, it's important to distinguish between a kook and a beginner surfer.

Kook is kind of a beginner surfer who acts or tries to act like a PRO, but in reality, just breaks surf etiquette rules and makes some hilarious stuff that makes others laugh or in the worst cases even furious.

A beginner is a new surfer or not very experienced surfer with a humble and respectful attitude, eager to surf and learn.


There are plenty of factors that define a kook, but the most important and really frustrating and even dangerous is the absence of knowing and following surfing etiquette rules. So let‘s see what are these rules and how to observe and respect them.


Rule #1: Right of  Way

surfing etiquette right of wayThe surfer closest to the peak of a breaking wave has a priority. For example, if you are paddling to the right, and a surfer on your left is also paddling to the right, you must give way to him or her as he is closer to the peak at the moment.

Let‘s examine some tricky situations that happen all the time on every line-up:

Dual or Split Peaks: If two surfers are on the same side of the peak, they each have the right of way to take off on their respective sides. It means that one surfer paddles to the right and another one paddles to the left at the same time.

surfing rules splitting the peak

If a surfer riding a wave gets closed out with an impossible section or wipes out, the next surfer down the line can take off.

Rule #2: Don’t Drop In

surf rules drop inThis is probably the most important part of surfing etiquette. Dropping in means that someone with the right of way is either about to take off on a wave or is already riding a wave, and you also take off on the same wave in front of him or her.

This blocks a riding surfer the ride down the line, and is extremely annoying, not to mention dangerous.

Rule #3: Paddling Rules:

surf rules paddle outDon’t paddle straight through the middle of the lineup where people are catching and riding waves. Paddle out through the channel where the waves aren’t breaking and people aren’t surfing.

When paddling back out, do NOT paddle in front of someone riding a wave unless you’re well, well in front of him. You must paddle behind those who are up and riding and take the whitewater hit or duckdive.

Sometimes you’ll just end up in a bad spot and won’t be able to paddle behind a surfer. It’s your responsibility to speed paddle to get over the wave and out of his or her way.

Rule #4: Maintain Control of  Your Board

This rule is crucial, especially in crowded conditions. It is essential to always have control and contact with your surfboard. Surfboards are large, heavy, and solid. If you let your board go flying around, it could potentially harm someone.

This means that when you're paddling out and encounter a wall of whitewater, you should not simply ditch your board and dive under it. If you throw your board and there is someone paddling out behind you, it could lead to accidents.

While this rule can be challenging for beginners, avoiding the habit of discarding your board will significantly improve your surfing skills.

Rule #5: Avoid "snaking"

Snaking" is the act of maneuvering around another surfer in order to position yourself for priority on a wave. It involves making a wide "S" shape around another surfer and cutting the lineup. Although snaking may not pose an immediate physical threat, it is viewed as highly irritating and disrespectful among surfers. It is essential to patiently wait your turn and not attempt to assert dominance in the water.

Rule #6: Beginners should avoid crowded spots not for their level

This rule is subject to different interpretations, yet it remains valid: if you're a beginner, it's best to steer clear of paddling out into the midst of experienced surfers. Instead, choose a less crowded spot with the waves for your level.

Rule #7: Avoid excessive wave catching.

Just because you have the ability to catch every wave doesn't mean you should. This mainly applies to longboarders, kayakers, or stand-up paddlers. As it is relatively easier for them to catch waves, it can be tempting to monopolize all the waves, leaving nothing for short borders closer to the shore. Remember the principle of reciprocity: share a wave, receive a wave.

Rule #8: Respect the beach

Maintain cleanliness. Take responsibility for your own waste by picking it up, and consider picking up a few additional pieces of garbage before you depart, even if it doesn't belong to you.

Rule #9: Respect locals

Remember that the local surfers frequent this spot daily. Show respect when visiting, maintain a friendly atmosphere, and earn respect for yourself. Avoid overcrowding the surf spot with a large number of surfers. Instead, take your time and avoid rushing straight to the outside lineup.

Rule #10: If you make a mistake

This aspect is often overlooked in surfing etiquette guides, but if you unintentionally drop in or disrupt someone's wave, a prompt apology is highly appreciated and contributes greatly to diffusing tension in crowded lineups. You don't need to beg for forgiveness (unless you did something truly terrible). Frankly, it's rather foolish to ignore someone after dropping in on them.

There are not many rules to follow, some of them are essential and founded on respect and common sense, while some of them are more specific and it‘s not easy to follow them at the beginning of your surfing journey. Don‘t worry, with practice and a humble attitude you will learn these rules naturally and very quickly.

To accelerate the process of learning we highly recommend you to follow the instructions of our professional surf instructors while joining our surf school.

Have fun in the water!