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Surfing Etiquette

rule 1:

right of way

The surfer closest to the peak of the wave has the right of way. This means if you’re paddling for a right, and a surfer on your left is also paddling for it, you must yield to him or her.

no liquids

rule 2:

Don’t Drop In

This is related to Rule #1. This 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 their ride down the line, and is extremely annoying, not to mention dangerous.

rule 3:

Paddling Out

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 duck-dive.

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

surf board

rule 4:

Ditching Your Board

This is important, especially when it gets crowded. Always try to maintain control and contact with your board. Surfboards are large, heavy, and hard. If you let your board go flying around, it is going to eventually hit someone.. This means if you’re paddling out and a wall of whitewater is coming, you don’t have permission to just throw your board away and dive under. This is a hard rule for beginners, but if you manage to avoid picking up the habit of throwing your board it will help your surfing. Try walking out as far as you can and wait for the calm period (lull) in between sets and then paddle fast out the back

rule 5:

Respect The Beach

Don’t litter. Simple as that. Pick up your trash, and try to pick up a few pieces of trash before you leave even if it’s not yours.


rule 6:

If You Mess Up

It happens. If you mess up and accidentally drop in or mess up someone’s wave, a quick apology is appreciated, why not ask them for some pointers.. the important part is that you recognised what happened, only then can you get better.

Disclaimer: The rules above are a guide only.. they are not intended to be complete or without error.

Here are 16 surf etiquette do’s and don’ts


  1. DO learn the basics of surfing before hitting the waves. This will help you stay safe and make the experience more enjoyable for everyone. Unsure on where to begin? That’s okay! Book a lesson or join one of Aotearoa Surfs adult or kids programs
  2. DO respect the locals. If they’re the ones that surf the break every day, they most likely know the in’s and out’s of the conditions and waves best.
  3. DO Surf in areas that are appropriate for your skill level. This will help to minimize the risk of injury and keep you safe.
  4. DO always use a leg rope. This will help to prevent you from losing your board and it colliding into another surfer or swimmer. Don’t have a leg rope? Buy one from Aotearoa Surfs Shop!
  5. DO take turns when surfing with others. This is how surfing works and will help prevent waves from getting crowded and reduce the risk of collision.
  6. DO be aware of other surfers and objects around you when riding along a wave. This will help prevent accidents and injuries.
  7. DO always apologize if you muck up. If you get in someone’s way, or accidentally drop in on someone, it happens. It’s just good manners.
  8. DO clean up any trash that you bring to the beach. Surfers are often responsible for cleaning up coastal areas, so do your part and keep our beaches beautiful! A good rule of thumb is “Take 3 for Sea” of additional rubbish you find too! Check our Aotearoa Surfs “Surfing For Good” initiative to find other ways you can help improve the sustainability of NZ Coastlines
  9. DO be aware of the conditions before going out surfing. This includes checking the weather, tides, and wave height and ensuring they are within your capabilities.
surf day


  1. DON’T surf in areas that are too crowded with other people whilst you are still learning. This can be dangerous and you can easily crash into others with your board.
  2. DON’T surf between the flags or too close to swimmers. This can be dangerous for both you and other beachgoers.
  3. DON’T paddle straight out the back and into the line-up if you’re a beginner unless the waves are small. Learn your limits, practice and gain confidence in the white wash/ waves closer to shore until you are confident in your skills and board control.
  4. DON’T drop in on another surfer’s wave. This is considered rude and can be dangerous.
  5. DON’T throw your board away from you when there is an oncoming wave. This can be dangerous for other surfers. Instead, use one of the various bigger board duck-diving techniques such as the eskimo roll.
  6. DON’T choose the biggest wave of the set if you’re not confident in your abilities. This can be dangerous for both you and other surfers.
  7. DON’T cut off another surfer by paddling in front of them or around them.

And finally… DO be a responsible surfer. This includes following the rules and regulations, being respectful of others, and taking care of the environment. Surfers who act responsibly and following surfing etiquette help to create a positive image for the sport and make it more enjoyable for everyone.

Surfing For Everyone


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