Understanding Surf Priority – The Simple Rules

As with every sport there are rules to guide us and help keep everyone playing the same game fairly and safely. Being aware of others in the water is paramount and should be one of the first things any surfer should think about.

Right of Way

This golden rule is the most important and applies to every wave! When a wave starts to form, the surfer who is the closest to the peak of that breaking wave, will have the right of way, giving them the longest ride.

Surfer priority

Much the same as entering a roundabout when driving. You will always need to be cautious and be ready to give way.

If you do find yourself taking off on a wave that someone is already riding this is known as “dropping in” and one of the worst things a surfer can do.

Paddling Out

When paddling out, don’t paddle straight through the heart of the line up where people are surfing. Paddle out through a channel or area where the waves aren’t breaking and people aren’t surfing. Sometimes at spread out beach breaks this is hard, but usually there is a less crowded area to paddle through.

When paddling back out try not to paddle in front of a surfer riding a wave unless you have sufficient distance to get out the way. Typically you will paddle behind the direction of travel of an oncoming surfer, allowing them to have a wave without obstacles to dodge.

It’s your responsibility to paddle as fast as you can to get over the wave and out of their way. If you don’t do this, you could find yourself being run over.

surfer priority theory

Keep Hold of Your Board

Always try to maintain control and contact with your surf board. Surfboards are large, heavy, and can really hurt someone if they come in to contact with someone unintentionally.

This is a hard rule for beginners, but if you manage to avoid picking up the habit of throwing your board you will be a better surfer. Of course if your leash snaps you’ll have a long swim back to the beach.

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