More and more people are taking to the waves on various forms of craft, ultimately meaning that the world’s line-ups are getting busier and busier.

Not all welcome this influx of enthusiasts. Those who consider themselves to have been there since day one are generally unreceptive to newbies rocking up at their local spot.

Add to the mix the inherent snobbishness of the ‘surf community’ thrown your way for choosing to ride a kayak and it’s no surprise that in certain areas tempers occasionally flare.

To help alleviate this problem understanding basic surf etiquette is a positive step forward. Knowing the rules of the road can often douse the flames of a potentially heated situation.

Paddling out

Primarily, try and give EVERYONE a wide birth. Due to your extra propulsion – in the form of your paddle – moving off to a more secluded area of the break should be relatively easy.

If this isn’t an option, always avoid any rider that is already on a wave. Paddle for the white water and NOT the unbroken section, which is dangerous to the person up and riding as well as you. They won’t take kindly to having their ride spoilt either!

You may get washed slightly by the flotsam but ultimately you’ll gain more respect from the pack by letting the rider have their glory.

Use your eyes

Before taking off on a wave make sure you look left and right AND inside. This way you’ll spot another rider already up but more importantly you’ll be able to avoid anyone who has wiped out.

There’s nothing worse than dropping in only to find another person trying to get out of the impact zone directly in your path!

Taking off

This area in surf etiquette is the rule most commonly broken.

Whichever rider is closest to the pocket (the bit just in front of the breaking part of the wave) has right of way. If you take off in front of them then technically you have just ‘dropped in’.

This can cause a ‘snowball’ where the wave crumbles onto the original rider and in worst case scenarios you may collide.

The grey area arises when you’re surfing a spot that tends to section and break at intervals making judging the peak more difficult.

In this instance, use your eyes and your noddle.

If you’re confident you’re not causing a problem, or risking injury, then go for it – however in most cases caution is advised. Wait for a quieter wave before going for it.

Wave hog!

Just because you have the means to take every wave going doesn’t mean you should.

Having a paddle in your hands gives kayakers extra propulsion, meaning you could wave slide until the cows come home. Most people won’t thank you for this though – particularly if they have a lesser means of thrust and have been waiting patiently for their set.

At a busy break there is a usually a conveyor belt like train along the peak. One person goes and the next moves up. The person finishes their ride and joins the back of the queue. Show respect for others and they’ll adopt the same attitude.

Swimmers and others

It sounds obvious but if there are swimmers in the water, avoid them. The last thing a bather wants is a kayaker charging towards them with a wall of water surging them forwards.

Summertime is usually when the hordes descend on popular beaches – along with every man and his surf craft. This can cause issues just through the sheer amount of numbers confined to one tiny space.

If it’s looking too busy then it might be an idea to wait for a quieter time of day such as early morning or late evening. Use your common sense and all will be fine.


Your attitude in the water will count for a lot. Everybody occasionally makes mistakes and there’s nothing wrong with admitting you’re in the wrong.

If you do make a boo boo, then apologise – nine times out of ten all will be forgiven.

Being aggressive and agro in any line up will pass from one rider to the next and before you know it there will be a pack of angry surfers/paddlers/wave riders, which turns an otherwise fun experience into an unpleasant one.

A ‘kook’ is a surfing term that refers to anyone who is causing a nuisance or doesn’t respect surfing etiquette. If you’re heading out for a few waves make sure the kook in the line-up isn’t you…

As the Hawaiians say – ride with Aloha and the good vibe will be returned.