Let’s assume you have read part 1 in this trilogy on how to keep it together while surfing. You have avoided the embarrassment/shame of kooking out at your local break and featuring heavily on the Kook of the Day Instagram feed (check that shit out!). Equipped with the right board, wetsuit and fins fitted correctly, and no fucking weird pre-surf photoshoots!
It’s now time to head out surfing. The ever-changing rules and regulations in hostile unfamiliarity can seem like an anxious situation but in reality, it’s as simple as 2 + 2 = 6 -2. There is a code and the main rule to follow when heading out is to be respectful, especially if you are not a local, being respectful can save you from some dangerous situations!
Surf waves that fit your ability
This should be obvious, but this is sometimes overlooked or forgotten about. If you are starting out, you’re not going to be paddling out in 5ft plus waves within your first few weeks of surfing. Start in the whitewash (broken part of the wave) close to the beach. Staying closer to shore keeps both you and other surfers safe until you build your ability and know your way around both paddling and a surfboard.
For the more experienced, although pushing beyond your limits is a win, don’t do this alone! If there are waves and no one is out surfing, it’s for a good reason. Get a surfing buddy and head out together. The confidence/psychology of just knowing someone is keeping an eye on you and vice-versa is a game-changer.
Paddle out correctly
Don’t just head straight towards where people are surfing, you'll become an object to avoid or possibly have an accident with! Paddle out far and wide and leave plenty of room for those surfing. Sometimes on beach breaks, this becomes unavoidable, a good rule is to paddle around surfers and head straight for the whitewater or broken wave, giving surfers a chance to surf.
Should you find yourself in front of a surfer and your only option is to carry on straight, paddle hard and fast to get over the top of the wave. Most surfers are good at getting around those caught within the wave. If you feel someone has not seen you fucking shout and duck dive, it may just save an expensive board repair!
Don’t ditch the board
We get it, a wave is heading for you or has just broken right in front of you. That instant shot of fear and panic sets in. Based on human nature, you want to throw your board to try to save yourself. Well, don’t. Your surfboard is a major hazard to both other surfers and yourself, be smart.
Sit in the lineup and wait your turn
There’s nothing more frustrating than trying to catch a wave and someone is pushing past and taking it for you. Although this is a form of snaking, the rules are clear. Wait your turn, there are plenty of waves!
Fuck sakes don’t snake
To snake someone means to steal their wave when they have the right of way. Unfortunately, it happens a lot, there will be times when you will fall victim to it. Should you find yourself accidentally snaking someone, be polite and well-mannered like your mother raised you and get off!
The person closest to the peak has right of way. Double-check before you push off to make sure you are not accidentally about to drop in on someone and cause a disturbance.
When you can either hop back onto your board or enter the water feet first. It can get overlooked but going in feet first is the safest approach when surfing beach breaks. Too many times you hear of horror stories of people landing headfirst and fucking up their necks with potential permanent damage.
Get off your high horse and admit when you are wrong. Sometimes there is just tension from the moment you enter the water and being argumentative will not help you in these situations. If you do something wrong, just apologise, regardless if you mean it or not it’s a simple way of showing respect.
Help other surfers
It's not all every man for himself in surfing, remember you all share a common interest. If someone looks to be struggling or needs help, get involved, you will find most people appreciate the help more than just being left to deal with it themselves. With surfing being so complex at times it's important to keep an eye on each other!
It's not all doom and gloom, 98% of the time it works every time, tense situations rarely arise. If there is anything to take from this guide, it's simply the knowledge you may or may not have known before. The important lesson is about enjoying your time surfing, if you’re not having fun then why the fuck carry on? As time goes on, you’ll learn more about reading waves, choosing the right board for the conditions, and spotting sneaky rip tides naturally. As always, have a laugh, be respectful, and look after one another out there!