Grass Roots


With the ASP world tour on a break, I thought it was a good time to cover how to get into the competitive surfing scene at a grassroots (local) level.

I entered my first surf contest at 17.  I was incredibly nervous and intimidated by the other surfers because I didn’t think I was good enough to compete yet.  It took a lot of encouragement from the great guys at Shore Surf (where I was working as a coach at the time) who forced me to have a day off to enter and told me to “get amongst it”.  I knew how surf contests worked and I had already fantasized about winning a few world titles (a dream that took a long time to shake off when the reality kicked in) so after a serious kick up the ass I entered the event, had a great time, and ended up winning the U18′s.

Grassroots surf comps can be many things; a chance to win a bit of local bragging rights, stepping stones to a possible surfing career, or just a really fun, social weekend.  They run some great contests here in Nosara and at most places with a coastline worldwide.

Do not fear if you are a little past your teenage years or do not ride a high performance short board, there are now a thriving Senior 35-44yrs, Grandmasters 45-54yrs, and Legends 55+yrs divisions worldwide and there’s always a Longboard division.  And if you are thinking it might be fun for your child to try competing, they can start at under 12yrs with age divisions right through until they are 21.

I truly believe that entering a surf contest will help you push your own surfing level.  Knowing you have an upcoming comp will give you a little objective in the back of your mind when you surf.  It helps to fuel the fire inside and makes you try to get a little more out of each turn or each wave, pushing you to improve.  This effort will give back to you in spades!  Even if you only do one comp, you might be able to push your surfing level up a couple of notches while preparing for the event and this improvement will be with you for the rest of your surfing life.

Time for a crash course in competitive surfing.  Before you enter your first comp there are some things you must know…

The Contest Rules

There is no point entering any type of sporting competition if you do not know the rules.  This will vary from contest to contest but will usually be based around these factors…

Paddle Out Time

The time allowed before your heat to paddle out into the lineup.  Usually 5 mins, but it can be increased to allow for big surf.  Although it’s now uncommon, some comps will have beach starts and no extra paddle out time.

Heat Length

The standard “grassroots” heat length will be 20 mins but can also be 15 or 30 depending on schedule or conditions.  Make sure you know this before paddling out and wear a watch!!!


It can get a little hectic in heats, everyone wants the best waves and will hussle for them (a lot like a busy free surf really).  The simple “rules of surfing” still apply, do not drop in and do not be seen to interfere with another surfers ride.  Having a priority system is very rare in a local contest.   If you are seen to “interfere” with another competitors wave, the score of your top scoring wave will be halved.

 Number Of Waves Allowed

There will be a limit to how many waves you can surf in a heat and extra waves will not be scored if you catch more than the allowance (usually 10).  Note: any time you take both hands off the rails of the board when you stand up counts as a wave.

Number Of Waves Scored

Nowadays it is common place for your top 2 wave scores to be counted and added together.  Make sure you know how many are counted to avoid disappointment.


Usually somewhat similar to the ASP (Association of Surfing Professionals) criteria. Note: Longboarding will be scored differently

Judges analyze the following major elements when scoring waves:

  • Commitment and Degree of Difficulty
  • Combination of Traditional and Modern Manoeuvres  (Longboard)
  • Innovative and Progressive Manoeuvres
  • Combination of Major Manoeuvres
  • Variety of Manoeuvres
  • Speed, Power and Flow

Essentially, judges will score the highest points for the biggest, most committed maneuvers performed with a bit of style.  The more risks you take on a wave by going for it, the higher you will score (if you do not fall off).


[ 0.0 – 1.9: Poor ]  [ 2.0 – 3.9: Fair ]  [ 4.0 – 5.9: Average

[ 6.0 – 7.9: Good ]   [ 8.0 – 10.0: Excellent ]

Getting 10′s is hard!!   If you are scoring in the average range for your first comp you are doing well!!

Pureline Surf Coaching

"Kiko" Goncalves (far left) son of a good friend of mine Eurico Goncalves (Portuguese longboarding legend) taking his first steps into the competitive surfing arena - 2009

 A couple of little tips to help you out prior to a comp…

Time Limit

Get used to trying to catch a few good waves in a 20 minute period.  When you free surf on the lead up to the comp, try to use your watch to do fake heats with yourself.  Getting comfortable with catching a lot of waves within a time limit is very beneficial,  20 mins is not long!!

Mock Heats

Get your friends involved!  There’s no need to have fake judges on the beach, just surf a 20-minute heat and judge yourselves as you go.  This is a great way of getting used to the system and you may inspire a friend to enter a comp aswell.  It is far more fun do contests with friends – not only to practice with, but also to enjoy the contest day/weekend with.

Watch Surf Contests Online

It has never been easier to get a real feel for surf contest than now.  Most high level surf contests are available to watch online for free.  You can gain a real insight to the whole system by watching how the judges score the waves and via informative commentary.  Not only is this a great education, but it is also incredibly entertaining watching the worlds best surfers compete in the worlds best waves!  For the latest CT comp information go to

Get Out There!

I would encourage every surfer of every level to go and get a feel for a surfing competition. Even if you do not make it through your first heat (and good on you if you do!), you will have gained valuable experience.  And, if nothing else, the competitors gift pack usually comes with some cool things that outweigh the cost of entry. Just try it. There is no pressure to win when it’s your first surf competition, just go out there and give it your absolute best.  You never know, you might just surprise yourself…I did!



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…I’m On A Boat

Soon it will be time to go back to Waterworld.

In Nosara, Costa Rica where Pureline Surf is based, we are lucky enough to have a very long surf season that stretches from November right through to August.  But sadly, September and October are a bit of a write off.  The swell is still there, but endless days of rain and onshore winds make it pretty unappealing. And there’s also the little problem of flooded rivers, muddy roads, and lack of supplies to our little coastal town. By all accounts it is not somewhere you want to be unless you are a duck!  So rather than sit around in the rain and moan, we are headed back to the Maldives in mid-August for more tropical sunshine (just can’t get enough of it!) and some great reef break waves.

This will be my third season in the Maldives and I truly love the place.  It is the most picture postcard perfect place I have ever been!  With crystal clear water, beautiful marine life and palm fringed islands, what’s not to like?  When you factor in uncrowded (or usually completely empty!) world-class waves it’s an easy choice when looking for an escape from the rain!

We work with a fantastic company out there called Tropicsurf, which is hands down the best surf travel company I have ever worked with (trust me I have done the rounds). The brain child of Ross Phillips, a fantastic surfer, coach and surf pioneer, Tropicsurf  provides luxury surf adventures for all ages and abilities in a style that cannot be matched. They are industry leaders in coaching and luxury travel and run trips in Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia, Maldives, Seychelles, Morocco, Fiji and more!

Three years ago, I took my maiden voyage in the Maldives on the Four Seasons Explorer (a 150ft luxury catamaran) as a Tropicsurf surf guide and it’s an experience I will never forget. Pairing the best guides and coaches in the world with a luxury catamaran in the most exotic place on earth is match made in heaven. The thing that has always impressed me most about Tropicsurf is their insatiable drive to get quality waves whatever it takes.  Twelve-hour overnight trips and chartering seaplanes is pretty standard with these guys. And all the while their guests are blissfully enjoying their fresh sashimi and lobster while sitting in the hot tub! Truly living the dream.

Tropicsurf is also stationed on land at two luxury resorts in the Maldives, The Four Seasons Kuda Huraa and Anantara Resort and Spa, I’m happy to say that I’ve had the pleasure of managing both of them. This year we will return (for the third time) to our favorite spot in the South Male Atoll, Anantara Resort and Spa. This fantastic 5 (and 6) star resort is spread across 5 small islands and just happens to be right next to some of the best surf in the Maldives that is suitable for all levels (even beginners). With a beautiful 50 foot surf boat at our disposal, we will be taking our lucky guests to the best surf in the south for a truly unforgettable once-in-a-lifetime-experience.

And after a few months in the Maldives, we will be back in Costa Rica in November to take advantage of the dry season and the amazing waves here.  Consider yourselves updated.

Only guy in there!

 South Male Atoll Surf Spots


A super fun right had reef break that is fun for all levels, Nonyas has two very distinct sections, a super mellow outside sections suitable for beginners that can link up with a super long rippable wall on the inside with the occasional tube.  A longboarders dream wave, but still fun on a chunky shortboard.



A bit of a secret spot off the corner of one of the islands, a short, shallow tubing left that is super fun once you get over the “shallow and sharp” part.

 Henry Reef

A fickle left across the channel from the resort, it has a long playful wall that accelerates as it goes down the line.

 Twin Peaks

Picks up the most swell in the South Male Atoll, a bit of a funky wave but always surfable.  Offers fun rights that grow in size along the reef.


Named boatyards as it’s across the channel from a local boatyard (clever hey), but over the last few years the reef has shipwrecked a fair few vessels that got to close.  This is probably one of the best lefts in the Maldives, on it’s day it’s a world class left that drains down the reef for a really long way.

 Kandooma Right

I think this is the best wave in the Maldives, when it is on it’s full stand up barrel perfection….need I say more?


So ripable, it should be called skateparks,  when small it’s great for all levels, when it’s big…it just gets better!  There is a very defined channel so you can get out of harms way easily here at any size.  If you are lucky there could be some large Mantas feeding in the channel while you surf.  Great spot for a surf & snorkel trip.


Looks perfect…bites



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What Lies Beneath


When heard for the first time, this statement always gets the same reaction from any beginner/intermediate surfer. Their usually happy-go-lucky, up-for-anything, calm faces flash a look of sheer panic when the word “reef” is mentioned.


What is a reef break?

A reef break is a wave that breaks over anything that is not sand. It can be coral, boulders, bedrock, shipwrecks or even artificially created reefs using sand bags.  Some reefs can be jagged and nasty while others can be flat and covered with moss.

“Is it safe?”

The simple answer, very often, is “Yes”.  Reefs get a bad press because there are many perceived dangers associated with reefs that, in some cases, can be fully justified.  Waves like Pipe in Hawaii and Teahupoo in Tahiti are incredibly powerful breaks with shallow, sharp reefs underneath them and are extremely dangerous (not an ideal place for your first lesson!).  However, for every super heavy reef break there will be a mellow, cruisy reef around the corner that will have perfect waves, even for complete beginners.  Calm reef breaks have many advantages and, as long as you are aware of the potential dangers, surfing a reef can be very safe and, in most cases, easier than a beach break.

“Will I hit the bottom?”

Sure, you might, but when was the last time you hit the bottom at a beach break?  If you are surfing “out the back” there should be very few times you have actually hit the bottom hard.  If you are hitting the bottom often when surfing, it might be time to reconsider your whole technique – aiming for the bottom is not exactly the goal when surfing!

When surfing a reef, there are a few wipeout techniques needed that you might not have considered when surfing a soft, sandy beach break. Obviously, diving head first into the water is not going to end well (and, really, you shouldn’t do this at a beach break either!). When wiping out, fall backwards (off the back of the board) and onto your back so you don’t penetrate the water, covering your face and head with your hands.

You’re also likely to hit the bottom if you ride the wave straight and into the shallow part of the reef. The goal will be to trim across the wave into a nice, deep channel or to pull off the wave before it gets too shallow. When riding a reef, you never want to “ride the wave all the way to the beach” like you do when surfing whitewater at beach breaks because the “beach” will be shallow and often sharp, rock or coral. Bad for your board and fins…and bad for your poor little toes! You should not have to put your feet down very often on a reef (it’s not good for the coral or marine-life anyway), but if you do, you’ll find that wearing reef booties will save your feet from any nicks and scrapes from the bottom.

So, as long as you don’t paddle yourself out at Pipe on an NSP during your second surf session, there is every chance you will survive surfing a reef break.

See, there’s nothing to worry about! And the advantages to surfing a reef break greatly outnumber any of your concerns.


Reefs have a fixed peak.

The real advantage to a reef is that the bottom is fixed.  This means that the wave will always peak up in a similar place, unlike a beach break where the sand is constantly moving. A fixed bottom reef makes it much easier to be in the right place when the waves roll in.

"Swimming Pools" Fiji

Reefs have a fixed direction.

At a good quality reef you will either be spending your session going left or trimming right. It will always peel in the same direction, at the same spot. This takes out a lot of the variables and can help you progress quickly, unlike a beach break where the waves break at different spots and will peel in all directions.

Reefs have channels.

This is the real beauty of surfing a reef.  Channels are areas of deep water next to a reef where, no matter how big the waves are on the reef, the water is always calm.  This means no more fighting your way out the back through mountains of whitewater after each wave! Hallelujah!  At a good reef break you will be able to paddle around the waves (in the channel) to get yourself back into position. Sweet! Having a channel also gives you a place to relax in safety in between sets if it all becomes a bit overwhelming.

Reefs are predictable.

One of the most over quoted lines in surfing is “no two waves are ever the same”.  This is true,  but you can get waves that are pretty damn close to the same on a perfect reef break!  With the waves breaking at the same spot (more or less), you’re going to catch more waves. You won’t have to “hunt your waves down” like you do at a beach break. If you can catch a lot of similar waves in a session, then it’s easier to experiment and try new techniques which will increase your rate of improvement. Sounds good to me!

You can surf from a boat.

Sick of paddling, duck dives and turtle rolls? Get dropped off at the peak, surf your brains out on predictable, quality waves, and then paddle back to the boat without having to do the “reef dance” (balancing, leaping, falling while climbing over dry reef to the shore).  And nothing is better than a cool beverage on deck after a few short paddle strokes.

A large percentage of the best breaks in the world are over reef, so don’t let such a little word scare you. Next time you hear the word “reef” get excited, not scared! Just make sure you surf reef breaks that are suitable for your level.

Here is a quick list of super mellow reef breaks that are suitable for all levels (even complete 1st timers).  Don’t let the fear of surfing over a reef put you off.

Swimming Pools, Fiji
Tortugas, Costa Rica (Close to our base in Nosara!)
Farms, Secret Atoll, Maldives
Wakiki, Oahu, Hawaii
Shark Bay, Fuerteventura, Canary Islands
Medewi, Bali, Indonesia
Nonyas, South Male Atoll, Maldives
Boneyards, Fuerteventura, Canary Islands
Inside Puena Point, Oahu, Hawaii

Cruising at "Nonya's" AKA "Bushi Corner" in the Maldives


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Dealing With Hold-Downs

No one enjoys having their ass handed to them by the surf, but it happens. Unexpected waves, continuous sets on the head, and gnarly wipeouts can all lead to a longer than usual hold-down. We’ve all had moments where it’s felt like we’ve been underwater a little bit too long. This can happen whether you’ve been surfing all of your life or if you just embarked on your maiden paddle ‘out the back’ session.

Several pro surfers are making a career out of charging “death pits”, as I like to call them, and tales of double wave hold-downs are all a part of the death-defying acts of bravery that pay the bills.  But for most of us, that are not throwing ourselves down 90-foot waves, hold-downs are not something to panic about.

As surfers, we quickly learn to get used to the regular “spin cycle” from a wipe out. The manic churning of a wave pushing you around is usually followed by a gentle float back up to the surface after a couple of seconds.  We just shrug it off, grab the board, and paddle out for another wave. We know that when we wipeout, the time we spend underwater getting “rag-dolled” is just part of the sport. What catches us off guard is when we’re held underwater for longer than we’re used to and the instinct to panic sets in. Some surfers are naturally born without fear of drowning and never get fazed in big surf, but for us mere mortals there are a few ways to conquer our fears and avoid panic when the surf gets heavier than normal.

Control Your Fear

When being held down, the reality is that usually you’ve probably only been underwater for a just a couple of seconds longer than usual and you will still pop up to the surface at some point (you always have before, right?). The human body is buoyant and naturally floats up to the surface so there’s no reason to be afraid.
For humans, the fear of drowning is a natural instinct that has contributed to the survival of our species. If you panic, it’s just your instinctual fear setting in and, unfortunately, it will do more harm than good. Panicking underwater triggers an alarming thrashing of your arms and legs as you frantically claw at the water in a desperate attempt to scratch your way to the surface. Although, it’s completely natural/instinctual to panic like this, flailing your limbs around in turbulent water is not actually helping you find the surface any more quickly; it’s just burning more oxygen.
Really, there is no reason to panic. Being underwater without air isn’t a problem – you’ve held your breath before, right? Fear of drowning is scary, but it’s not lack of oxygen that leads to someone attempting to breath water, it’s panic!  And the only way to stop panicking and conserve your oxygen supply is to relax.

Test Time

More than likely you are perfectly capable of holding your breath underwater for an extended period of time. Most wipeouts only last a few seconds so if you’re able to hold your breath for at least 10 seconds then you have the physical ability to survive long hold-downs.

So, just to make sure, while you’re at your computer hold your breath for 10 seconds with no preparation. 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10!

It wasn’t that bad was it? In fact, I’m sure you feel like you could probably hold it longer if you needed to.

Hold your breath for another 10 seconds, but this time exhale all of the air out of your lungs first. 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10!

That should have been a bit more of a challenge without the air in your lungs, but you probably still could have held your breath for longer.

The Good News!

If you’ve managed not to pass out in front of your computer (apologies if you did, note: we are not liable!), you already have the lung capacity to survive long hold-downs.

I know what you’re thinking…that 10 seconds holding your breath in front of your computer isn’t the same as holding your breath for 10 seconds when you’re being thrashed around underwater and panicking! Yes, that’s true. While at your computer you are in a relaxed state (sitting calmly and not exerting much energy) so you’re not wasting any oxygen. The key to conserving your oxygen while taking a beating in the surf is to be just as relaxed underwater as you are right now, sitting in front of your computer. So, in addition to being able to hold your breath for 10 seconds, you also need to learn to relax when you take a set on the head!

Techniques To Help You Relax During A Hold Down


It sounds very simple doesn’t it? But it’s a great way to relax and give you that extra bit of survival time underwater.

The next time you’re underwater after a big wipeout, relax, let your body go limp, and start counting from 1 to 10.  Focus your mind solely on counting and don’t give in to panicking. Most of the time you’ll only make it to 4 seconds before you pop up to the surface and you’ll end up feeling a bit silly for ever being afraid in the first place!

Mental Triggers

When you feel yourself starting to panic during a stressful underwater situation, it is great to have a mental trigger to cue you to relax.  A common technique that I have personally always found very useful is singing to myself.  Pick any song that relaxes you (I like the “Happy Day’s” theme song) and whenever you find yourself in a bad spot, hum or sing to yourself in your head.

This can also work with mental images.  Find something that works for you, something (a peaceful sunset, an empty meadow) that triggers your body to relax.  This technique works because of mental association; the song or image will trigger your body going into a relaxed state.  Once you find the right song/image, practice employing it all the time with smaller wipeouts or even when holding your breath in the pool.  The more times you do it, the more automatic the trigger will be when you need it and the more mental control you can create, the easier it will be to deal with your next long hold-down.

Relaxing will give you extra seconds underwater, burn less oxygen, and also give you mental clarity instead of blind panic. So hopefully the next time you are underwater longer than expected, you will be relaxed and in control (possibly singing “Sunday, Monday, Happy Days”) and pop back to the surface composed and ready to paddle out for another wave.

Relaxed State = More Survival Time

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Finding The Reset Button

Regardless of your surfing ability you will have, no doubt, had a session where nothing seems to be going your way.  The good waves are not coming to you, every attempt at a turn ends in a bogged rail and simple skills, like the timing of your take-offs, end in a head-first trip over the falls. We’ve all been there. And when you’re having an absolutely terrible surf it’s hard to escape the anger, frustration, and negative attitude that inevitably sets in.

This is when you need to be able to find your reset button and salvage the session.  The goal is to try to wash away the frustration you’re feeling so you are in a better mental state for the rest of your surf.



When you realize your surf is going downhill try to take a couple of minutes to yourself.  Sit on your board a long way out the back, take some deep breaths and let your muscles relax.  Often, a session can start to go badly due to fatigue.  If you’re already having a bad surf, you tend to paddle for everything that moves and this will tire you out.  So, sit out there for as long as it takes for your body to feel relaxed and rested and once you’ve achieved this, it’s time to regroup.


Try to take your thoughts away from the nightmare session it’s been so far.  Be aware of how this negativity is affecting your session and if you can, let go of it.  In the regroup phase your task is to take your mind off of what has just happened, if you can do this you will have achieved the biggest step in the reset process.  You can train your brain to get faster at this over time once you find the right trigger.

Here are a couple of examples on how you can do this….

Drift Away
Look out to sea and focus on something else. Focusing on passing boats or sea birds will let your mind drift away from surfing for a while. Don’t worry about the sets if you’re still out the back, just let them slip by. Think about something completely different, something that makes you happy.

Chat To A Mate
Take your mind off the surf by having a bit of a chat with someone, try to talk about a non-surfing related subject like the football game yesterday (note this could lead to extra stress if your team lost), what went on last night at the bar (usually good for a few laughs), or even just the weather.

Find The Source
If you are struggling to reset, perhaps there is another issue that has been bothering you? Maybe there is a personal problem or stress from work that is clouding your mind? Find the source of your frustration and make a mental note to deal with it after your surf. The problem isn’t going anywhere, but the swell and tides are…so surf now and sort out your life later! When your mind is well-rested after a fun surf, you’ll  be ready to take on the bigger problems in life.

Laugh At Yourself
Think about how ridiculous you are for getting angry at a sport that should be a fun escape from the stresses of real life and smile to yourself.  Don’t take it so seriously, everyone can have an “off” session and falling head-first over the falls can be quite hilarious to others, think of it as a crowd pleaser.

You should find when using these techniques that a few minutes will have passed where you haven’t thought about surfing. Now your body is rested and your mind is regrouped, but you’re just bobbing around like a buoy in the lineup getting no waves…it’s time to refocus.


Think of the rest of your surf as a completely new event that you have the power to make into a positive experience.    There are many factors in surfing that we do not have any control over – conditions, crowds etc.  So for the rest of your session try to focus only on what you can control, like your wave selection and the choice of maneuvers to suit the conditions.  Think about what you are going to do well for the rest of the session and how good it will feel when it all comes together. Hopefully by this point you will be prepared to paddle into the next good wave with a cool head and absolutely smash it!!

But If All Else Fails, Get Out!!

If you continue to have a bad session and you cant let go of the stress and frustration, it might be time to get out of the water.
Paddle in and take a break by enjoying some time on the beach. Rest. Grab a snack, chat with some friends, or simply lay back on the sand and relax. Regroup. Turn your back to the sea and forget about surfing for a while. Refocus. Gather up some positive thoughts and start thinking about your next surf session. When your mind is relaxed and positive, it’s time to get back out there!

A Positive, Relaxed Mind State = Positive Results In The Water

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The Rules of Surfing

So, why do we need rules for surfing? It’s a sport that’s all about having a free spirit and enjoying the ocean, right? Well, that’s very true if you’re lucky enough to be surfing on your own or just with some good mates (these are always the sessions you remember). However, surfing is growing more and more popular by the day and as a result there are more people in the line up than ever before, especially on the weekends. Crowds are more and more becoming a fact of life at a lot beaches, but it should not mean the end of having fun in the surf.
There are some simple, unofficial rules of surfing which help to keep the lineup properly managed when there is a crowd. These rules were first popularized in the 60′s during the first surfing boom and a lot of them still ring true today. All of these rules are designed to keep people safe and also rewards the surfer who takes off in the best position on a wave.
The following rules are really important and you should be aware of them if you are planning on surfing for the first time, especially in a busy lineup. These rules are recognized world-wide and you will get yourself a lot less potential grief in the surf if you know them.
Here is a comprehensive look on the rules of surfing with a few added tips to make your next experience in the surf a better one.


When a wave rolls in and several surfers start paddling for the same wave, it’s the surfer who’s closest to the peak that has priority. So, when you’re paddling, be aware of who’s around you and who has the right of way. If you’re closest to the peak, take it! If you’re not, let the other surfer go and get in a better position for the next wave.

Some surfers wrongly think that, even when there’s already another surfer up and riding the wave, they can take off closer to the peak and have priority. Taking priority by being closest to the peak only works if the wave isn’t already claimed. The first surfer up and riding has the right of way and dropping into a wave behind someone and claiming the wave as your own isn’t cool. And you’ll probably get hit if the surfer in front decides to do a cutback!



The first surfer up and riding has the right of way. Just like crossing a road, always look both ways before paddling into a wave – if there’s another surfer on the wave, stop paddling and let them go.

When you’re paddling for a wave, don’t forget to look over your shoulders! It’s possible that a surfer behind you will be up and riding that wave before it even reaches you so stay out of their way – the surfer already up and riding has priority.



If you continue paddling for a wave when another surfer is already on the wave and drop into the wave in front of them, not only will you ruin their wave, but there’s a high likelihood that they’ll end up hitting you – and a fin to the face is not a good look. Make sure you look both ways before you take the plunge!

If you’re thinking about dropping in on someone that has a large section in their way (essentially ending their ride), make sure they’re not able to get around that section before you take the wave. Most experienced surfers are able to get past big sections so don’t drop in on them – the wave is still theirs.


If the peak is splitting both left and right, make sure you communicate to the surfer nearest to you which direction you intend to surf so you don’t end up smacking into each other before the wave even begins. Yell “LEFT!” or “RIGHT!” as you’re paddling for the peak.


Essentially the “line up” is where you wait your turn to ride the wave. This works very well for a point break or reef break where the peak is consistent – everyone waits their turn and everyone gets a ride.  But organising a line up for a beach break is more difficult since the peaks are constantly changing. Do your best to take turns and don’t paddle around someone (“snaking”) to get the better position.


Snaking a wave is when you paddle around the surfer that’s closest to the peak and steal their wave by obtaining priority. When you’re surfing point and reef breaks where the peak is consistent and a “line up” forms – wait your turn and don’t “snake” someone’s wave.



Always paddle out around the break so that you don’t get in anyone’s way. If you must paddle out in the middle of the break (like when you’re surfing a shifty beach break) and there’s a surfer on the wave that’s just in front of you, you MUST paddle behind them into the whitewash and take the wave on the head – DON’T paddle into their path and ruin their wave.

The only time it’s OK to paddle in front of a surfer that’s up and riding is when you have plenty of room to cross their path without any worry that you might get in their way – don’t try this unless you’re an experienced surfer.

After you wipe out, quickly familiarize yourself with where others are around you and paddle back out safely without getting in anyone’s way. Don’t waste time fixing your hair, grab your board and get back out there!



When a big set comes, it might be tempting to just ditch your board and swim, but with your board on the loose, it could (and most likely will) end up hitting someone. Remember that your leash allows your board travel a long distance so be kind to others around you and keep your board where it belongs. And after wiping out, quickly locate your board and keep control of it.



There’s no need to be a wave hog. If you’re catching loads of waves, why not let someone else catch the next one? Some surfers, especially those on bigger boards, are able to get into waves really early before the wave even reaches other surfers. If you’re one of the lucky ones that can catch anything that moves, let some waves go so others can enjoy the surf as well. Surf karma goes a long way!


When you make a mistake, own up to it! If you accidentally drop-in on someone or paddle into their path, apologise. Everyone makes mistakes and most surfers are very understanding.


If you’re a beginner and your only experience has been white-water waves on a beach break, then it’s a very bad idea to paddle out into a heavy reef break. The same can be said for more experienced surfers when the waves are bigger and more powerful. If you’re not confident that you can maintain control of your board, then stay on the beach. Be smart and don’t push your limits without the help of a qualified coach.


Just like when you’re driving, following someone too closely could end in a collision. If the person directly in front of you loses control of their board while duck-diving or turtle-rolling their board may fly up and smack you right on the head! Give yourself some space when you’re paddling out and try to pick a path that won’t get in anyone’s way.


Not that we want to add to the crowds, but when you’re surfing, take a friend with you. Surfing can be a dangerous sport so surf with someone (preferably a surf instructor/lifeguard friend!) that will not only keep you company, but who can also help you if you need it.


Learn everything you can about the spot you will be surfing. What’s the bottom like? Are there sharp rocks or reef? What’s the tide doing? Is the wave steep/hollow/fast? Are there any dangerous currents? Before you enter the water, make sure you understand your surf spot. If you’re new to a surf spot, ask a local. If you feel you don’t really understand how it all works, a qualified surf coach can teach you everything you need to know about the ocean.


Boards, fins, reef, and various sea creatures can harm you. Be aware of the dangers that surround you and take precautions. Cover your head every time you wipeout and maintain control of your board so you don’t end up hurting someone. Also it’s a good idea to make sure you know where the nearest doctor or first-aider is (just in case).


We all started out as beginners so when a newbie makes a mistake remember that it takes time to learn to surf and to become confident with the ocean. Even beginners that know the rules may have trouble following them at first so be understanding. Remember the tunnel vision you had when you caught your first wave? Or the blind panic you felt when you accidentally paddled into the path of a surfer riding a wave? Be patient. And if you want to feel extra warm and fuzzy, be helpful.


We’ve all been there, so when you see a surfer in need, help them out. A little kindness is all it takes.


It might seem obvious, but don’t litter. We’ve all paddled out past floating plastic bottles and flip-flops left by careless beach goers…don’t be that disrespectful person.


Surfers love to travel so even if you’re surfing your local spot today, you most likely will be surfing someone else’s local spot tomorrow. So when you’re visiting, be respectful of the locals and follow the rules (and don’t turn up with 8 of your friends and crowd the water). And when you’re hosting, be welcoming and let your guests have a few waves.

One final note on the rules…

Every once in a while someone will make a mistake or it will be hard to tell who was in the right and who was wrong. Don’t worry about it. The rules are designed to keep you safe, not to police everyone. Have fun and enjoy the waves!

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