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  • Writer's pictureSurf Getaways

Surf etiquette and how to NOT drop in


women surfing paddling for a wave

Surf etiquette is a big subject amongst surfers and not following it is the main reason why there can be conflicts in the lineup. Even though there are no written rules and official regulations, there are some international common practices known by all surfing communities around the globe that help keep surfers safe and happy in any surf break. At the end of the day surfing is an extreme sport and not following the rules can lead to serious injuries and unwanted situations.


There are many topics to be discussed around surf etiquette, and one of the main ones is the Drop-in. This happens when a surfer does not follow the priority rules and “steals” a wave from another surfer. It has to do with the positioning in the ocean in relation to the wave. Let’s use an easy example to illustrate a drop-in:

  • You are in the lineup, surfing a right-handed point break (all waves break from left to right) and have been waiting for a while to catch a wave.

  • You’re the furthest surfer to the left (closest to the peak). Some surfers are paddling back up to the lineup and another surfer (Sophie) is waiting to catch a wave close by, sitting on your right hand side.

  • There is a set coming, you start paddling to position yourself closer to the peak of the wave, and Sophie next to you starts paddling too.

  • The wave gets to you, you are the closest to the breaking point, Sophie keeps paddling and now in front of you catches the wave a bit further down the face of the wave.

  • At this point you have already taken off at the optimal point of the wave, but your ride is interrupted by Sophie who has DROPED-IN on our wave.

Ways for this scenario to end.

  1. If Sophie or you are not 100% in control, it’s very possible that you run over Sophie and put both of you in danger with a high risk of being injured.

  2. You slow down to not hit Sophie, lose speed and therefore the wave will break on top of you, and you’ve wasted the wave, and are caught on the inside having to paddle back out. In certain surf breaks this can be a dangerous position for you as well.

  3. You’re an experienced surfer and able to get off the wave, but you’ve still lost the chance of a great ride.

  4. In any of the cases, Sophie has broken the rules and we will most likely call her out and the vibe in the lineup will change, being less friendly.

What could have Sophie done to avoid the situation by following surf etiquette.

  1. Position herself better in the beginning to have priority

  2. Wait patiently for her turn and take the next wave of the set

The location, surf break and ocean conditions will affect the level of danger of an action such as a drop-in. It’s never cool to drop-in, everyone must follow the rules to keep us and other surfers safe in the water. If you’re unsure of how things work out in the surf, Join any of our learn to surf programs and surf tours, we explain in detail all surf etiquette aspects and rules of surfing so you stay safe and have a good time when paddling out. If you’re heading to the beach on your own and feel confused on how to behave or what to do in the water it’s better to ask other more experienced surfers around you, most of them will happily give you a hand and some tips and advice.

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