Rules of Surfing

The rules of surfing and why you need to follow them

So, you’ve decided its time to learn to surf. Put on your zinc, give the sexy girl on the beach a wink, grab your board and paddle into the waves.  Now you might think it’s a free for all, and sometimes it certainly looks that way, but there definitely are rules on the water.

One of the hardest things about learning to surf is not yet knowing enough to hustle the waves.  I personally don’t surf in Australia because the hustle often turns hostile, which to me is the complete opposite of why we are on the water. Indonesia, and in particular Lombok, is blessed with local surfers who hustle you off waves with a giant smile on their face. Smile or no, these rules are crucial for getting in position and taking the next wave to surf.  Let's break it down into 2 sections: the known, written rules and the known, unwritten rules (aka common sense!). 


  1. The surfer on the inside has right of way. The surfer closest to the breaking part of the wave has right of way. As an example, a wave that is breaking to the right means that if there is anyone on the left of you when you're paddling for the wave, it’s their wave. You will see several surfers paddle for the same wave but if the inside guy knows he is going to make it, he will call the others off. So look left and listen. Or right if you’re on a left breaking wave. Breaking this rule is known as a drop in. Do not drop in unless its your mate you're trying to annoy.
2.Do not snake. What is snaking? On every break there is a line up. To snake someone is to paddle out to the line up and then paddle to inside the surfer who is next in line and try to call him off the wave. Those who are in position and have been waiting longer have rights to that wave. Trust me, do this and you will get noticed by the locals. You won’t catch another wave. Wait your turn. Avoid snaking altogether, or do so at your own peril.

3.Do Not throw your board. If you find yourself caught inside a set (which happens a lot), be aware of who is around you.  If you're absolutely sure that no one is behind you, or right in front of you, then it can be ok to throw your board and dive down under that wall of white water. However,this can lead to injuries for anyone in close vicinity who most likely will cop a board or a fin on their head. Throwing your board is dangerous, so best avoid. Learn to roll under the water holding on to your board, and when your board is small enough, duck dive. Both take practice but always best to keep your board with you. Think about it; why would you let go of your flotation device by choice? That makes no sense.

So these rules every surfer should know and understand, with no excuses, but what are the unwritten rules?

These are the more common sense things. Naturally, there are plenty more; each surfer will have their own self rules to live by.

1. Know your limits Well duh! Of course, but inside all of us there is a little wannabe Kelly slater! Don't paddle out into unfamiliar waters without first getting a handle on the local peculiarities, rips, underwater rocks etc. If your leash breaks are you going to be able to swim in? If the answer is no, then don't go.

2. Don't rush into the break. Spend some time sitting off the shoulder, waiting for a set to roll through.  Check it out first. Ask yourself; is it too big for you? How does the drop look? Is everyone on shortboards catching barrels? If the main break is outside your experience, sit on the shoulder and be patient.

3. Stay safe. Surfing with a buddy rules. Not only is it more fun, but if something is to go wrong, (like you cop a fin up your arse, click on this link for that true story which happened to yours truly), then its always reassuring to have a friend help you in, or laugh at you, or both. 

4.Be Patient. Okay, this is my own unwritten rule. Surfing is a type of meditation for me; stay calm, have fun and be patient.  Sometimes you might not catch any waves, but by golly gosh, enjoy the serenity and remember why we are out there. Surfing is partly about the rush of getting that wave, yes, but the feeling of being surrounded by majestic nature of the ocean is so good for the soul. 

5. Get out of the water if a storm is brewing. Sitting on the water acting as a lightning conductor for the approaching black clouds and potential storm is not a wise thing to do. Being struck by lightning is more common than you think as a surfer. Ask any long time surfer and they all have a story of pushing their welcome in the water too long with a storm when all of a sudden there is a distant crack and tingle through your body, all your hairs standing up. Get out now!


Now this is by no means an exhaustive list and I am no expert, but these rules have helped me in my journey of learning to surf independently.  We'd love to hear from you if you have any other great tips!  Send us a message on FB or on our website but until then, see you out there on the water! 








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We are located front and centre Kuta Beach, in Kuta, 25mins south of the International airport at Praya.