1. The most important rule is that the surfer closest to the breaking part of the wave has the right of way, and the worst thing you can do is catch the same wave as them. This is called a drop-in and is considered a cardinal sin in the rules of surfing. Not only does it ruin the other surfer’s ride, but it can be dangerous and cause collisions. You are going to come off second best if your head meets the pointy end of someone else’s surfboard and vice versa.
The best way to avoid dropping in is to always check that there is not someone up and riding on your inside – closest to the breaking part of the wave – before you paddle for a wave. Regardless of how careful you are, you may still unknowingly drop in on someone. If this happens, apologise to the other surfer immediately.
2. The second most important rule of surfing is to wait your turn. If you have just caught a wave, don’t paddle straight back to the inside – closest to the breaking part of the wave – if there are other surfers who have been waiting their turn. This is called ‘hustling’ or ‘snaking’, and nobody likes a hustler or a snake. Rather get in line again and wait your turn.
3. The third most important rule of surfing is that it’s your responsibility to get out of the way if another surfer is riding towards you. Don’t paddle in the direction they are riding – this makes it far more likely that you will collide. Instead, paddle for the breaking part of the wave or whitewash (foam) behind them, no matter how scary this may seem. It will be a lot less scary than their surfboard cleaving you a new side parting. And don’t let go of your board – this can obstruct the other surfer or smash out someone’s teeth if they are behind you, or worse.
If you absolutely have to let go or ‘bail’, make sure there’s nobody behind you first, push your board away and dive under the breaking wave.