Paddleboard Surfing – Etiquette

Paddleboard Surfing

Who knew surfing was a sport filled with etiquette and manners. If you want to learn to SUPSurf, you have to start with the basics.

If you are getting into any sport, it’s best to know the rules. It’s just like most things in public life; it has its certain set of rules and manners.

Chances are you do not eat with your hands at restaurants, you don’t put your feet on the couches with visiting someone’s house, and when you drive, you don’t cut people off.

Here in Costa Rica and in Nosara, where we have our SUPSurf Camp, the locals are very welcoming. The same can not be said for all beaches around the globe.

Being in the ocean with large boards has the same set of rules. Way before you learn your cutbacks and bottom turns, you will want to know the basic etiquette.

This applies even more to SUPSurfers because we have bigger boards and can catch more waves due to our paddles’ advantage.


The surfing community has a name for those that do not follow the rules of surfing etiquette; the term is Kooks.

Your first goal should try not to be a Kook. Not being the best surfer in the world does not mean you are a kook. Thinking or acting like you are the best surfer on the planet when chances you are not will certainly qualify you as “kook of the day.”

Just the fact that you are reading this blog post is a good sign. Most kooks wouldn’t even take the time to educate themselves because they might think they already know it all.

If, by chance, you find yourself feeling like a Kook, it either happened for two reasons. The first is you think you are Kelly Slater, and with that issue, we really can’t help you, and the second is that your excitement for enjoying SUPSurfing got you in a little too deep, and you made some rookie mistakes.

This second reason is exactly what a week-long coaching session can help you with.

Sup Surf Etiquette

Here are the basic things you need to know to avoid being kook of the day:

  • Be Present

One of the beauties of being in nature and the ocean is that you get a chance to unwind and detach from your phone. While this is undoubtedly a nice thing to enjoy, you also have to be hyper-alert and at the moment when in a surfing lineup. It is a beautiful thing when you see a crowded lineup, and everyone seems to surf synchronized.

The lineup is part of the ocean surfers coming and going all fall, doing their part to keep the flow and maximize rides for everyone. 

All of these surfers are in communication. They might say “mine!” to indicate they are going for a particular wave allowing other surfers to wait for the next.  

In general, the unspoken rule is that the rider closest to the peak has first dibs on the wave. 

  • Dropping in 

Dropping in on someone is the equivalent of cutting someone off in traffic. It is a significant no-no. It is when you drop down into a wave while a surfer is already up and riding it.

This might be what beginners have the most trouble with. You will want to feel comfortable on the board before you enter a lineup. When you start to learn SUPSurf, you probably will want to less crowded beaches. This will allow you to avoid accidental drop-ins.

  • Snaking Around

This is the equivalent of jumping in line. It’s someone with little patience and respect for other people’s time spent in the water.

A surfer paddling around the lineup trying to find the next wave regardless of who they take it from is snaking.

  • Don’t Go After Every Wave

This can be tough for SUPSurfers because we are capable of catching more waves than surfers. If you want to maximize your potential and catch 1,000 waves a day, it’s best to find a break just for yourself.

If you are in a lineup, you will have to be conscious not to hog waves. It is ok to catch more waves than the regular surfers, but don’t make it a lot more locks.

  • Acknowledge and Respect the Locals

The worst thing you can do is show up to a place filled with locals and act like you own it or are the best surfer the area has ever seen.

Give a slight nod of recognition, implying that you are grateful for letting you come and play in their home. Be humble, follow the etiquette rules, and you will be fine.

  • Apologize

Be conscious of any errors that occur. Instead of getting mad at yourself for not riding a wave to your perfection, try and focus that energy by apologizing to any surfers that were in your path or radius of error.

We all have had to do this. Human error is natural so get used to learning how to say “your sorry.”

  • Paddling Out  to the Line-Up

After you learn to SUPSurf past the beginner level, you will be able to read rip tides.  You will know how to get out into the lineup without being an obstacle for people riding the waves.

With SUPSurfboards, we can be a big object to avoid, so learning the proper techniques and reading the area are all things to keep you from being “the Kook of the day.”

  • Ride Waves that Match Your Skill Level

When you learn to SUPSurf, it’s easy to want bigger and bigger waves. If you are out there just getting pounded and your board is all over the place, that is fine if you are out there alone. If you are in a lineup, then it’s a major kook-ish thing to do.

Ensure you know your skill level and not try and be the next Kai Lenny.

  • The Good-Surfmaritan Law

Always help any other surfer in need. Sacrificing a wave or an entire day of surf to help another is your duty as a surfer.

  • Care for the Beach and Ocean

The only thing the ocean asks for in return for its production of amazing waves that have changed countless lives and formed the lifestyle we all love and enjoy today is to treat it with respect.

Surfers should be first conservationists and second athletes. It is our right not just to respect today’s surfers in the water but to care for the ocean, ultimately respecting tomorrow’s surfers.

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