Surfing Rules of the Road, Laws & Ethics

by on Wednesday 6th March, 2013   20796 Visits   Comments

Malibu is always rammed these days - as numbers increase the rules seem to be relaxing just when they are needed most. © 2014 jkrate

WHILST the surfing world concentrates on comps and increasingly appears to be in danger of slipping further down Alana’s bum - some things get missed in the wash. One of these appears to be an increasing ignorance towards the rules of the surfing road. Call me an idealist, harking back to the good old days, but now is the time for a refresher course in ethics for us all. A few very simple factors that, if followed, will make everyone’s surfing life better.

When I started surfing with my father some 30 years ago, aged 6, the Surfing Rules of the Road, Laws & Ethics were strongly impressed on you. It was made clear that your understanding of these were of paramount importance before you even considered ‘going surfing’.  These are more relevant today than ever before, anywhere, at any time. These would be termed as ‘Rules’ or ‘Laws’ of the game in mainstream sports like tennis, rugby or soccer.

To put this into context:

- Would you play a game of soccer or rugby with 20+ others without any idea of the rules, or even why you were playing?

- Would you and a bunch of mates walk on to a pitch in the middle of an International game, stop play, then wonder why everyone (including the authorities) were thoroughly displeased by your presence?

- Would you match yourself up against a certain Mr Federer in a tennis match without a full understanding of the rules, and then argue with him about who is right?

- In the same vein; would you expect that owning all the most expensive kit earns you the right to play Mr Federer in the first place?

- Would you have no understanding as to why Mr Federer kept winning points and then become angry because he was?

No, you would not, never. That would be ridiculous. Wouldn’t it? 

Now is the time for a refresher course in ethics for us all Jonty Tucker

Now think about that in a surfing context: the pitch being the sea, the players are other surfers and Mr Federer the Long Time Surfer, Local Ripper or Pro.

These important laws passed down through generations to make surfing work properly, are there to make it work for all.

The newer surfing populace have my sympathy, these standards have been plastered over and muddied as a direct consequence of an industry that has been overwhelmingly keen to flog the lifestyle rather than the real reasons to surf. It is often the case now that what passes for ‘good’ surfing is what board you own, what (inevitable) van you drive and what brands you wear. If you surf for the right reasons you will agree that this is wholly out of kilter.

Despite getting run over (we don't condone hitting people, avoid people at all costs) the 'victim' should probably not have paddled across the path of the surfer instead of into the whitewater or opting to duckdive the moving surfer. The surfer should always try and avoid hitting people, there is no suggestion that hitting people is defendable, but good practice avoids collisions. © 2014 Neil Cowler

Here are some simple pointers for a better surfing life for all:

Going Surfing

Taking a car or van load of crew (4+) to any quiet wave is known to all long-term surfers and locals as being absolutely not on at all. No excuses. This is one of those moral and ethical guides: if you turn up mob-handed you and your crew will be perceived in a very poor light before you even get in the sea, meaning you all get less waves in a bad atmosphere. Not good. Edit: This is not anti- car sharing. It refers to crowding-out quiet spots where there is generally one peak and is a guide to good practice.

If you turn up mob-handed you and your crew will be perceived in a very poor light Jonty Tucker

Getting in and Paddling out

If it’s somewhere new, or not well known, to you then:

Take a good length of time to suss how the wave breaks, where and if there are rips etc. This will save you getting smashed, run over, in the way, shouted at and mean you get loads more waves more easily.

Watch who is getting waves and from where; this will mean you get to know who the crew is and avoid potential friction making your surf more enjoyable. I.E. If the first section is only being made by the rippers, obviously, sit wider where it slows.

As you paddle out, keep watching and learning. Paddle wide of the wave to avoid sets and collisions.

When out, initially, sit well away from the pack and watch what is going on, work out who are the rippers and how the waves break: This will save you countless floggings and grief.

As you get some waves away from the pack, get into it, then work your way towards the peak and pack without hindering others. The real surfers will take note of this and you will be accepted and allowed more waves because you have respected them and their local.

Conversely to what you may expect, by taking some time to educate yourself you will get more waves, be allowed more, accepted more, and all in a more pleasant environment. Yay!

In the Sea

Simply, if everyone adheres to the standard Surfing Rules, everyone will get more waves, with no friction and the session will be happier for all! If you don’t know these don’t go in until you do.

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