Surfing can be one of the most challenging and rewarding pursuits that you can take up and for many it can be something that sticks with you for a lifetime. However, when you start, it is important that you understand some of the fundamentals of the sport to ensure safety for you and for others.
Before you even head out for a surf, you probably need to understand what kind of wave you are getting yourself into. You must recognize that different types of wave have different levels of difficulty and potential dangers too. There are three main types of surf break: the beach break, the reef break and the point break. Beginner will most likely favor surfing beach breaks as the sandy bottoms are most forgiving after a fall. Reef breaks are the most challenging waves to surf as they are often fast, powerful and can have some potentially serious repercussions if you hit the reef hard.
One of the most challenging things for surfers, even before you take your first wave, is getting out into the lineup. Ironically, though reef breaks and point breaks are the most challenging of the waves that you can face, they are the easiest to reach. These waves tend to only break in one spot which means that there are usually calm channels that you can paddle through to reach the main peak. Beach breaks are another story. These kinds of waves break on ever shifting sand bars that often cause the waves to break all along the beach simultaneously. On bigger days it can be a challenge to make it past the breaking waves to the calmer deep water. Currents can certainly make this more of a challenge, yet there are some that you can use to your advantage. Rip currents, often feared by swimmers, can actually be a surfers ticket out into the lineup. When a lot of water reaches the beaches, it tends to have nowhere to go, so it leaves in the form of a rip current straight back out to sea. Surfers can use them as a conveyor belt to take them past the breaking waves.
Water safety is of paramount importance in the surf community. Often, the collisions and accidents that you see in the water can actually be avoided if all surfers adhered to a simple set of rules that stretches across the whole surfing world.
How surf priority works?
In its most simple form, priority means that the surfer closest to the peak of the wave has priority on that wave. If that surfer either elects not to take the wave or is unable to make it, then the priority goes to the person next in line. If a surfer who is not closest to the peak of the wave decided to take it, even though there is somebody already on the wave, they have dropped in on the first surfer. This is a big no-no in the surf community. It shows lack of respect and doing it can put multiple surfers in danger.
How to Paddle out in the right places?
When you paddle out, you should aim to stay clear of the breaking waves as possible, taking wide lines to avoid the surfers riding the waves and to avoid getting smashed by the whitewater yourself. There will be occasions, generally on beach breaks, where there is not clear place to paddle out. If you find yourself in a situation where you might hit the surfer by staying wide, but would have to face the whitewater if you stayed inside, always choose the latter.
If you are a beginner, make sure you stay out of the way of the more advanced surfers. Your lack of control could put both you and them in danger. Be sure to wear a leash at all times and to try to hold on to your board whenever you can. Letting go of your board in the surf can be super dangerous for people paddling out behind you.
Don’t hog waves
There is nothing worse than somebody who doesn’t share waves. There are plenty of waves in the ocean and everybody is out there to have a good time. Snaking is one of the lowest forms of breaking surf etiquette. That is when somebody changes their position in the lineup so that they are in position for the wave when it should have been somebody else.
Often when you surf at a new spot for the first time, you should spend some time just observing the rest of the crowd. A common mistake that surfers make is acting like they are surfing at their home break when they surf abroad, taking whichever waves they like, putting themselves in better positions than the locals. Doing that can result in you getting an earful or potentially even worse. Earn respect by giving respect, and in time you will get your fair share of waves.
When you get into the lineup, just make sure you say hi and smile to the others already out there.
General water safety
Oceans are more polluted than you think, often with rivers running waste into your local surf breaks. An easy solution for this is wearing ear plugs which will block out your ear-drums helping to avoid infection. As a regular surfer in cold water especially, ear plugs are a must as they limit seasonal diseases, headaches and allow you to surf whenever you please.
Another must, when you are surfing is wearing sun cream. Water reflects and magnifies the UV rays given off by the sun so protecting yourself in the water is more important than anywhere else. At Wyve, we like using sun sticks from EQ Love because it’s organic and the brand is from Biarritz!