Surf Etiquette In the Lineup and On The Beaches

Surfing is the majestic act of riding live energy on the surface of the ocean. Yet, surfing is so much more. Surfing is more than the act of riding waves. It’s being present in nature, quieting our minds to allow the ocean to teach us: learning the currents, learning the conditions, connecting with nature and connecting with those around us. It’s a physical and spiritual experience that is sought after worldwide.

But who’s turn is it? Who decides to go and not to go?

Those questions will be covered in this post.

Surfing has been around for hundreds of years. It was seen as free-spirited, dance on water. This quest for a moment of bliss makes you understand why people take surfing so seriously. Before I dive into modern day surf etiquette, let’s take a quick look at who participated in surfing and how the etiquette took place historically.

Surfing in Ancient Hawaii

Surfing was strictly designated for royalty or spiritual leaders. When the chief would paddle out, all commoners or non-royalty would have to exit the lineup. Once the chief was done surfing, the lineup would reopen to those who were from that village. People from villages only surfed in front of their family’s land or ahupuaa.

The Ahupuaa was a system where an island was divided into sections that ran from the mountains to the sea. The Hawaiians looked at the ocean as a part of the land. All the fish that were caught off the coast of their land was designated for that family. No one went to other sections of beaches to fish. It was the equivalent going in someone else’s yard and harvesting their fruit or crops.

Don’t Rush In, Hang Loose

An example of this is on my 2nd trip to Tahiti, I paddled out to Taapuna. I’ve surfed there many times before, and once I reached the lineup I just sat there for the first hour. I familiarized myself with the lineup, got in the rhythm of the ocean, and just waited my turn. I cheered on others when they got a deep barrel.

I Share Their Experiences With a Smile and a Nod

Guess what happened; a set came in and they told me to ‘GO!’ They offered this wave to me like I was a guest at their dinner table. I got a nice barrel, not too deep, but good enough for my first wave. Once paddling back out, they asked me how was it? I thanked them and shared my experience with them. Then they offered me a spot in the rotation. Every 15-20 minutes they’d tell me to go. I only went or paddled for waves with their blessing. That day was a very memorable day in my life.

I Caught Many Barrels That Day

What’s more important is that I connected with the people of Taapuna and I made many friends. I take this approach even to this day here in Maui. Even though my family has lived here in Hawaii for seven generations, when I go to a spot that is not my home break, I’ll be sure to wait my turn and allow the local family to offer me a wave.

The Moral of the Story

This quick history lesson and my Taapuna example are important because this is where the origin of surfing etiquette begins. You have seen how it’s lived out in a modern day surf scenario. Being considerate while surfing isn’t just a moral consideration. It’s an essential practice, which is required if one is to enjoy the sport of surfing.

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