More than a set of laws, etiquette in the water is there for safety and everyone that enters the water where there is more than one person should follow these rules.
With us bodysurfers at the lower end of the surfing totem pole, not much respect is usually thrown our way. Therefore, we must exhibit extra caution when it comes to the area of proper ocean etiquette out in the lineup.
Hopefully by addressing some do’s and don'ts of bodysurfing etiquette, you will be more prepared and confident when entering a crowded lineup.When Driving your car you wouldn't pull pull out in front of someone going 60 mph. Like rules of the road people get hurt in the water if the rules of etiquette are not obeyed.
Know your Limits and pick the right surf spot for your ability
Never drop in or snake another wave rider
Know your priority
Be nice and talk to each other
Respect the locals
Apologize for your mistakes
Always help another surfer in trouble
Always pick a spot to bodysurf that fits with your ability. Everyone likes to think they shred like Bodhi from Point Break (the first one) but just this once be honest with yourself. Also Watch the surfers in the water, if you see a 12 year old pulling a 720 somersault air spin it's safe to say the level is pretty high, if you are not at a similar talent level move down the beach. Also watch the surf for a good 10 minutes before going out, follow your gut on this, it easier to fake a sore knee than to go in heavy conditions and then be airlifted out the water in front of 200 people.
Dropping in means, when another surfer is on the wave or has priority over you on a wave (read next code for clarity on this) you decide this is a good time to ruin both your days and "drop in" causing all sorts of carnage. This is the worst offence in my opinion, as it can cause the most danger and it's just bad etiquette . This is as bad as doing a uturn on a highway, just don't do it ever! One caveat to that when you are with buddies and you call a party wave then its on like Donkey Kong.
The bodysurfer who has priority is the one who is closest to the peak, in best position, and who is the closest “inside” or who has “inside rights” out of everyone. “Inside rights” is best explained through an example:
You and your friend are at a point break left , a good wave comes and you are on the left side of your buddy (when you two are facing the ocean), you have inside rights for the coming wave. This form of etiquette is one of the most crucial to getting along with other bodysurfers. DO NOT take off on a wave if someone else has inside rights, unless it’s your buddy and he has been getting all the good waves have at it.
One way to get on the wrong side of everyone in the water is getting in the way of others or paddling right into the middle of the surfers already in the water, then sitting there like a fart that won't go away. As bodysurfers, it is important to always give ample space to surfers and fellow bodysurfers who are riding towards you. Take into consideration how deep you need to dive, how long you need to stay under, and if there is a possibility of the surfer cutting out of the wave and landing right on top of you.
Example, a surfer is heading right for you. DO NOT stay on the inside and swim closer to where he is currently surfing to get a front row seat. DO keep swimming away from the surfer and dive under the wave giving ample time for the surfer to pass over you. It's Important to remember , if you are going under a wave with a surfer currently on it, be sure to surface with one hand above your head as to not get hit in the dome.
Being grumpy abusive and unapproachable will get you nowhere in any situation. You are in the ocean enjoy it. Get along and make yourself known out in the lineup can be extremely helpful if you want to get a lot of waves when it is crowded. For the most part, you are a stranger when you enter the lineup; you don’t want to be. By simply talking to the other guys out there, you can give yourself better odds at getting some good ones. Now don’t go out there making a ruckus; maybe talk about the recent weather or news, or if it’s an especially good day talk about the waves, say all this in a nice way. It has always been a more enjoyable experience for me when I start talking to some of the guys out in the lineup. You might even gain some crucial knowledge about the break if you have not been riding it long or are just visiting, I know I have.
If you don't surf a break often you are not a local so have respect for others that call it home. Many locals consider their beach sacred. Locals can get a bad rap but show respect it may take time but if you go often you'll work your way it. It was an early summer day at The Wedge and the seasonal blackball was just starting. An older gentlemen who looked like he had a lot of experience at Wedge entered the water, I was curious so I started talking to him. Long story short, I learned that his name is Dave Ellis and he has been bodysurfing Wedge for over 30 years, he taught me how to ride at Wedge the right way and how to optimize the potential every wave had. Over 30 years of experience, and I was taught a lot of it!
Respect every surfer, bodysurfer, and any other wave rider, especially if you are not a local. Learn to take turns, in other words don't be a wave hog and generally be on good behavior or chances are you get around house kick to the mellon and you would have deserved it. Being respectful will pay off in the long run, be smart out there and you will definitely get some great rides!
This is a fairly simple concept to grasp for most so I won't dwell on it. Everyone makes mistakes, and when you do quickly apologize for any mistake you make, and be quick to forgive others if they get in your way or cut you off. This patience will definitely help you in the heat of the moment and in the long term outcomes. Go get some!!
Another fairly simple human concept to grasp. When you see another bodysurfer, surfer in distress or anyone in the water for that matter, help them out. We are a band of brothers/sisters out there when it comes down to it, no matter what board you ride. All watermen and women have a kindred respect for one another and we look out for each other in the water.
Being a waterman is being part of a culture and with that comes with an infinite amount of rules and codes that vary from break to break. The codes listed above are fairly stock standard and as a beginner these are the ones you really want to know before even stepping out into the ocean. The rest come over the years you put into the sport.
It may seem fairly daunting as a beginner but most of these are common sense and a code you really should be living by in everyday life. get out there and have fun.