Spatial awareness, knowing the combined length of your surfboard and leash, and not ditching your surfboard are the three main focuses you need to be aware of when you’re in the waves surfing.
Being mindful of what is around you in the ocean; when you’re paddling out to the lineup, when you’re dropping in on a wave and when you’re surfing a wave requires spatial awareness. Know where other surfers and bodyboarders are in relationship to where you are when surfing. Many times, surfers aren’t aware, which can set both you and them up for a possible accident through contact. If you witness a surfer about to drop in on a wave right outside of you that will put you in danger of contact, always call out to the surfer to let them know you’re just inside of them. They should pull out of the wave to avoid running you over. Surfboards and surfers contact accidents can be dangerous and should be avoided at all cost.
Know the length of your surfboard and leash. For example, if you’re riding a 9’ long board and you have a 9’ leash attached to it, then that’s a total of 18’ combined. When you catch a wave and then wipe out, that board can travel 18’ away from you, it’s attached to your ankle. In a crowded lineup of surfers and busy times with assorted ocean users in the waves, the likelihood that your board could hit someone inside of you or along side of you, goes up substantially. One of the golden rules of surf etiquette is to keep control of your surfboard, and to do your very best to avoid having it hit someone else. With this in mind, crowded surf lineups and high usage days at your favorite beach location, you either need to choose surf sessions when its less crowded, if you’re not that experienced of a surfer yet, or you need to be more diligent to control, retrieve and hold onto your surfboard.
Lastly, don’t ditch your surfboard. When you’re learning to surf and even years on your surfing path, there will be times when you’re tempted to ditch your surfboard; like right before a big green water wave is rising up in front of you or when a large wall of white water is barreling down on you. Don’t do it! Keeping in mind both spatial awareness and the combined length of your board and leash and the distance it can travel, surfers are around you and if you do a last minute ditch (release of your board completely) there is a high likelihood that your board may hit them. There is also a high likelihood that the force of the wave coming down on your board may break or buckle it badly. This could leave you without a board to ride in to the beach on. Now, I will give a slight disclaimer to this rule of etiquette. There will be times in more serious surfing scenarios where ditching your board may be the last action you can take safely. In this case, always look behind you towards the beach to see if someone is paddling out close to you, and if they are rethink if you should ditch it or not. Sometimes a last minute action to tightly hold your board close to you is a better decision than ditching it and endangering another surfer.
Be safe, mindful and aware in your moment to moment experience while surfing!