The “Surfer’s Code of Ethics”; What Is It and How Do You Display It?

Tribal Law Surfriders Code of EthicsThis week is the 2013 US Open of Surfing in Huntington Beach, CA. In honor of this annual event, I thought I’d post the Surfer’s Code of Ethics.

What? Surfers have ethics? Believe it or not — yes. Most surfers try to stick to a certain set of guidelines when riding waves in a line up, especially a crowded one. Note that I said, “most”. In one word, it’s about Respect.The various authors of the three sets of the Surfer Code of Ethics, below, summarize what it means to show respect.

Surfrider Foundation’s – The Surfer’s Code

  • Respect the beach, ocean and others
  • The surfer closest to the peak has the right of way
  • First to his or her feet has priority
  • Stay out of the way of riders on waves
  • If in doubt, don’t paddle out
  • Be aware of currents, jetties and other surfers
  • Hold on to your board
  • Clean up after yourself and others less thoughtful
  • Always aid another surfer in trouble
  • Share the water, your knowledge and your stoke
  • Give Respect To Gain Respect

A Surfer’s Code by Shaun Tomson – from the book “Surfer’s Code”

  • I Will Never Turn My Back on the Ocean
  • I Will Paddle Around the Impact Zone
  • I Will Take the Drop with Commitment
  • I Will Never Fight a Rip Tide
  • I Will Paddle Back Out
  • I Will Watch Out for Other Surfers
  • There Will Always Be Another Wave
  • I Will Always Ride into Shore
  • I Will Pass Along My Stoke
  • I Will Catch a Wave Every Day (even in my mind)
  • I Will Honor the Sport of Kings

Nat Young’s Code of Ethics – Give Respect To Gain Respect

  1. Right of Way: Furthest inside, closest to the peak.
  2. Do Not: Drop in or Snake.
  3. Paddling Out: Paddle Wide. Caught inside stay in the white water.
  4. Remember to Communicate: First to feet or on the wave. Call Communicate (Left or Right)
  5. Always: Surf with Your Ability. No big waves until ready. Take off with commitment. Paddle hard.
  6. Danger: Do not let go of your board, it’s a danger to others.

I first came across the Surfer’s Code of Ethics via Louise Southerden. I loved the drawing she included in her book, called, “Tribal Law”, which I have posted below. This image is an initiative by the Vasse Leeuwin Community Health Service in Australia, and is supported by the Surfrider Foundation and Surfing West Australia. I thought it was a great way to portray a great deal of information in a small amount of space. I like the hand drawn aspect to it, too.

Tribal Law Surfriders Code of Ethics

My next encounter with the Surfer’s Code of Ethics came when I attended Witch’s Rock Surf Camp in Tamarindo, Costa Rica last March 2013. Joe Walsh, founder of the surf camp, has summarized what us students learn at the camp in a great blog post on surf etiquette. I love the stick drawings. If you are new to surfing, I’d suggest you read his post if you’d like to learn in greater detail how to handle yourself in a line up.

For you non-surfers out there, are there any surprises in this code? For you surfers out there, are there any codes that you would disagree with? Which ones do you find easy to do or hard to do?

Update, 21 August 2013: Silverback Surfers posted “The Best Drop-in Excuses (When Saying Sorry Simply Isn’t Good Enough)“. Love it. Do you have any favorite drop-in excuses you’d like to post, either on their blog or this?

Jewel Ward
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Jewel Ward

Founder and Consultant at Impact Zone Consultancy
Nice to meet you! I am Jewel Ward, founder of Impact Zone. Our specialties are search engine optimization and digital stewardship for creative industry websites.

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Here are three fun facts about me. I consider coffee and chocolate food groups. I am an INFJ. I love longboard surfing.
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