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Surfing Hawai'i: rules of the road

From ancient Hawaiian royalty to Duke Kahanamoku and modern-day surfers, the sport of kings is so deeply entwined in Hawaiian culture, that we can’t think of Hawai‘i without picturing surfers riding a variety of perfect waves. If you plan to surf when you visit the Islands or if you are local and surf here practically every day, some common-sense rules of the road are in order.

Basic rules of the surfing road

  1. When in doubt, don’t go out. Check with lifeguards or informed locals about wave and ocean conditions.
  2. Wear sunblock now or pay later. But not on body parts that touch the surfboard. It’s slippery, dude.
  3. Paddle out through the channel or an uncrowded area if possible. Don’t paddle in front of a surfer already riding the wave. Paddle behind him or get out of the way.
  4. Share the waves. The ocean belongs to everyone.
  5. Respect the locals and they will respect you. Ho‘omanawanui, have patience. You’ll have to earn your spot in the lineup.
  6. When you are on a wave, be careful to avoid paddlers, swimmers, and others in the often crowded water.
  7. Don’t snake someone’s wave. The surfer up and riding nearest the peak, or breaking part of the wave, has priority. It is OK to split the peak by going in the opposite direction.
  8. Don’t hog all the waves. Longboarders shouldn’t take all the waves just because they can, and shortboarders shouldn’t feel entitled to every wave either. Remember: surfing is fun.
  9. Don’t ditch your board if you fall off a wave. Grab the base of the leash or the board and try to hang onto it. A loose board, even on a leash, is a hard-hitting weapon. If, for your own safety, you must let go of your board, try to look for an open area that will not put others at risk.
  10. Apologize if you accidentally bang into someone or mess up their wave; it will diffuse trouble. If they reject your apology, paddle away; don’t ruin your day.
  11. Know your surfing and swimming limits: PEOPLE DIE FROM OVER-ESTIMATING THEIR ABILITY.
  12. Watch out for reefs, sharks, and sea urchins.
  13. Don’t use potty mouth; it degrades you, your sport, and those who hear you, especially young ones.
  14. Observe parking rules at surf breaks. Respect the privacy and peace of nearby neighbors.
  15. Don’t do drugs; surfing is a natural high.
  16. Smile. It doesn’t hurt you or anyone else.

By following the common-sense rules of the road, surfing can be a fun and safe, life-long sport for everyone. Now, get out there and catch some waves. And don’t forget to share with the other children.

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