Many lives are lost to accentual drowning every year in Ireland. Tragically the majority of these are avoidable. Surfing is an adventure sport with an inherent element of risk. However this risk can be reduced if the basic safety rules and etiquette are adhered to by all. Every surfer should be familiar with and abide by the safety rules and etiquette before heading out into the “lineup”. These are well established rules throughout the world that bring safety and order to what would otherwise be a dangerous and chaotic sport.
Safe Surfing Guidelines
- If you are new to surfing take a lesson at an ISA Approved School or Club. Here you will be introduced to the sport in a safe environment.
- Do not attempt surfing unless you can swim.
- Do not surf alone or enter the water as dusk is approaching or if you have been drinking alcohol.
- Always let somebody on land know where you have gone and when you will return.
- Check the weather and tides before you paddle out. Learn to observe the ocean so you can identify rips, wind changes and other hazards.
- If you are unfamiliar with a break check with local surfers or other water users before paddling out. Ensure the waves you are surfing are of a size and power suitable to your ability. Do not get too confident. Stick to beaches until you become experienced.
- Make sure your equipment, especially your leash is in good order. Remember it is much easier to spot a brightly coloured surfboard or wetsuit at sea in the event of you requiring rescuing.
- Consider other safety equipment- nose guard & helmet.
- When you “wipeout” do not come to the surface too soon and when you do come to the surface protect your head with your arms.
- Always check behind you for other water users before abandoning your surfboard to dive under a wave.
- If you get caught in a rip do not try to paddle against it, paddle across it.
- If you find yourself in difficulty stay calm, do not discard your board, wave one are in the air and shout to attract attention. Do not panic help will come.
- Always respect our rescue services. Should you see a surfer in difficulty in the water DON’T DELAY phone 112 or 999 and ask for the Coast Guard. Even the most experienced surfer may at some time require assistance.
- Every surfer should attain water safety and first aid training (http://www.iws.ie/ ). Such training will help prevent you from getting into difficulty and will enable you to react appropriately if you encounter another water user in difficulty.
- Be aware of other water users and always show respect regardless of craft. Above all, keep a good attitude, be friendly and apologise if you make a mistake.
Safe Surfing Etiquette
Right of Way/Droppin In
Never “drop in” on another surfer. “Dropping in” is taking off on a wave in front of another surfer who has right of way. The surfer closest to the break part of the wave or pocket has right of way.
A surfer riding a wave has priority over a surfer paddling out. It is the responsibility of the surfer paddling out to avoid collision. When paddling out back you must never obstruct a surfer who is up and riding. Either paddle wide of the wave breaking area or into the white water. This allows the surfer who is up and riding to continue without having to dodge you. (However if the situation arises where a collision is inevitable the surfer riding the wave has the manoeuvrability to avoid the collision. There is no justification for running over another surfer.
Respect the Lineup
Learn to respect the ‘line up’ an informal line of surfers, particular at point and reef breaks where each surfer waits there turn with the surfer whose turn it is next sitting deepest. The line up can break down if one or more surfers consistently paddle inside those surfers waiting their turn. Such behaviour will cause the ‘line up’ to break down turning the session into a free for all
Beach breaks tend to feature multi breaks with several take off areas therefore the more waves for everyone but even at beach breaks the line-up exists at each of the various pecks along the beach. If you are surfing a peak where you have an option to go right or left you must communicate with other surfers in the line up your preferred direction to avoid ‘drop ins’ and unridden waves.
At some breaks you may be able to paddle out into a position that gives immediate access to the inside take off position you should not use this artificial positioning to jump the queue. Doing this is poor etiquette and will lead to bad feeling among fellow surfers, instead either let the surfers already sitting and waiting to take the waves they want until the line up is clear, or paddle wide to the outside and move into position along with everyone else.
Download SAFE SURFING- A SURFER'S GUIDE TO SAFETY AND ETIQUETTE