Surfing is an exciting and breathtaking kind of sports that can hardly be compared to anything else. It's hard to describe the emotions of a novice surfer that got on the board for the first time: they are overwhelming and make you dizzy with adrenaline. However, like it or not, surfing is quite an extreme sport. It's not enough to just want to go in for surfing. One should be adequately trained and prepared, should have skills, and be aware of the rules of behavior in the water and in the team.
Not long ago, all those rules were uncoordinated, so novice surfers were unable to learn all of them in time. We can imagine what kind of chaos takes place at the surf spots attended by a great number of surfers, bodyboarders, and simple vacationers, if everyone neglects those unwritten rules of etiquette and behavior in the ocean.
Shaun Tomson and the famous Surfer's Code
But in 2006 the problem was solved when Surfer's Code, a real masterpiece written by Shaun Tomson in collaboration with Patrick Moser was released.
We believe almost everyone in the surfing world knows Shaun Tomson. He is a six-time champion of Gunston 500 (Durban, South Africa), the winner of the International Surf Tour, one of the world's top ten surfers for 9 years, an actor who played in a lot of videos, documentaries and fiction movies about surfing, the Chairman of the Advisory Board of the Surfrider Foundation, the author of a great number of articles, etc.
Surfing for Shaun Tomson is not just another hobby. This is a sport, profession, religion, passion, and the lifestyle in general. His book covers all the basic rules of behavior in the water and in the surfers' world, which are essential for everyone who goes into the water with his board. Surfer's Code represents lessons collected on the basis of the common knowledge and the wisdom of the surfing community. This is a great source of inspiration, not only for those who take their boards for the first time, but also for advanced surfers who encounter unpredictable surfing conditions every day.
Surfer's Code: the things everyone should know
Surfer's Code consists of 12 chapters. Each of them contains rules and models of behavior, along with a great deal of useful information on surfer's form and training and, of course, on the water safety rules.
What do you think is one of the most important factors for a surfer? Of course, it's his physical fitness. You shouldn't even think of going in for surfing if you don't have well-trained muscles, in your torso in particular, if you are not lithe and flexible enough or not capable of great endurance.
You will be thankful to your well-trained torso muscles every time when you have to paddle on your board towards the waves. This activity is quite exhaustive itself, although you have to preserve enough strength to accelerate before meeting your wave, to stand up onto the board and remain on your feet… And don't forget to enjoy all of the process, as there is no sense in all that adventure if you don't really enjoy it. And all those actions require good fitness and skills. Of course, trainings in a gym or individual exercises for the muscle groups involved will never be out of place.
To improve flexibility, you may join a yoga club or make stretching and warming-up exercises yourself before going into the ocean, for without your body flexible enough, you will hardly be able to maneuver on your board in principle, and consequently you won't be able to make those numerous movements or tricks on the water.
And of course, you can't do without endurance. Just imagine yourself in any sort of difficult conditions, when you have been swirled under the water a lot and have lost your board, but you have to reach the coast safe and sound before the big waves come. It's critical not to lose your self-control there and to strictly follow the certain rules, passing by the opposite currents effectively. To acquire enough endurance, surfers should go in for running and jogging or any other active sports with the loads constantly increasing.
You can read more about physical training for surfers here.
You should be absolutely confident of your own physical state and the way you feel. This is an obligatory thing before every surfing session. If there is something that bothers you on that day, follow your intuition and stay ashore. The first thing to be always taken care of in surfing is safety.
As for some more specific rules mentioned in Surfer's Code, one should also consider the warnings related food and drinks. You must never go into the water in a drunken state, as this is extremely dangerous for you and for any other surfers around you as well. Try to abstain from food 30 minutes, or even an hour, before going into the ocean. It's forbidden to swim in principle with your stomach full, without even mentioning any tricks in the water.
Using wet vests and wet suits, or at least water-resistant sun protection cream, is also quite important. At a lot of southern surf spots, you may get sunburned even when it is cloudy. And it's normally much more probable when you are near water. So be careful, or you will have to spend the rest of your trip sitting in the shade and watching others enjoy their surfing.
One of the main surfer's rules is never go into the ocean alone. Even if you are confident of your physical state, you should never forget about any external factors (other surfers), the unpredictability of the ocean and the probability of getting injured. And that's when your partner will be there to help you get out of the water.
One of the chapters in Surfer's Code is about the weather conditions and surfing safety at every certain spot. Wherever you go, you should have enough information on how to be safe. You should never neglect the opportunity to get acquainted with some local guys and learn from them about the spot where you are going to enjoy your time and to risk your life as well. The underwater currents, peculiarities of the bottom, big rocks inside the water, and sea fauna – the local surfers already know about all that. And if there are no surfers, you may ask fishermen or just avoid risking your life and find another, more popular place.
By the way, if there are lifeguards on the beach, you can learn all of the things from them. Besides, they will always be glad to share the information on some specific rules applicable to this particular surf spot, which you might not be aware of and so you might be penalized for their violation.
Surfer's Code also pays special attention to the comity rules and the surfer's etiquette that should be observed in order to show respect not only to other surfers who came from different places, but also to the local guys who are literally your hosts. As a rule, they really don't like it when someone behaves in the opposite way. And this may easily provoke a conflict.
Surfer's Etiquette or Who's got the wave
By the way, one of the most important surfing rules is fixing the order of catching waves. The wave belongs to the surfer that is closest to its refraction point. And if the surfer misses the wave, the right passes over to the next one nearby. If there are two surfers close to the wave and they cannot decide who should be the one to ride it, the first one to stand up on his board will have the right.
If a wave refracts to both sides, you should shout to your neighbor loudly enough and tell him which way you are going: to the left or to the right. If it happens so that you are paddling to a wave but there is already a surfer riding it, you should try to get away from the direction of his movement by diving under the water and starting to move towards the next wave.
The surfing rules described below should also be paid attention to:
1. Don't drop in
Never drop in the surfer who has already got the wave. This is an easy way to find troubles with local guys.
2. Don't snake
If you can't wait to take another wave, you shouldn't be snaking between other surfers, while captured with your desire.
3. Don't hog the waves
Share waves with other surfers. Sometimes, it doesn't even matter whether or not you were the first to come here. Showing respect to the ones around you is an important thing. Enjoy every your movement, but don't cause any troubles or obstructions to others.
If you happened to unintentionally drop somebody in or violated the existing rules in any other way, try to apologize. Of course, this can't be the guarantee that you will have no further troubles there, but it's still worth trying. When you respect others, you are more likely to be respected, too.
5. Choose a surf spot you can handle
If you want to surf everywhere, regardless of how well you are trained, you risk finding yourself in a situation that can be dangerous to your life and even getting others involved in it.
6. Help others!
If somebody beside you is in trouble, help! Probably, you will need help one day, too.
And there's something else!
You must admit that one should always remember about safety, no matter whether you are a professional surfer or just an amateur enjoying the venture. Here are some more important rules and issues about surfing that should never be forgotten.
Checking the equipment
Before you jump into the ocean, overwhelmed with excitement and passion, don't forget to check your equipment. Mainly, this is about your leash. As a rule, you should choose the size of it according to the type and size of the waves you are going to ride. A thin leash is used for small waves, while a thicker and heavier leash should be used for bigger ones. But the main thing before going into the ocean is to have an intact leash, for when your board slips out of your hands you can always rely on the leash that connects you to it. In a dangerous situation, it's always easier to reach the coast with the board than without it.
The fin should also be checked. If there is a crack in it and you go into the ocean with it, you risk losing control of your board after the very first wave, as there is no fin in principle. This may cause serious problems or injuries.
If you visit surf spots with cool or cold water, don't forget to put on a wetsuit and boots that will keep you from exposure.
What to do with the board
When surfing, you should always know when it is better to hold on to your board and when you have to get rid of it immediately. If a ride was successful and you return to the lineup, you should try not to let your board go out of your hands. First, it will help you catch your next wave more quickly; second, your board will not cause any injuries to the surfers swimming behind you.
But when riding a wave you feel that it is going to cover you, you have to throw your board away from you to avoid getting injured, for example, by the leash, when the wave comes down on you.
By the way, you should never jump off the board vertically into the water as you may hit against the bottom and get injured. Sometimes the bottom is not as deep as it seems at first glance.
After you get thrown off your board by the wave, dive out of the water so that your board is between you and the coast, but not between you and the next wave. This will help you avoid any extra injuries and contusions.
New surf spot
In addition to asking the local guys about the peculiarities of a surf spot that is new to you, don't be lazy and watch the waves for half an hour at least. Sometimes it happens so that a surfer comes to the spot right between two sets of big waves and sees only small ones. So the surfer may find himself in a difficult situation when being in the water already and when another set is coming.
Don't get distracted!
Sometimes we may notice some surfers in the lineup zone relax and start staring at the coast, waiting for new waves to come. You should never do that – it's better to always keep an eye on the ocean and never turn with your back to it. Or you may unexpectedly get covered by a wave that stole up on you from behind.
Mind the beach marks!
The red and yellow flag is for a bathing area that surfers should keep away from. The red flag means no bathing is allowed due to some bad or dangerous conditions. The yellow flag means the conditions are unstable. The green one means good conditions.
When going into the ocean, try to remember some particular things on the beach, It can be a building or something else that will help you orientate yourself if swim too far aside or get driven away by a current.
And don't forget to follow the changes of the weather conditions that can bring wind and rain within just a few minutes (this is more about southern surf spots), as well as high and unpredictable waves.
Remember that all those warnings, behavior rules and basics to be observed in the water and in the surfing world in general can be quickly and easily learned and that they all work for you and for your safety at the moment when you are enjoying another wave that you have just captured. And nothing should ever change it.
Good Luck & Have Fun!
Surfer's Code - the book can be bought here
Surfing: Safety Basics. Part III. First aid for accidents
Surfing: Safety Basics. Part IV. Shark attacks