How to Surf in a Crowded Lineup

Thursday, July 10, 2014
by Blair Buder

1968. (PHOTO MEDIA/ClassicStock/CORBIS)

Summer is here! The sun is shining, the water is warm, and the beaches are packed. Here in Southern California, everyone loves to flock to the coast to soak up some sun and catch some waves. Unfortunately, this means that more people are out in the lineup, which can sometimes be difficult to deal with.

With more people out in the surf, there is often a wide variety of surf craft and levels of experience in catching waves. There are several ways to approach a crowded lineup, depending on your comfort and confidence level.

If you are a beginner to surfing, or not very confident out in the water, you will be more comfortable and safer if you can find a little area to yourself. Oftentimes, the more people there are out in the water, the more competitive and aggressive surfers can be when competing for waves, which can be intimidating. When I was first learning to surf I found this very uncomfortable, and even still do sometimes. So when this happens, I just paddle over to an area with less people, even if the waves aren’t quite as good, as I’d rather not have to deal with the frustration and hassle of fighting for waves and getting snaked.

But, if you are more experienced and do not mind sitting shoulder to shoulder with 100 of your closest friends out in the water, the main thing to remember is to stay relaxed but assertive. When it’s crowded, if you act hesitant when a wave comes, someone else will snatch it away from you even if you were in position for it. Similarly, if a wave comes to you and you don’t go for it, you will likely not get any more chances for any of the decent waves, as more aggressive surfers will take them all after that. The guys just want to see that you can surf and that you are serious about getting waves, and they will (usually) be respectful.


When it comes to navigating any lineup, the best thing that you can do is be mindful of and abide by surf etiquette. So, in a nutshell this means:
  • Don’t snake anyone: if someone sitting deeper than you (closer to the part of the wave that is breaking) is going for a wave, you then cannot go for it if you’re trying to go in the same direction
  • The person sitting further outside gets priority, even if you started paddling for the wave first
  • If you happen to mistakenly get in someone’s way, just apologize, and be respectful
  • Remember to share the wealth: don’t hog all the waves, spread the love around
  • Don’t be a kook


Good luck out there!! Remember to have fun, be safe, and share the aloha!




Credits // Author: Blair Buder

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