Surf Ski (Surf) Safety Information
by Candice Warner (Falzon)
If a wave is breaking into shallow water you need to be concerned about timing, your mounting of the ski and your timing when paddling into an oncoming wave. Being hit in the chest with no momentum in your ski, then back shooting into the sand can damage your rudder and ski.
Catching waves is what we love to do but if not done properly you might find yourself doing more swimming then paddling. When you're going down a wave the most important thing to do is keep the momentum of the ski running. You must continue to paddle otherwise once you stop the wave will catch up to you and tip you into the water.
Assess surf conditions before entering the water. It's important that you enter at the safest part of the beach away from any rocks, surfers and swimmers. Know your capabilities and limitations. Don't paddle if the conditions aren't suited to your ability.
Only enter the water where craft is permitted. Never enter in between the red and yellow flags and never catch a wave through the red and yellow flags. (If you don't know the best place, ask the Lifeguard).
Another tip when catching waves is to keep the nose of the ski above the water. To do this, lean back so that all your weight is shifted to the back of the ski. Once you're at the bottom of the wave sit back up into your original position to even your weight out and remember to keep paddling.
Don't drop in on surfers. The surfer closest to the breaking part of the wave (the inside or the peak) has right of way/priority. If someone is up and riding, paddling into the wave behind them does not give you the wave. Before taking off on a wave make sure no one is on your inside, always check behind you before taking off.
Surfing Etiquette is the most important thing to learn before you set foot in the surf. These rules are not so much "rules" as they are a proper code of conduct designed to keep everyone in the water safe and happy. People who repeatedly break these rules are often given the stink-eye, a stern talking to, yelled at with obscenities, or just flat out beat up.
Don't worry, if you accidentally drop in on someone they aren't going to beat you up. However, there are rules of the road out there and this is the real world. If you're constantly stealing waves or not being respectful, you're going to have a run in.
With the growing popularity of surfing, the number of people in the water is on the rise and unfortunately surfing etiquette is gradually eroding away. The ocean is a dangerous place, and without proper thought to safety it can become deadly.
New surfers should memorize these rules, and even veterans should take a refresher course now and then.
Right of Way
The surfer closest to the peak of the wave has the right of way. This means if you're paddling for a right, and a surfer on your left is also paddling for it, you must yield to him or her. There are a couple variations to this rule:
If someone is up riding a wave, don't attempt a late takeoff between the curl/whitewater and the surfer. If the surfer who's riding the wave wants to make a cutback she'll run right into you.
Just because the whitewater catches up to a surfer riding a wave doesn't give you permission to take off down the line. Many talented surfers can outrun the section and get back to the face of the wave.
A-Frames or Split Peaks: If two surfers are on either side of the peak, they each have the right of way to take off on their respective sides. It's not generally accepted to take off behind the peak unless there's nobody on the other side. These surfers should split the peak and go opposite ways.
If a surfer riding a wave gets closed out with an impossible section or wipes out, the next surfer down the line can take off. If you're a very new beginner I'd hold off on doing this anyway until you have a bit more experience.
If a wave is breaking towards itself (a closeout) and two surfers are taking off at each other, yes both have the right of way but this is a perilous situation and it's advisable to kick out early to avoid a collision.
Don't Drop In
This is probably the most important part of surfing etiquette. Dropping in means that someone with the right of way is either about to take off on a wave or is already riding a wave, and you also take off on the same wave in front of him or her. This blocks his ride down the line, and is extremely annoying, not to mention dangerous.