Do Surfers Hate Beginners? (How To Behave As A Beginner)

While surfers tend to look very relaxed and chill, this isn’t always the case. If you have ever found yourself surfing amidst other surfers, you probably noticed some rivalry, nasty looks, and an unwelcoming vibe towards beginner surfers, often revered as kooks. This might have made you wonder, do surfers hate beginners?

Surfers don’t hate beginners. However, surfing is a dangerous sport. Not knowing how to behave in a lineup, not understanding the surf etiquettes, trying to surf waves above your ability, or generally being a danger to others is frowned upon. Therefore it might seem like surfers hate beginners.

Understanding why surfers don’t always appreciate beginners might save you from an unwelcome vibe when paddling out. In this article, I’ll explain how to behave to be accepted by the other surfers.

Do Surfers Hate Beginners?

Although it might seem like surfers hate beginners, this is not necessarily the case.

There are many different types of surfers, some more kind than others, but they all started as beginners.

Since surfing gained more popularity, the surf spots got more crowded.

This resulted in a more competitive surf attitude, and a locals-only or locals have priority type of attitude.

In addition, there was a fear of an even bigger crowd, and last but not least, a more dangerous lineup.

Just like it is dangerous to share a road with people who can’t drive, it is also dangerous to share a lineup with people who can’t surf.

When people get overconfident and paddle out to a lineup that is above their capabilities, they become a danger to themselves and others. This is then also frowned upon by the other surfers.

A rogue surfboard can do severe damage to nearby surfers or surfboards.

So, do surfers really hate beginners?

Most surfers have nothing against beginners, as long as they stick to the beginner waves and don’t paddle out into the bigger waves. However, once you start paddling into the bigger waves, you should have the skills to do so and understand the surf etiquettes. The others might not be very welcoming if you don’t.

What do You Call Beginner Surfers?

The short answer:

Generally speaking, a beginning surfer is called a ‘grom’ or a ‘grommet’ in surf slang. However, Barney, Kook, Jake, or Paddlepuss are the negative words used to call someone a beginner surfer.

The extended answer:

While most respectful people will call beginner surfers things like rookie, newbie, beginner, grom, or grommet, some surfers feel the need to show the difference in experience level.

They do this by using negative surf slang when addressing a beginner surfer.

I personally believe that when someone new to the sport is in the water or lineup and needs to be addressed because they are being a danger to themselves or others, something like ‘bro,’ ‘mate,’ ‘dude’ or even just a ‘hey’ works a lot better to get their attention.

Just assume that everyone is lying on their surfboards to have some fun.

Starting a conversation with negative slang only creates anger, tense vibes, and fights. It’s definitely not worth it!

How do Surfers View Beginners?

The short answer:

Most surfers see beginners just as beginners. Any experienced surfer knows that it takes lots of time and effort to become good at surfing. The majority of beginner surfers are just in it for the holiday picture. However, all is good as long as they stick to their beginner waves.

The extended answer:

Although it’s hard to speak for all surfers, in my experience, most surfers do not quarrel with beginning surfers.

It does depend on the surfer and the beginner, obviously.

A (beginner) surfer with a bad attitude won’t receive a warm welcome. The same goes for a (beginning) surfer who poses a threat to the other people in the water.

Most surfers out in the water tend to be quiet and not really outgoing.

This is because surfing, for many, is a way to enjoy some tranquility, meditate, experience freedom, or forget their troubles.

So when they’re not indulging you in conversations or bombard you with well-meant advice, this doesn’t mean that they don’t like you.

I find that surfers respect people who show respect to others. So no matter your skill level, be nice in the lineup, and the others will be nice to you!

Some might be open for a conversation. Some might give you some good advice, and who knows, you might find a lifelong surf buddy just by starting a conversation.

How to Behave as a Novice Surfer (16 Great Tips)

A novice surfer should know and respect the surf etiquettes. They should be aware of the hazards and keep the lineup as safe as possible. This also means explaining beginning surfers where they should go, when they’re in over their heads. But do so in a respectful way.

Beginner beaches and waves are often pure chaos. People are dropping into each other, boards flying around, equipment breaking, and people getting injured.

This is very different when you start surfing at the more advanced surf spots.

Therefore, the reason is not just a difference in skill but also the knowledge about how to act in a lineup.

Surfing has a set of rules, surf etiquettes, which are established to keep it as safe and fair as possible.

How to behave in the water and on the beach:

1. Leave no waste behind

Everyone, surfers and nonsurfers alike prefer clean beaches. So make sure not to litter, whether it’s your local beach or your holiday destination!

2. Don’t act as if you’re better than the rest

You can be excited about your performance and proud of it!

However, don’t act as if you are better than the others. Nobody likes a show-off.

Even if that is the case, this behavior won’t add to a positive vibe in the lineup or on the beach.

3. Don’t act as if you’re better than you are

You don’t need to excel at surfing to be an amazing surfer.

Most people out there prefer someone friendly and aware of their skills, rather than someone who acts as an advanced surfer but has no idea what they are doing.

Remember, experienced surfers will see right through your big talk, and going into waves above your skill level will endanger yourself and those around you.

4. Watch out for people and kids swimming close to the beach

Just because it’s a beach where you can surf doesn’t mean it’s just a beach for surfers.

Stay alert of other beach visitors who might be swimming or playing in the whitewater.

Try entering and exiting the ocean at the least crowded places. Your surfboard can do a lot of damage when it hits someone.

5. Respect the coastguard

Respect the coastguards whether you’ve been surfing your whole life or just started.

The coastguards are there to make the beach as safe as possible for everyone.

They’ll know the hazards better than you do, and discarding their advice can put you and them in a dangerous position.

Follow the surfing etiquettes:

6. Observe right of way

Make sure that you know who has priority on the wave.

When two people paddle for the same wave, the one closest to the peak (the highest point of the wave, which will be the first point to break) has the right of way. 

When looking at the lineup, the one furthest out on the ocean is often the one waiting the longest amount of time and has priority on the next wave.

When someone is already surfing the wave (standing on their surfboard), that person has claimed the wave and has the right of way.

If you’re going to surf the same wave, it’ll be either a drop-in or a snake (as described below).

7. Don’t drop in

Dropping in means that you paddled into a wave that is already being surfed by someone else. You cut off the surfer that had already claimed the wave by doing this.

This can be incredibly dangerous in certain waves and is always considered rude and annoying.

Complying with this rule will save you and others from severe injuries and some nasty fights.

8. Don’t snake

You are snaking means that you don’t respect someone’s right of way.

When someone has been waiting a long time to catch a wave, but you quickly paddle around them to position yourself on the inside (closest to the peak), you claim their priority as your own.

In this case, you are snaking. Be patient and wait for another wave. There are plenty of waves in the ocean.

9. Know the right way to paddle out

Make sure to paddle out wide so that you’re not in the way of people surfing their waves.

Observe where other surfers paddle out if you’re in doubt of the correct location.

10. Share the waves

Everyone wants to surf some waves. This one is pretty obvious and includes the no snaking and no dropping in etiquettes. Don’t charge at each wave.

Respect the right of way and maybe even help others catch a wave.

11. Communicate

When surfing an A-frame, try to communicate your direction. Just a ‘left’ or ‘right’ will suffice.

This way, someone else can surf the same wave but in the opposite direction.

12. Respect the locals (and other surfers)

You have to share the spot with others. So make sure to respect them!

The locals have to share their location with countless tourists, so the least you can do is respect them and not hog all the waves.

13. Surf spots that suit your ability

I’ve said this one many times in this article, but surfing above your abilities will endanger yourself and the people around you.

So please don’t do it!

14. Hold on to your board

Try to always hold on to your board. Your leash (leg rope) combined with the length of your board gives you a big radius in which your board can damage equipment and people.

Try to avoid your board turning rogue and hold on to it whenever you can.

15. Help other surfers when they’re in danger

Surfing is a dangerous sport. Try to aid others when you see that they’re in danger!

One day someone might do the same for you.

16. Apologies

Everyone makes mistakes, don’t swear it. However, an apology will be appreciated when you mess up.

It shows respect and that you realize your mistake.


Surfers don’t appreciate people that don’t comply with the surf etiquettes. It doesn’t matter if you are a beginner or an expert. Showing respect to others will get you respect in return.

However, if you’re not aware of the etiquettes or choose to disregard them, you won’t receive a warm welcome.

Everyone has to begin at some point, don’t worry about the fact that you still have lots to learn.

Instead, ask others if you have questions, and listen to others when they have suggestions.

Marcus Campbell

Surfing is the biggest passion in my life. Transferring my knowledge about surfing to others is what I love doing most! I do this through my own surf school and through my articles on this website. This is how I hope to get everyone excited about this amazing sport!
January 11, 2022
Published: January 11, 2022