SURF ETIQUETTE: THE GOLDEN RULES

THE GOLDEN RULES OF SURF ETIQUETTE

SURF ETIQUETTE RULESLearning to surf is far more than starting a new sport and acquiring the skills necessary to compete.

It’s about learning the culture, participating in the lifestyle, and having the time of your life.

However, surfing can be a bit intimidating at times, and even dangerous if done incorrectly.

We’ve all have heard stories of “surf rage” and “locals only” spots, and we’ve all seen gruesome surf injuries.

At Swell Surf Camp, we want you to be well rounded surfers that could fit in at any break in the world at the end of your surf holiday.

In order to maximize the fun, minimize the risks to yourself and others, and progress your abilities on your surf holiday, you must familiarize yourself with

The Golden Rules of Surf Etiquette.

1. KNOW YOUR ABILITIES

While this may sound a tad condescending, understanding your own abilities in the water and humbly accepting them could save your life. If you’re still learning and you paddle out at an advanced wave, whether that’s a shallow reef break or any break on an overhead day, you run a high risk of injuring yourself and endangering those around you.

When you surf breaks within your ability, you can learn and progress, so that you can eventually surf more advanced breaks. When you learn to surf at Swell Surf Camp, your lessons will always be taught at breaks that reflect your ability.

One of the best things to do when arriving at the beach is to observe the waves for 10-15 minutes to make sure the surf spot is right for your abilities; just because the wave at a certain spot were great yesterday for your ability does not make it safe today.

2. PADDLE OUT WITH CAUTION

The most important thing to know when paddling out at a crowded line up is that the paddler yields to the riding surfer.

Meaning that if your paddle trajectory has you colliding with a surfer who is riding down the line of a wave, it is your responsibility to yield to that surfer, not the other way around.

In this example, Pete might be able to get back into position quicker, but he is also potentially getting into the way of the surfers on the wave. You don’t want to slalom through surfers when you are surfing. For safety and courtesy to other surfers, paddle wide of the surfers, back to the line-up, like Jim is doing in the picture.

CAUGHT INSIDE?

If paddling wide is not an option, then aim for the white water of the wave, instead of going and aiming for the easier option of the shoulder of the wave ( where the surfer is)

 

3. BE POLITE & SMILE

Whether you’re paddling out to a line up with 5 people out from your surf camp or 50 strangers, the rules are the same. Be polite, smile, and say hello. It will bring a feeling of levity to everyone around and it will likely put you in the good graces of local surfers.

4. UNDERSTAND PRIORITY

priority surf etiquetteNo, you’re not surfing a WSL heat, but priority still exists at every surf break. To put it simply, the surfer closest to the peak of the wave has priority over the surfer who is farther from the peak or on the shoulder. Understanding priority is key to existing peacefully in a crowded lineup.

  • The surfer who is closest to the curl, the peak or the breaking part of the wave has the right of way and priority over all other surfers;
  • The surfer who is farther outside and away from the shore has priority over all other surfers sitting or paddling on the inside, even if closer to breaking part of the wave; (This rules is often ‘abused’ by stand up paddle surfers, since they can pick the waves up further outside than regular surfers, if they get too greedy catching all the set waves, the Paddle boarder can expect the stink eye or aggro vibes from the rest of the line up)

5. DON’T DROP IN ON OTHER SURFERS

surfer etiquetteThis may seem like a no-brainer, but it happens often. A surfer is riding down the line when all of the sudden, another surfer appears on the wave and tries to hop to their feet.

Dropping in on other surfers is what usually leads to conflict in the surf world, thankfully it’s easily avoidable. It starts with understanding priority, if someone inside of you is paddling for a wave, then you shouldn’t even try to paddle for it.

Awareness plays a role as well, even if you don’t see anyone near you paddling for a wave, as you paddle look to your left and right to ensure no one is riding down the line that might have dropped on at another peak.

Being a snake – ‘snaking’

Being a snake, dropping in on others, aggressively jockeying for position in the lineup, or any other act of being a wave hog is considered rude. When you paddle out don’t immediately paddle outside past everyone else and try to get the first wave that comes in. Wait for a few waves to break first. Before you know it, the lineup will have been shuffled around a little bit and you will be in position for a wave. Just because you can catch all of the waves doesn’t mean you should (this applies especially to longboarders and stand up paddlers).

 

Communicate

When a wave breaks both left and right, two surfers can happily ride the same wave, just make sure to communicate by announcing if you’re going right or left, even if you think it’s obvious. A little communication in the water can do a lot to keep everyone safe and having fun.

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Just because you can catch every wave, doesn’t mean you should. If you’re on a large foam board or longboard that catches waves easily, it doesn’t mean you always get to take the wave from the shortboard next to you that’s looking to practice turns and airs. Always keep in mind that the ocean is for everyone and act accordingly.

6. BE CONSCIOUS OF YOUR EQUIPMENT

don't let go of surfboardMost surf injuries are not caused by the seafloor, other surfs, or wildlife, they are caused by surfboards. Surfboards are rock solid and have sharp fins, they can do some serious damage.

To avoid unnecessary injury to yourself and anyone else around you, be responsible with your board. Don’t just let go of your board when there are other surfers around you. ( in fact unless you are surfing 20′ waves, don’t ever let go of your board)

That means using a leash, not abandoning your board during your paddle out or after a wipeout. If your board is near you and you have a tight grip on the leash, or your board is under you, it won’t hurt you or any other surfer in the water.

7. KNOW THE BREAK

This is a crucial step for surfers of any level, but it is often skipped. If you’re about to surf at a new break, take a while to watch the waves. Notice where they are breaking, where the channels are, and what the current / rip tide is doing. If you can, take it a step further by asking another surfer about the spot.

Chances are, they will be helpful and tell you where to paddle out, where the peaks are, and more! At Swell, we teach you everything you need to know about our local break before we paddle out ( including Surf Etiquette)

8. RESPECT THE BREAK & BEACH

This one is obvious. Don’t litter, don’t’ leave anything behind. Pack in and pack out. You can even take it a step further and pick up any litter you might encounter. We love our local surf beach, and we do everything we can to keep it beautiful.

9. APOLOGIZE IF YOU MESS UP

We get it, accidents happen. You messed up, and that’s okay, as long as you apologize. It may seem trivial but making amends and making your intentions clear go a long way in a crowded lineup.

10. FORGIVE AND FORGET

Lastly, if someone else in the water wrongs you, if they burn you, drop in on you, or send a board flying at you, forgive and forget. No one likes to surf mad, and no one wants to be around an angry person.

 

TIPS FROM LAIRD HAMILTION

Be Aware. Laird Hamilton recalls, “I got run over by a guy when I was sixteen and he broke my leg. A guy ran me over with a giant longboard, and it compounded my leg, and that was one of those things that you learn, like, ’Don’t trust that the guy sees you and that they’re going to avoid you.’ Just remember that they’re probably going to run you over if you don’t watch where you’re going.”

Be Decisive. “I think the biggest mistake any beginner makes is hesitation,” says Laird. “You need to be deliberate with your actions, and if you’re going to paddle out of the way, just paddle and keep paddling. I think a real common mistake is people being indecisive in their movements, whether it’s trying to catch the wave or get out of the way.”

 

 

The above surf etiquette rules all apply for our local surf spots. At Encuentro there are 2 other rules that any traveling surfer should be aware off:

  • No Stand Up Paddle surfing (SUP) at Playa Encuentro

There are numerous off shore reefs that are ideal for Stand up paddle surfing, in and around Cabarete, so there’s no need to bring a dangerous SUP board & paddle into a lineup where there are kids and learners. Find the open spaces up and down the coast. This also applies to the new sport of foiling. Too dangerous to other surfers at our local surf spot.

  • No motorized watercrafts at Playa Encuentro.

No JetSki’s anywhere near Playa Encuentro, they are noisy, smelly and dangerous to the other surfers.

 

Surfing is more than just a sport, it becomes ingrained in us the moment we catch our first wave. In order to enjoy surfing to its fullest potential, stay safe in the water, and share it with others, we must stick to The Golden Rules of Surf Etiquette. We have travelled to a lot of different countries and have seen 1000’s of different surf spots & one of the things that really makes our local surfing beach stand out is the mellow & friendly vibe between locals, expats and visiting surfers.

Let’s keep it that way, let’s all stick to the surf etiquette, so we can all leave the water after a surf session with a big smile on our faces.




More info: https://www.surfgirlmag.com/2018/07/surf-etiquette/
Surfing at Playa Encuentro with Swell’s Romy


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CHOOSING THE RIGHT SURFBOARD

Choosing the right surfboard

CHOOSING THE RIGHT SURFBOARD

So you’ve have had your first experience of riding waves and standing up on a surfboard and you want to take things to the next level, getting your own surfboard to continue surfing at home or to take on another surf trip.

Too much choice?

Off you go to your nearest surf shop, or perhaps you’re looking online: You’re full of enthusiasm with the thought of treating yourself to a lovely new board.

But you are confronted with an overwhelming sight: 400 different types of surfboards, in all different shapes and sizes!  Picking the right board might not be quite such an easy task after all and the pressure to make the right choice and avoid an expensive mistake can be stressful !

We see far too many people go and buy a ‘standard‘ short board, thinking ‘all good surfers are riding them, so it must be the right surfboard for me too’. The reason why many people end up buying a shortboard (too early) is that the experts make surfing on a short board look so easy; definitely a lot easier than getting through the lineup with a bigger and heavier board.  In reality, many of those guys and gals who look so cool carrying a teeny-weeny shortboard around, aren’t actually catching any waves!

So…….

“What’s the right surfboard for me?”

One of the most important aspects when buying a new surfboard is to be totally honest with yourself about your fitness level and surfing ability.  Getting on shortboard too early is not going to make your progress quicker at surfing, quite the contrary; you will find it a lot harder to catch the waves with a board that doesn’t have the correct volume to float you properly.

“If you can’t catch the wave, you ain’t going to improve your riding”

Catching lots of waves is the  key to making good progress.

Below we have highlighted some of the more common surfboard shapes and talk you through each of their individual characteristics.

which surfboard is right

TOW BOARD

The tow in board started to appear in video’s with Laird Hamilton riding monster waves in Hawaii; their general use is uncommon.
Characteristics: Small, with foot-straps to stay in contact with the board in heavy chop.
Lenght: 4’8 to 6’2′
Fins: 3 or 4 fin setup
Good for: Expert surfers, who want to get towed into very big waves.
At Swell: We do not have tow in boards at Swell.  Jet ski’s and motorised watercraft are not allowed near Cabarete bay or Playa Encuentro

 

FISH SURFBOARD

Originally the fish was used in the 60’s and 70’s but the design made a come-back in recent years.
Characteristics: Short (usually ridden 6 or so inches less than a standard shortboard), also wide and reasonably thick, so relatively good amount of volume. Has a ‘swallow tail’
Length: 5’2 to 6’4′
Fins: 2 big ‘keel’ fins or 4 fins
Good for: Surfers who want an alternative way of riding waves.  The fish is renowned for use in smaller, mushier waves, but can also be great in larger waves.  They tend to have more volume than a regular shortboard, so it makes paddling easier and getting into the wave easier too.
At Swell: We have a couple of fish boards at Swell in our rental pool, they work well in the mellow summer waves & as an alternative to a longboard.

 

shortboard surfingSHORTBOARD

The standard shortboard evolved from the fish surfboards in the 80’s when Simon Anderson invented the 3 fin thruster set up
Characteristics: Versatile board that works in a variety of waves. Quick to maneuver and generates speed very fast
Length: 5’8 to 6’8′
Fins: 3 fin or 4 fin (quad) set up
Good for: Advanced surfers who want to perform speedy, sharp bottom turns and ‘off the lip’ manuevers + many more tricks.
At Swell: We have a couple of standard shortboards in the rental pool between 6’4′ and 6’8′ for advanced surfers. Works best in winter time when the waves are bigger and have more power.

HYBRID

‘In-between board’ for people that want the maneuverability of a shortboard, but the wave catching ability of a bigger board. Good all-round board or a board to narrow the gap between a bigger board and a shortboard
Characteristics: Scaled up version of the standard shortboard, wider and with more volume to make paddling/wave catching easier.
Lenght: 6’6′ to 7’2
Good for: People who want to make the transition to a shorter board; intermediates.
At Swell: We have some hybrid surfboards in our rental pool.

 

MINI GUN SURFBOARDMINI GUN (OR STEP UP)

Bigger boards for bigger waves.
Characteristics: Longer than a shortboard, narrower and normally a round or pin tail for speed.
Length: 6’6 to 8’0
Good for:Surfers who want to get barrelled in fast and big waves. Mostly used in Australia, Hawaii and Indonesia
At Swell: We have one 6’6′ step up, but it rarely gets used.

 

EGG SURFBOARDEGG

Popular design from the 60’s and 70’s; looks like a mini-mal but is more performance-orientated.
Characteristics: Narrower in the nose than a mini-mal and usually also has less volume
Length: 7’6 to 8’2′
Fins: 1 or 3
Good for: Surfers who want a more retro-surfing experience
At Swell: We have one egg in our rental pool.

 

 

MINI MALMINI MAL

Smaller version of the longboard, little less volume
Characteristics: A bit less ‘glide’ than a longboard, but more maneuverability
Length: 7’6 to 8’2′
Good for: Cruisey-style of surfing for slow & small waves
At Swell: We have a large range of mini-mals at Swell, from NSP and Torq Surfboards, and they fit the surfing conditions of Playa Encuentro perfectly.

 

LONGBOARDLONGBOARD

The original 60’s longboard is still very popular.  For learning, these boards have more volume and are covered in a soft EVA deck, for safety and added volume.
Characteristics: Great wave catching ability, long glides, work best in waves that are not too steep
Length: 9’0 to 9;6
Good for: Surfers who are after a long, cruisey-glide; this is a board that catches a lot of waves
At Swell: We have several long boards in our rental pool, from high performance boards to beginner soft-tops in the 9’0 range.

 

BIG WAVE GUNBIG WAVE GUN (aka. RHINO CHASER)

Scaled up version of the mini gun
Characteristics:  Very long & narrow
Length: 9’0 to 11’6
Good for: Surfers who want to catch the biggest waves without the help of a jet ski, then this is the board you need.  It is strictly speaking a long board but should not to be mistaken for the kind of longboard most people would want: Just because it’s long does not make it a good board for learning to surf, or for those cruisey-rides in small surf.
At Swell: No need for a big wave gun at Swell,  the waves in the Dominican Republic never get the size that a board like this is needed

 

Conclusion: There is no one-size-fits-all for surfboards.

To make sure that you buy the right surfboard: talk to a couple of different surf shop owners or local surfboard shapers, and be honest about your goals and current skill set. Renting a board  (or borrowing from a friend) is also a good way of finding out if the board is right for you.

To get a guide on what is the right amount of volume for your next surfboard, check this surfboard volume calculator at FireWire.

At Swell we have a large variety of  surfboards, so Swell clients can change boards during their stay and experience the different feel of each surfboard.
More information on our surfboards can be found here.


And here’s a visual to help you compare the different surfboard types.






If you have any questions about this article, send us an email with your thoughts, and feel free to share it on your favorite social media site.





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BEGINNER SURF DESTINATIONS

surf holiday beginner

Worldwide beginner surf destinations

Even though our surf camp is in the Dominican Republic, we are also surfers ourselves and have travelled extensively in the search for waves to catch. Based on our experience, here are our beginner surf destinations worldwide for beginner, intermediate and expert surfers.

Dominican Republic.

Our own place, Swell, is located on the North coast of the Dominican Republic. We chose this location after having visited many countries around the globe which might be suitable as a place to build a surf camp.

The criteria we rely on to see if a surf destination was suitable to build a surf camp retreat is:

  • Consistency of surf
  • Are there waves for multiple levels of surfers?
  • Are there any dangers in or out of the water?
  • Ease of access to the waves
  • Distance to an international airport

Consistency of surf

To be suitable as a beginner surf camp destination we wanted a place where our guests would be able to surf at least 300+ days of the year.

The North coast delivers on this, with at least 340+ days of surfable waves at Playa Encuentro.

surfing dominican republic

Waves for multiple levels of surfers

Of course not everyone is a beginner surfer, so a suitable destination for a surf camp needs to cater not just for complete beginners, but for intermediate and even expert surfers. Fortunately for Swell once again Playa Encuentro delivers; there are multiple waves and different peaks, all within a short walk from each other. From mellow inside beginner waves to big barreling waves on shallow reefs for expert surfers + everything in between.

Are there an dangers in or out of the water?

Playa Encuentro is a very safe spot to surf or to learn to surf because there are no dangers in or under the water. Tidal differences are minimal so getting injured from the reef bed is almost impossible. There are no dangerous rips or currents at Playa Encuentro, so there’s no danger of being dragged out to sea.
Neither are there sharks or other dangerous sea life (for example crocodiles, as seen in certain parts of Costa Rica) so the Dominican Republic scores very highly on this element of our criteria. It also helps having very warm water year-round, so another bonus point is scored there.

Ease of access to the waves

‘Highway surfing’ is not a term that surfers want to be using as it means they are constantly on the search for waves, without finding them. Again, the Dominican Republic’s waves score highly on the ease of access criteria; it’s only a journey of 10 minutes to a charming surf beach.

neno swell

Distance to an international airport

Just as with the afore-mentioned highway surfing we also wanted to minimize the travel time for our clients, so we wanted to be close to an international airport. Our location in Cabarete is just 25 minutes from Puerto Plata international airport. Santiago International airport (airport code STI) is one and a half hours away. Santo Domingo international airport (airport code SDQ) is also an option, with buses running north every hour during the day.

Because Cabarete and Playa Encuentro tick all the above boxes, that’s where we put our own purpose-built surf camp. We didn’t say anything about the criterias of food, beauty of beaches, additional activities or a party scene, but Cabarete has all of these too, so it remains our firm No.1 even when some other countries might have more ‘perfect’ waves.

We have clients who come and visit us year after year, and always at some point they ask us ‘is there any other surf camp destinations that you can recommend to me, since I want to experience a new country?’

As mentioned earlier, we have visited more than 20+ surf destinations and countries over the last 25 years.

Here is our opinion on some of them:

Costa Rica

Costa Rica is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world and surf tourism is also very present here. There are some fine surf camps and surf resorts in Costa Rica, suitable for an awesome surf holiday.

Pros:

  • Pretty country and scenery
  • Good surf spots
  • Politically safe country
  • Plenty of flights to Costa Rica from lots of countries

Cons:

  • On average 40 to 70% more expensive than a surf holiday to the Dominican Republic
  • Travel time from airport to the beach can be between 3-8 hours
  • Crowds

More info on surfing in Costa Rica as a surf destination for beginners:
 https://www.surfline.com/travel/costa-rica-surfing-and-beaches/3624060

Nicaragua

Nicaragua is less popular than it’s neighbor Costa Rica. Because of political turmoil, tourism only started to take off 20 or so years ago.

Pros:

  • 30-40% cheaper than Costa Rica
  • Offshore winds create clean surf conditions

Cons:

  • Not a large variety of good beginner surfing spots
  • Travel distances between surf spots is long
  • Recent political unrest is causing real instability

More info on surfing in Nicaragua
https://magicseaweed.com/Popoyo-Surf-Report/939/

Hawaii

Hawaii is the birthplace of surfing. Year round warm weather and water and great beginner waves around the south coast of Oahu make it a great place to have your first surfing experience.

Pros:

  • Beautiful scenery and beaches
  • Safe place to visit
  • Plenty of other activities besides surfing
  • Great surf for expert surfers

Cons:

  • Very expensive (there are only a few surf camps but they are pretty basic and tend to be double or triple the price of Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic.)
  • Very, very crowded in the water leading to well-known local aggression.

More info on surf camps in Hawaii:

http://www.surfhawaii4u.com/surf_camps.html

Portugal

If you are based in Europe then one of the most popular place where people go surfing is Portugal. The long, exposed coastline with plenty of beaches is very suitable for surfers of all levels.

Pros:

  • There are plenty of cheap and basic surf camps (tend to be more suitable for 18 to 25 year olds)
  • Variety of surf spots suitable for people of all levels
  • Surf & culture & city life close to Lisbon

Cons:

  • Cold water year round to you need to bring a wetsuit
  • There are 100’s of surf camps and schools so it’s surfboard mayhem at times.
  • Surf schools tend to teach in very large groups; often 20 students to one surf coach
  • Cold air temperature between November and April

More info on surf holidays in Portugals:
http://www.surferdream.com

Bali & Indonesia

Indonesia is widely regarded as one of the most blessed surf countries in the world, with 100’s of world class surfing spots along its many different islands.

Pros:

  • High quality surf for surfers of all levels
  • Stunning scenery & culture
  • Reasonable cheap surf camps and surf resorts
  • Bali surfing beaches are close to the airport
  • Some of the best expert surfing waves in the world

Cons:

  • Unless you live in Australia, it’s going to be a long flight
  • Heavy rainy season between December and March
  • Crowded beginner spots

More info on surfing in Bali
 http://wavehaven.com

The above is our personal opinion of several trips to each and one of the above countries. It’s also far from a definitive list, as there are many more countries in the world who cater for the beginner surfers with suitable surf camps and surf resorts. Other places that you might take into consideration are:

Sayulita Mexico: A charming fishing village just north of Puerto Vallarta; not super consistent for surf, but when there are some waves it’s great fun.

Canary Islands: Off the coast of Morocco are a cluster of islands which are part of Spain. Great winter climate and some fun surf spots.

Maldives: Not cheap for a surf trip, mostly boat charters, but pretty water and fun waves.

If you have any questions about surfing destinations, feel free to send us a message; normally, we’ve been there and can tell you if it’s suitable for you. If you prefer to come back to us in the Dominican Republic at our Surf Retreat , just send us a message with your dates.

Enjoy the waves wherever you go!

Jeroen & Clare
Owners Swell Surf Camp

beginner surf destinations

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