Surfing Ethics: When is it OK to Drop In on Someone?

Before I get into the nitty gritty details of this topic, I think I should clarify what it means to have Priority to the wave, Drop In, and Drop In on Someone.


Generally someone has priority in the lineup* when they’re closest to the peak of the wave.

Drop In

That’s when a surfer paddles for the wave, stands up, and drops down onto the face of the wave.

Drop In on Someone

This is when someone has priority to the wave or is already up and surfing on the wave and someone else paddles for and drops down onto the face of the wave to catch a ride.

Knowing this, whether or not you surf, you can begin to assume that dropping in on someone is one of the biggest jerk moves in surfing. Not only is it uncool, it’s also dangerous for both surfers and their boards–two surfers on the face of a wave yields a high probability of running into each other.drop in on someone

Photo: Adam Fricke Photography

Last week The Inertia published an article on whether or not it’s acceptable to drop in on someone. The author even interviewed some pro surfers and the general consensus was it’s morally and ethically wrong in surfing to drop in on someone, but sometimes it has to be done to teach a jerk a lesson.

I wanted to put a little twist on this and to do so, I created this flow chart to answer the burning and often debated question…

When is it OK to Drop In on Someone?When is it OK to Drop In on Someone Flow Chart

You can see that I believe all arrows point to NEVER no matter the situation. We can debate that some people need to be put in their place if they’re being a jerk, but since when has fighting fire with fire ever worked?

My parents always taught me to be a leader, blaze my own trail (using Leave No Trace methods of course 😉 ), and always do what’s right, even if it goes against what society’s doing. The right thing to do here is to never drop in on someone and if someone drops in on you, turn the other cheek and stay away from that kook.

Ultimately I think this question’s (When is it OK to Drop In on Someone?) best answered by the Golden Rule.

Do unto others what you would have them do unto you

No one in this world is better than the other and no one surfer has the right to drop in on another surfer to teach him/her a lesson. If someone blatantly drops in on you, stay away from that person. When a beginner drops in on you, kindly (keyword here) give them a heads up about priority and how it’s a jerk thing to drop in on someone.

When someone does drop in on you by accident and they apologize, by all means give forgiveness, no one’s perfect and accidents happen. If you happen to accidentally drop in on someone, go and apologize right away and make the situation right. Who knows, you may even make a new friend.

Lineups are becoming more and more crowded as more people begin to take up surfing and adopt the lifestyle. There might be less waves, but we’re all out in the water for the same reason–catch some waves and have some fun. Get out there, have some fun, and be the one in the water spreading the positive vibes.

No one enjoys being around a jerk

*This refers to the typical lineup in the water, not during a contest. The priority rule during a contest is always different than the one outlined above.

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