Surf etiquette for beginners at Playa Guiones

Playa Guiones visitor levels continue to increase annually. The best barometer to measure how many people have arrived on vacation is to look at the lineup. Surfing is a fun, life changing pastime which can serve as a catalyst to increased health, confidence and happiness, and so it’s no wonder more and more people are signing on for this pursuit.

Nowadays the line up at Playa Guiones is becoming increasingly crowded. As more and more people decide to surf, the topic of “surf etiquette” becomes crucial to ensuring safety for everyone on the ocean. Fortunately for newbies Playa Guiones is not pipeline and if you get in someone’s way the most you can expect is probably some stink-eye. Due to increased numbers of beginner surfers in the lineup has produced the following guide to “surf etiquette”. The ocean remains a dangerous place, and lack of attention towards safety procedures can produce perilous situations. So read, absorb, and remember the following guidelines.

Who has right of way?

When an experienced surfer sees a wave approaching they often inherently know where the peak of that wave will form. The surfer taking off closest to that peak always has right of way. For instance if the incoming wave is a right-hander and you spot a surfer to your left also paddling for it, the surfer on the left has priority.

Although this sounds simple enough it can get tricky when surrounded by experienced surfers. One such maneuver is to attempt a late take off between the surfer and the breaking whitewater. Technically, this would make them “the surfer closest to the curl” which gives them right of way. However this is actually just a way of conforming to the letter of the law while completely disregarding the spirit of it. This behavior is known as “back paddling”. Not only is it frowned upon but it’s also dangerous. If the surfer already riding the wave decides to make a cutback without knowing there is someone behind them they’ll run right into you.

Another situation that can lead to injuries and tension in the lineup happens when a wave appears to close out on the surfer that’s up and riding. When this happens some people underestimate that surfers ability to carve around the section back onto the face and take off under the assumption that they’re free and clear. If they do wipe out, unless they can perform an impossible Kelly Slateresque recovery the next surfer down the line is free to take off. Generally this requires experience, speed, and split second judgment so it’s not generally advisable for beginners to try this.

Split peak waves, also known as A-frames offer two surfers the option to go both right and left respectively. If there is no surfer on the opposite side of the peak the surfer in line may go either way. Finally, if a wave is breaking in on itself  (the left and right peak are speeding towards each other) and two surfers are riding either peak then although both surfers can claim right of way it is advisable that both surfers kick out in good time to avoid a potentially dangerous situation.

Dropping in: Don’t do it – EVER!

This follows on from the right of way rule and is the cardinal sin of surfing. To drop in means to take off further down the line on a wave another surfer is riding. In addition to effectively blocking, and maybe ending the surfer’s ride this is highly annoying, massively disrespectful, and ultimately dangerous. Regardless of how good the wave is, if you’re tempted to drop in don’t. If you do then prepare to be yelled at and red flagged by the other surfers in the lineup.

Paddle sense:

Firstly, don’t paddle in a straight line through the whitewater and into the center of the lineup. If you can find a channel use it. This will help you avoid contact with surfers riding waves and will actually save you a huge amount of physical energy. Although this can be more difficult to judge at beach breaks like, Guiones assessing the conditions for 5 minutes prior to entry will give you a good idea of where the channels are. If, while paddling out you encounter a surfer riding a wave directly towards you, you are obliged to paddle behind them into the whitewater and either duckdive or simply take the hit. If paddling behind a surfer isn’t an option make sure to paddle hard and fast to get up and over the wave and out of their way. Either that or potentially get run over.

Don’t Ditch Your Board

This is huge, and is often the leading cause of accidents for surfers at Playa Guiones. Surfboards are tough and heavy. They also tend to be much heavier when they have a rushing torrent of water behind them powering them on. All surfers must try to maintain contact with their boards at all time during the surf session. Rogue boards represent a huge danger to yourself and those around you. The biggest offenders are beginners, who, faced with a wall of whitewater charging towards them, opt to fall away from the board and swim under the wave. If this happens and there is someone paddling behind you it’s a recipe for disaster. If you absolutely have to do this ensure there is no-one behind you beforehand.

Don’t Snake

“Snaking” is  a term used to describe the actions of a surfer who paddles around another surfer in order to place themselves in a position relative to the incoming wave in which they will have right of way. While not necessarily dangerous this highly annoying and shows disrespect to those patiently waiting in line for their set.

Don’t paddle into the middle of a crowded lineup.

Although this can be confusing – particularly in a beginner heavy lineup like Playa Guiones it still stands. If you’re just starting out the chances of scoring any decent waves when surrounded by an experienced pack of veterans is minimal. You’ll have more fun if you pick a section of beach which although may not have quite as many quality waves, still provides enough swell for you to practice your surf skills and have more fun doing so.

Don’t be a wave hog.

As you improve you’ll find yourself able to catch more and more waves each time you surf. However, this doesn’t necessarily imply you have a God given right to do so. This rule often applies to surfers on larger craft such as paddle boards or longboards. Since these craft are faster, and thus easier to catch waves on it can be tempting to go after them all leaving the shortboarders on the inside frustrated.

Respect the beach (Yes, this is also part of the surf etiquette)

This is a simple case of not leaving litter on the beach. Even better, if you see trash,  collect it and put it in the garbage cans on your way home.

Drive responsibly

The pot holed, winding roads around Guiones demand respect and attention from all drivers. Just relax and remember they’ll still be there when you get to the beach. Drive slow and enjoy the ride.

If you accidentally break one of these rules:

If you drop in on a wave that you genuinely thought you were good to go on just remember that a humble apology really can go a long way. It’s a great way to diffuse a situation and this simple act can work wonders in reducing the tension of crowded lineups.

As a beginner this may all seem like a lot to take in, but over time,  you’ll realize it’s all just basic common sense and it will all become second nature. In the meantime it’s good to know what to look out for, and be able to anticipate potentially dangerous situations before they arise. Before you know it you’ll be ripping with the best of them so have fun out there!

Want to learn to surf with professionals who would teach you this rules and more? Check all available surf schools in the area!

One thought on “Surf etiquette for beginners at Playa Guiones

  1. robert haile says:

    If someone sits outside to catch the bigger swells and they are up and riding by the time they get to you, it doesn’t matter what side your’e on, if you catch that wave you are dropping in. I had a surf school Teacher push a beginner on a wave that I was up and riding 3 times in the same session. Most surf school teachers show respect and good etiquette, but there is an occasional exception. Etiquette should be taught first and repeated. I agree with the section on snaking as older surfers like me( began in 1959 in Byron Bay Australia and first in Costa Rica in 1987.) led the way for introduction of surfing in many areas, but can not out paddle the younger guys but should be shown some respect and not snaked out of most waves. Also give kids a fair chance so that they can have fun also. Of the many beaches that I have surfed, Playa Guiones generally has a great vibe, great people, and why I am here.

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