4 Ways You Can Be A Respectful Surf Traveler

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Surfing isn’t just a sport; it also encompasses a culture, lifestyle, and a global community. As surfers, we’re privileged to explore stunning coastlines and surf waves all over the world. However, with this privilege comes responsibility – a responsibility to respect the environments we surf in and the communities we encounter along the way. Whether you’re a seasoned surfer or just dipping your toes into the world of wave-riding, here are four ways you can be a respectful surf traveler.

Learn and Respect Local Surf Etiquette

Every surf spot, anywhere in the world, has its own unwritten rules and codes of conduct. Everyone deserves to have access to the ocean and waves, but it’s essential to show respect in the lineup, especially as a foreigner. Before paddling out, take the time to observe the lineup and understand the local etiquette. Is there a lineup hierarchy? Are there specific peak markers? Notice where people are sitting in the lineup and where you might have the best chance of scoring fun waves amongst that mix; where are the local shredders, the salty dogs, and the beginners all sitting? Avoid dropping in on others’ waves, follow the lineup rotation, and always give right of way to whoever is closest to the peak. By adhering to these unspoken rules, you’ll not only enhance your surfing experience but also contribute to a positive vibe in the water. Don’t forget to smile!

When in doubt, and especially if you’re going surfing at an entirely unfamiliar break, hire a local surf instructor or surf guide to show you the ropes.

Please note that the topic of surf etiquette can be complicated, and often controversial! To dive deeper into the rules of the lineup, check out our podcast, Second Breakfast, linked here.

Minimize Your Environmental Footprint

As surfers, the oceans are our playground, but that doesn’t mean the sport is inherently environmentally friendly. Surf trips and surf retreats often involve lengthy and fuel intensive travel,  which already lends itself to a heavy carbon footprint. That’s why we encourage that wherever your surf adventures take you, prioritize leaving the coastline cleaner than you found it. Pack out what you pack in, dispose of your trash properly, and participate in local beach clean-up initiatives whenever possible. Additionally, be mindful of the products you use. Opt for eco-friendly sunscreen to prevent harmful chemicals from entering the ocean, choose sustainable surf gear whenever feasible, and use reusable water bottles. If you must buy bottled water in areas where the tap water isn’t potable, buy in bulk to avoid excess plastic! By minimizing your environmental footprint, you’ll help preserve the beauty of surf destinations for generations to come.

Cultivate Cultural Awareness

Surfing can take us to amazing locations with rich cultural heritage. Take the opportunity to immerse yourself in the local culture with an open mind and heart. Respect local customs, traditions, and sacred sites. Learn a few phrases in the local language (do not assume everybody you meet speaks English), engage with locals respectfully, and support local businesses rather than large corporations whenever possible. Remember, as surf travelers, we’re guests in these communities, and it’s essential to leave a positive impression through cultural sensitivity and appreciation.

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Give Back to the Surfing Community

Surfing is a global sisterhood, and there’s immense value in giving back to the community that has given us so much. Whether it’s within the communities you’re traveling in or elsewhere, we highly recommend volunteering with surf-related charities, mentoring aspiring surfers, or supporting grassroots initiatives that promote ocean conservation and coastal communities’ welfare. Especially while abroad, find ways to contribute meaningfully to the surfing community. This could involve anything from donating surf gear to locals to using local guides on your trip. At Surf with Amigas, we work hard to give back to the communities we play in.  In Northern Nicaragua, for example, we sponsor a local ladies kickball team, helping them with money for transportation to games and their end of season parties. Join us on a retreat to get a chance to high 5 the ladies after a super fun game of kickball on the beach or at the local sports field!

As surfers, we’re not just travelers; we’re stewards of the ocean and ambassadors of surf culture. By embodying respect for the environment, local communities, and fellow surfers, we can elevate our experiences both in and out of the water. Let’s ride waves with gratitude, humility, and a deep-seated commitment to leaving a positive impact wherever our surf travels may take us.