What Is Snaking In Surfing?

The Grom Life is an independent publisher. You will not find paid product promotions or sponsored content on this site. You will find affiliate links which means we may earn a commission if you purchase through these links.

“Don’t snake”. It’s one of the golden rules of surfing etiquette and something that most surfers hate.

But what is snaking, how can you avoid it, and why is it such a big issue?

What Does It Mean To Snake In Surfing?

Snaking is when a surfer deliberately paddles inside of another surfer to steal wave priority. They move in at the last second to secure a deeper take-off and claim priority.

It’s universally hated among surfers, and it’s one of the most important unwritten rules of surf etiquette.

What Does “Don’t Snake” Mean In Surfing?

Don’t snake is self-explanatory, and it’s a rule that every surfer should follow. Unfortunately, snaking is still common, even among competent surfers. You’ll often see it among locals who think they have more right to the waves than outsiders.

Maybe they do, but snaking is never right.

Here are the reasons why it’s bad to be a wave hog:

  • It’s Impolite: Snakers show a lack of respect for other surfers. Everyone is out there riding waves to have fun and relax. If you’re snaking in front of them, you’ll disrupt the flow.
  • It’s Cheating: A snake snaking their way to a big wave is akin to someone cutting in while queuing at a bank or concert. It’s just not the done thing and is considered cheating. It doesn’t matter if it’s not a competitive event and everyone is just having fun. You’re ignoring the rules to gain an unfair advantage—that’s cheating!
  • It’s Unethical: If someone has been waiting 5 or 10 minutes for a wave, what gives you the right to cut in and steal wave priority?
  • It’s Dangerous: The surfer who gets snaked now needs to adjust the line they are surfing which could result in them running over another surfer.

Surfers are a community. Like all communities, there are disagreements and arguments, but for the most part, we surf as one. If you’re out there ignoring the rules at popular surf spots, you’re harming that community and your place within it.

Surfers wait patiently for waves. That’s what they do. If you choose to ignore that rule and steal waves, you’ll get a bad reputation and may find that people start ignoring your right of way.

But What If I Miss Some Waves?

Surfers want to catch every wave that they can. If a good wave comes and goes, it’s a waste, and so they snake and ignore surfing etiquette to catch as many as they can.

But there will always be other waves, and you have to consider the needs of other surfers, as well.

What’s more, if you’re on a longboard surfboard or a paddle board, you have more options. You can ride smaller waves and so you should be more willing to let those big ones go.

What Are Drop-Ins in Surfing?

A drop-in is when a surfer rides a wave that another surfer is riding. The surfer who had priority ends up behind the other surfer.

It can happen accidentally. If there are lots of people in the water it’s common for two surfers to find themselves in each other’s way.

The drop-in rule states that if there are two people paddling for the same wave, the surfer on the inside has right of way. But if a surfer has already caught the wave, all other surfers should get out of the way.

What Do You Do If You Drop-In On Surfers?

If you accidentally drop-in on another surfer, simply “kick out” of the wave, which means surfing over the back and allowing the surfer behind you to escape.

An apology wouldn’t go amiss, either. If not, you could find yourself on the end of a barrage of insults.

What Is Interference in Surfing?

Interference occurs when a surfer paddles in front of a surfer who is already up on the wave.

Not only are you breaking surf etiquette and ruining their ride, but you could cause serious injury to yourself and the other surfer.

How to Avoid Snaking as a Beginner

If you’re a complete beginner and aren’t sure about the rules of snaking, drop-ins, and interference, this guide will help. Pay attention to the descriptions and make sure you understand them.

When you head out of the waves, remember to remain patient. If you’re catching waves with crowded lineups, you’ll need to wait a little longer. If you’re not sure about the rules, just sit back and watch how others line up and surf.

Be aware of other surfers. Don’t join the same wave as another surfer. And try to enjoy yourself! To make things easier, look for calmer waters and less populated surf spots.

What Does Choppy Mean In Surfing?

Choppy surf means that the waves are breaking cleanly. It can be difficult to ride in choppy conditions as all the waves are short, bumpy, and unpredictable.

On the plus side, the lineup won’t be as crowded and you’ll have more time to practice your skills.

Check surf forecasts to see what the conditions are like before you head out.

Summary: What is Snaking in Surfing?

Here’s a quick recap covering everything you need to know about snaking:

  • Snaking waves is when someone steals wave priority by padding on the inside of other surfers.
  • “Don’t snake” is a common expression and one of the unwritten rules of surf etiquette
  • Although snaking is frowned upon, many surfers do it.
  • Whether you’re an experienced local or a complete beginner, you should never snake on a fellow surfer.
  • Surfers who snake are considered rude.
  • Always follow the rules of priority and bide your time.
  • The drop-in rule states that the inside rider has priority when heading for a wave and all other surfers should leave as soon as a surfer is riding.
  • Interference occurs when a surfer paddles in front of another surfer as they are riding the wave.
  • Always apologize if you break one of these rules and try to get out of the way as soon as you can.

You should always try to enjoy surfing. Surf etiquette is there to help with that process, not to complicate it. It might seem like there are lots of difficult rules to follow, but most of it comes down to common sense.