Drop In Rule
When surfing, you have to be aware of who else is paddling for and perhaps even riding a wave and understand the drop in rule. If you are paddling for a wave and there is someone on what is known as your ‘inside’, then you must leave that wave for that person. Being on the inside means being closer to the pocket or breaking part of the wave. The person on the inside has right of way and the wave should be left for them. If you take off, you will “drop in” on that person.
The diagram* shows that Surfer A has already paddled for and stood up while Surfer B is paddling for the wave. Surfer A is on the inside, he is closest to the peak and closest to the breaking section of the wave and thus has right of wave. Surfer B should stop paddling, leave the wave to Surfer A and not ‘drop in’ on Surfer A.
Using another scenario, if Surfer A and Surfer B were both paddling for the wave but Surfer B stands up just slightly before and a little bit earlier than Surfer A, this does not entitle Surfer B to surf the wave. Surfer A still has the inside position and Surfer B would still “drop in” on Surfer A by taking off on this wave.
A good rule of thumb and a good way to approach this is if you are paddling for a wave and there is someone else paddling for a wave who is on your inside and you are certain that surfer will catch and ride the wave, you are best to stop paddling and leave that surfer to ride it completely unimpeded. If you are uncertain as to whether that person will be able to catch the wave or they may decide not to take off and ride it, then it is okay to paddle. If you see them not catch it or to pull out and stop paddling for it, then you can continue to paddle and take off if you catch it. If they do catch it and take off, then you should simply stop paddling and pull back.
Dropping In is a really disrespectful and uncool thing to do and can also often be very dangerous, especially in bigger surf conditions. Dropping in can also be referred to as burning. Burning someone means dropping in on someone. Being burnt means someone has just dropped in on you.
It is vital that you always keep an eye on and lookout on the positioning of other surfers so you are aware of where they are and whether you have the inside position or not. Respect everyone in the water, whether they are good experienced surfers or in the new stages of progressing and learning. Everyone is entitled to be out in the surf and given the opportunity to catch and ride waves without being hassled or dropped in on. There will always be more waves coming in, don’t cause issues and problems and make people angry changing what should be a fun friendly atmosphere and vibe into an aggressive competitive one by selfish decision making and doing the wrong thing.
Surf Etiquette Rule # 1 – Don’t Drop In
* This diagram is taken from the ISA Level 1 Surf Instructor Manual