What are the surf/bodyboard priority rules ?

Even if surfing and bodyboarding are well known to be free sports, there are some rules on who has priority in the water. The aims are to avoid accidents and respect each surfer’s wave. It goes without saying that the most important rule is to behave in a respectful and courteous way.
Rule no. 1: bathing areas

règles de priorités

You are strongly advised against surfing on a bodyboard, surfboard or SUP in the area reserved for bathers. This is forbidden by law. These areas, often patrolled by SNSM (French RNLI) lifeguards, are marked by means of coloured flags. Avoiding these areas also means you avoid the risk of collisions and accidents.

Rule no. 2: priority on the wave

règles de priorités 2

The surfer with the green board that is nearest to the peak of the wave, is considered to have priority over the surfer with the red board. This priority lasts as long as the wave lasts, the other surfers such as the one on the red board must not start surfing on the wave.

Rule no. 3: indicate your direction on the wave

règles de priorités 3

When a wave breaks on the left and on the right, then both surfers have priority. It is essential to communicate with each other to indicate your intention to go to the left or to the right. Ideally, you should indicate to the other surfers who want to surf the same wave as you, which side you are going to. Once again, the keywords are respect and courtesy.

Rule no. 4: crossing paths

règles de priorités 4

When two surfers are about to cross paths on a wave that is breaking inwards, i.e. on the left and on the right, neither of the 2 surfers has priority. In this case, you are advised to leave the wave as soon as possible so as to avoid a collision and thus an accident.
Rule no. 5: returning to the peak

retour au pic

Once you’ve finished surfing your wave, make your way back avoiding the other waves, being careful not to get in the way of surfers still standing upright. When the wave “lines” are long, always head for the point where the wave is at its lowest (where there are no surfers in action), to avoid the risk of a collision and, consequently, an accident.
Rule no. 6: Falling in the impact zone



If you fall off in the “impact zone” (the point where waves break), don’t try to head straight back to the peak. Wait first for the series to go by and stay in the white water, holding your board and then make your way to the peak avoiding the waves as previously explained.

Should you ignore a priority rule by mistake, leave the wave as soon as possible. You will often see these priority rules displayed on the signs at the entrance to the beach or at the surfing schools.

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