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How to Avoid Getting Run Over By Another Surfer 

By October 18, 2017 4 Comments
As a surfer, the only thing scarier than yourself are other people in the water.  I have the scars to prove it.  During my journey from super kook to occasional kook, I was run over by another surfer on no less than 3 occasions.  I remember each time well.  The first occurrence was at Windansea and a longboarder dinged my BRAND NEW board before running over my arm.  I cried.  The next time around, a girl who was even more of a beginner than me let her big heavy longboard run over my calf muscle on a tiny, cold day at Rincon.  I didn’t cry this time but still have an indent on my calf from over 10 years ago.  The most recent happened at Manly.  I was paddling back out on my shortboard minding my own business when I tried to duck dive and a local guy just ran over my thigh.  I cried, again, and could barely walk afterward.  I have another indent from that incident and stay as far away from that guy as possible when I see him.
The point being, getting run over by another surfer in the water is pretty gnarly. I’ve been blessed by cold water on all three occasions in that I was wearing a wetsuit that dulled the sharp fins as they made contact with my skin but each could have been a lot worse.  In this day and age, no matter where you surf, you are surrounded by other surfers. Just an hour ago I was bobbing up in down in washy, peaky, all-over-the-place 3 foot surf mid-morning on a Wednesday with 40 other dudes (doesn’t anyone work anymore?).  The waves jacked up unexpectedly and the guys would turn around and try to scramble into the waves a random.  As I duck dove, paddled inside, paddled outside, and avoided guys from all directions, I thought, “what am I doing now to prevent getting run over by these lunatics?”  “What have I learned in all my time spent in the water that would help others avoid earning their surfing stripes?”
As I know a lot of women fear surfing in crowds or surfing with other people around in general, I wanted to explore this topic and offer some tips to help you avoid getting run over by another surfer.  This is particularly important as we head into summer here in Australia and the kooks will be out in full force.  So, here’s what I now practice to prevent getting run over again.




ONE:  ALWAYS, ALWAYS DUCKDIVE TO THE INSIDE OF THE SURFER ON THE WAVE:  This is absolute Don’t Be a Kook 101, but it is harder to practice than you think.  If you are paddling out and see someone taking off on a wave, you should paddle towards where the wave is breaking and away from where they will be surfing the wave (the shoulder).  The problem people have here is that they naturally want to paddle towards the shoulder to avoid the more powerful part of the broken wave.  The surfer who is catching the wave is using all his or her might to throw their entire body weight down the face of the wave and towards the shoulder at that moment. If you paddle towards the shoulder and in front of that surfer, there’s a good chance his or her fins will run right over a part of your body.






I definitely can recall more than a few times I’ve locked eyes with the surfer on the wave, frozen in fear and then braced for impact.  Impact was what I got.  Try to give other surfers their space and be as far inside as you can of their wave.  If you see someone coming towards you, keep moving.


Don’t sit too far inside or in the impact zone:  Depending on your break, you may sit outside or way outside or a bit inside but be wary of sitting too close to the shore.  First of all, you are more likely to get smashed on the head by sets and second of all, you may be sitting in a position that gives you very little time to get out of the way of other surfers.  From my days surfing a reef like Windansea, I know a lot of hot shot groms and younger rippers would catch great waves on the inside but for me as an intermediate surfer, the inside was a death zone.  You had set waves bashing you and old guys on big boards riding waves over your head at light speed from the outside.  The inside was a no go.  Be aware of your positioning in relation to the waves and other surfers.


As soon as you jump or fall off the wave, get back on your board and start paddling. You catch a nice wave, do a turn and then the section closes out and you fall off your board.  Do not float around in the impact zone and count the clouds in the sky.  Get back on your board as quick as possible and paddle back outside.  Not only will this prevent you from getting worked over and over by the sets in the impact zone, it will remove you from the exact area where other surfers are taking off and riding waves.


I know that’s a bit mean and that we’ve all started somewhere but be aware of people who look dangerous.  You can spot them by their paddling, their board positioning and by their failure to catch waves.  Know who is going to throw their board into you before that big set comes.  Avoid dangerous surfers from the get-go.




Always know you ability and check the conditions before you go:  If you are not comfortable surfing certain conditions, don’t go out.  Being ill-prepared for a session is a sure way to put yourself in danger.

I’d be interested to know how many other women have been run over?  Did you cry? Did it leave a permanent mark?  What have you learned to avoid future collusions?




Join the discussion 4 Comments

  • Shreadder says:

    So good to see you’ve figuared it out! Today I ran over to guys who for some reason just think paddling out has the right of way, which is WRONG. Surfer on the wave has the right of way, everyone else best paddle clear of the on comming freight train! One KOOK said, “hey didn’t you see me?” I said, “No Kook, I was shreadding that wave until your Dumb Ass got in the way,”

    • ahills1210 says:

      I mean I always try not to hurt anyone but I’ve really noticed that the more experience you have in the water the easier it is to avoid collisions. I am able to consistently thread the needle and go behind or in-between surfers as they take off. Good for everyone to know the rules of the road, I think the traffic analogy is really useful for any “kooks” or less experienced surfers you may come across. Paddlers MUST YIELD to the surfer on the wave!

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