Back by unpopular demand is the final M-Z instalment of the Tracks guide to the unwritten rules of surfing. Of course this is not definitive and if you have some to add, fire away. We need all the help we can get.

Look at all these mates having a great time at Snapper. That's what surfing is all about. Photo Joli Look at all these mates having a great time at Snapper. That's what surfing is all about. Photo Joli

M - Mateship

At the very heart of surf etiquette is mateship. If we treated everyone in the line-up like a mate (and not bastards who are out there to steal our waves) the surfing experience would be a whole lot better. In fact, next time you paddle out at Pipe, or Snapper, make a point to go up to every surfer in the line-up, say g’day and everything should be sweet.

N - No Fins

The ancient Hawaiians never used fins, so why should we? Well for grip and direction mainly. The use of alaias is no bad thing, offering a free frictionless speed like no other, until that freedom and speed comes in the form of someone racing down the line, the dizzying surfing equivalent of a helicopter blade on acid.

O - Ownership

It’s fundamental to remember that no one owns the ocean. It can’t be bought, or sold, or traded. Anyone therefore who is acting like they own the ocean, from clubbies spitting two-stroke in silly boats, to chest puffing locals paddling to the inside, are making a mockery of the ocean and themselves. The Aboriginals, probably the closest to having rights to owning anything in Australia, saw themselves as custodians. Surfers should too.

Jon Roseman at Tavarua, enjoying the fruits of ownership. Photo Joli Jon Roseman at Tavarua, enjoying the fruits of ownership. Photo Joli

P - Privatisation

A sticky moral surf conundrum. Should anyone own a break, and be allowed to enforce exclusivity for a fee? The answer is probably no, until that is, you are surfing six foot perfection with just 10 guys, and then it all seems okay.

Q - Quad Fins

In a word, mandatory. The humble four fin has gone from an oddity in the ‘80s, almost extinct in the '90s, a big wave savior in the noughties till its current place as the design of choice for every craft from mini-mals to 4’8” fishes. Basically if you don’t have one, well, you are an embarrassment to your family and to surfing in general.

Mick Fanning + Pipe + Quad fin = World Title Photo Joli Mick Fanning + Pipe + Quad fin = World Title Photo Joli

R - Respect

Often touted as the very pillar of surf etiquette, respect for your fellow surfer is the key to a karma and not coming back in the next life as a butt plug. However it is a rubbery term, for example used by neanderthal psychos to validate punching non locals in the face for smiling. In the end respect yourself, the rules of surfing and your fellow humans and it all should work out.


It’s hard to know where to put SUP in the surfing hierarchy. When a piece of equipment is used by both 50-year old women as part of their daily exercise regime and by bona fide waterman at 50 foot Jaws, the waters become a little muddied. The extra paddling power however does come with responsibilities. If that power is abused, the SUP just becomes a glorified goatboat. Used with discretion however, the SUP becomes an integral part of a surfer’s quiver. In the middle lies Jennifer Aniston, by far the world’s best SUP’er.

T- Thongs

Not our Aussie version, the footwear worn to school, construction sites and weddings, but the female swimwear version which has become de rigueur for all female surfers under 25 years of age. I’m unsure of where this new fashion trend sits on the feminist spectrum, but hey, who am I, a creepy 40 year old male, to judge?

The six quarterfinalists of the Redhead Boardriders Club contest get ready to head out for their heat. Photo Joli The six quarterfinalists of the Redhead Boardriders Club contest get ready to head out for their heat. Photo Joli

U - Underground

Dealing with underground shapers requires a new set of cultural and physical parameters. First and foremost time operates on a new sliding scale, where every minute is worth five. Thus an hour ordering a board can take five, and if they say the board will be ready in two weeks, it will be ten. They are underground for a reason, so always make loud noises on approach, and never ever turn up expecting there to be of absence drugs or alcohol. Better still, bring both with you.

V - Victory at sea 

Condition of such ugly magnitude that only fools and heroes will enter the water voluntarily.  If you do though, you will be rewarded with vicious onshore winds, horrendous hold downs, gnarly clean up sets and one wave that will entitle you to walk up the beach, proud and stiff that you have had a victory at sea.

W - Weeing in your wetty

One of surfing’s great pleasures surpassing even that of a Alana Blanchard duckdive. However all pleasure is lost when you do it in a dry wetsuit before a surf (that’s when shit gets weird) or in a wet wetsuit on the way back from a surf. As with everything in life, timing is everything, especially when it comes to covering your  body in your own urine.

X - Xtreme

If, as a surfer, you have called yourself X-treme and you are not Mark Mathews or then you need to have a good long look at yourself. X-treme was obviously invented by some marketing pillock when he was halfway through a brain fuck in a thought solo. It can only be used by base jumpers, grandmothers and energy drink executives.

Y - Youth

Youth etiquette? Where do you start? The Facebook generation make up their own rules as they go along, and if that involves zero pubic hair, cyber bullying and instant gratification who are we to judge? Less social, or more social, we’ll only know in ten years, by which stage, hopefully, grommet abuse will be back in fashion.

Z - The Big Z

“Just like you`re riding the wave, you let the wave do the work. You don`t fight the wave. You can`t fight these big waves.”

“That`s the best place in the world to be. In the tube.”

Yep that’s Big Zee, from the greatest surf movie ever made, Surf’s Up. Actually ignore everything I have written. Just listen to Big Zee and everything will be all right.

Zeke Topanga, surfing's ultimate oracle. Zeke Topanga, surfing's ultimate oracle.