Byron Bay Surf Safety

Byron Bay Surf Safety & Surf Etiquette

Byron Bay enjoys a well earned reputation as a family friendly place for surfing and swimming.

The bay lies within the protective lee of Cape Byron providing considerable protection from the more predominant S/E and E swells. Byron is home to extraordinarily beautiful beaches and some really gentle soft waves that are great for learning to surf and for the little ones. Not to mention that Byron is home to some of the best logger (old school longboard) waves in the world.

Yet this sense of Byron being a small wave paradise for learners can provide the inexperienced surfer with a false sense of security. Gentle though it may be; Byron Bay is still a part of the Pacific Ocean coastline. This means there are occasional inherent dangers. There are currents, sweeps & rips, sea life, occasional big and heavy surf and naturally due to the popularity of Byron Bay itself, crowds in the water.

Now Byron Bay is still, a very safe place to bring the littlies. It's still a great place to learn to surf, and it can still turn on some world class waves for both longboarders and shortboarders alike. But the popularity Byron Bay enjoys as a recreational surfing destination requires that we all take a closer look at what is safe and ok when surfing in the bay. So whether you live here, are a day tripper or you're coming to Byron bay for your next surfing holiday. Take a moment to browse the following suggestions about surf safety and surfing etiquette in the bay. It'll make it all a whole lot more fun for everyone.

  1. It's wise to learn to surf away from the crowd. See our Learn To Surf page for more information about learning to surf in Byron Bay.
  2. Have fun, but not at the expense of the other people in the water. This means try not to be selfish or take your surfing too seriously. Remember surfing is meant to be fun; nobody really is interested if you think you are a star.
  3. Before entering the water ask yourself this vital question. Would I be able to swim in if I lose my board? If you can't swim back in through the surf, you need to learn before attempting to surf. A legrope is not a safety device; it is an accessory of convenience nothing more. Relying on your legrope to save you is a serious error of judgement, legropes can and do fail. Don't misunderstand what a legropes is. Legropes were designed for the convenience of experienced surfers so they didn't have to take long swims in big surf, or have their boards ruined on the rocks. They are not and never have been a safety or life saving device for surfers of any level. Legropes can and do cause serious injuries.
  4. Try to avoid dropping in. This means don't catch a wave that someone else is already riding. The surfer on the inside, closest to the breaking part of the wave has the right of way. *Note* If a surfer is already up and surfing, resist the temptation to paddle to the inside and take off expecting to invoke the drop in rule on the surfer already riding. The surfer on the inside only has right of way at the point of take off. Once a surfer is riding the wave, taking off on the inside does not transfer right of way to you. It's still dropping in, just from behind.
  5. Avoid being a snake. A snake is a surfer who constantly paddles to the inside and repeatedly claims the next wave as their own. In other words don't be Greedy. Being greedy will only upset other surfers eventually forcing them to drop in on you to get a wave.
  6. It's wise to avoid paddling through the line-up. It's much safer to never assume the oncoming surfer is in complete control of their board. (This means don't paddle out where the other surfers are riding, it's dangerous for all involved). Paddle wide in deep water around the break instead. Or take the hit from the white water if you get caught inside. But avoid paddling in the projected line of the surfer. You'll see many people, including really experienced surfers ignoring this suggestion. But they are in the wrong to do so, ignore it at your own peril. You don't walk in front of oncoming traffic, so don't paddle in front of a riding surfer. The choice is yours. But remember the surfer riding the wave has to deal with the wave; they may not have the ability to deal with you being in their way as well. Make an effort stay out of the way; you'll quickly earn respect from the other surfers if you do. This isabout your safety; it is much safer for you to take a hit from the white water than to risk getting run over by another surfer when paddling out.
  7. Do show some courtesy and respect to both the more experienced surfers and the locals in the water. These people have earned their place in the lineup. The question is, have you? Remember, when you surf away from home you are in someone else's home. Treat others the way you would prefer to be treated at you home break.
  8. Use common sense where crowds are an issue. If you turn up to a break that is already heavily crowded, then ask yourself if it's really worth it. Consider surfing somewhere else. Adding to an already frustrated and aggressive crowd won't help you or them. Most often when we get honest with ourselves, what really matters is that we get to have a surf, not where we surf.
  9. Always hold on to your board when a wave hits you, act as if you were not wearing a legrope. Throwing your board away and allowing your leg rope to do the job for you, is very dangerous both to you and the other surfers in the water.
  10. Only take off on a wave that you would also be willing to ride without a legrope. If you're relying on your legrope to allow you to surf waves that you would not be willing to surf without one. Then you are surfing waves that are far beyond your surfing ability, and you are therefore a danger to yourself and others in the water.
  11. Never flick your board at someone like a weapon or use it as a means of protection from a possible collision. Many will throw their boards in front of another surfer when afraid of a possible collision. This is incredibly dangerous. It is surfing's equivalent to jamming a stick in the spokes of a passing bicycle, it's just not cool.
  12. Never judge another surfer by what they choose to ride. No matter what you read in the surfing media, whatever a surfer chooses to ride on any given day is their choice. It is wrong to think another surfer is less valuable than you just because they ride a different style of board or surf differently. You do not have more rights than anyone else because of what you choose to ride, where you are from or who you may think you are. Bigotry & Prejudices are not OK in any form ever.

Try to apply these suggestions to the best of your ability. Don't sweat it if you make a mistake, everyone does. Nobody is perfect even if they think they are. We all make mistakes in the water including the highly experienced amongst us. We all have good days and bad days. The simple trick is to own it when you get it wrong. If you make a mistake in the surf that involves another surfer, you will find that a simple apology goes a long way to making it right. If you back it up with an effort to try and learn from that mistake, you'll earn yourself considerable respect as well. So come on in, get a few waves, and let a few more go to someone else. Remember you're not in a competition, there is no first prize. So just relax, chill out and enjoy the beauty that is surfing .