Why are surfers so mean?

Surfers can be mean for lots of reasons including perceived ownership of a surfing spot, how unsafe another surfer is being in the ocean and how well their own session is going. Most ‘mean’ surfers are mean people out of the ocean too.

Not all surfers are irritable trolls waiting to shout at you for the smallest thing, but there are some rather mean-spirited surfers around who seem to make it clear to the rest of the lineup.

These surfing grinches appear from all walks of life and can’t be identified until it’s too late.

But what makes these angry rubber people how they are, who hurt them and why do they feel the need to take it out on the rest of the surfing world, why are surfers so mean?

So why are surfers so mean?

Let’s take a closer look at some of the reasons you might encounter a mean surfer and what got them so angry.


Possessive tendencies have a habit of raising their ugly head in all walks of life and surfing is no different.

‘Localism’ refers to an entitlement or perceived ownership of a location (in this case a surf spot) and it normally stems from growing up or living in one area for a long time.

Sometimes this feeling of ownership can spill over into people’s feelings about ‘non-local’ or travelling surfers and can lead to them being mean to other surfers.

Head over to our guide on surf localism to find out more about this rather unpleasant part of our sport.

Limited resources

Waves are a limited resource and surfable waves are even more so. Humans are not great sharers and this is true in surfing as well.

Mean surfers will often act that way because they see you as a direct threat to their wave count (how many waves they catch in a single session). While this may be true, the best approach is to take turns and all try and enjoy ourselves.

The wrong approach is dropping in, back paddling and just generally doing anything you can to try and make sure you get as many waves as possible.

Find out why you shouldn’t drop in and what back paddling is in surfing terms.

Toxic masculinity

Toxic masculinity is defined as any behaviours expected or associated with men that have a negative effect on society.

In surfing terms, this often leads to a macho-like attitude of bullying people off waves and competing with every surfer in the lineup.

These same traits can lead to unpleasant verbal and physical attacks on people who do not fit into their views of who should surf, typically women, minorities and the LGBT community.

People are in the zone ignoring you

If you approach a surfer and they completely ignore you or respond with no more than a grunt they may not be mean.

Surfing much like climbing requires mental effort to succeed, surfers need to know where and when to paddle, predict incoming waves and avoid other surfers and obstacles.

Some will focus on this harder than others and this may lead to a lack of social interaction. I personally enjoy a chat in the lineup but I know many surfers who prefer to focus solely on surfing and avoid any talking or interaction.

You’re being a danger to other surfers

If you’re being a danger to yourself and others while surfing it’s not unusual for complete strangers to let you know (sometimes rudely) in the lineup.

Surfing has no strict guidance or guidelines and there’s no one waiting on the beach with a yellow card if you’re putting others at risk.

This means surfing has developed its own self-regulation, everyone’s a sheriff and there’s a code of conduct or etiquette that we all follow.

If you start surfing in a way that could hurt people or you don’t take others into consideration you may very well be told in a blunt way to amend your behaviour or leave the ocean.

If this does happen to you and you were unaware your actions were causing risk, apologize and try to be friendly and explain that you didn’t know.

Most surfers are rarely forgiving and will give you the benefit of the doubt.

New surfers have all got to learn surf etiquette and more experienced surfers understand this.

General awareness on and off the wave is developed with years of surfing so receiving some strong words of wisdom can be helpful for your surfing progression.

Extra reading – If you’re a beginner then our guide on surfing etiquette is essential reading, it’ll teach you all of the unwritten rules you need to know to surf safely and respectfully.


Some surfers may feel that your social standing in the lineup is decided by your surfing ability.

This means they see beginners as a form of second-class surfer often treating them with disdain.

These are quite possibly the worst kind of mean surfer and if you think you fit into this category you need to take a long hard look at yourself.

You consistently paddle out where you shouldn’t

This has two elements:

  • Paddling out when your skill set does not match the waves
  • Constantly paddling out through the path of surfers on the wave

Neither of these approaches is going to make you any friends. Trying to surf waves that are above your skill level is not just dangerous for you but the other qualified surfers there.

If you’re surfing at a reef or a point break, you need to paddle out in a way that doesn’t interfere with surfers on the face of the wave.

This can often mean paddling further but acts as a mark of respect to the other surfers in the lineup.

Keep on getting in people’s way as you paddle back out and you’ll quickly be told to adjust your paddle route or worse leave the water altogether.

Surfing isn’t a social sport

Surfing, in essence, is a solo sport. Much like climbing, surfing requires you to conquer personal mountains in the form of waves.

While you share this experience with others in some sense the act of surfing itself is a very unique experience for you and you alone.

Because of this, some surfers may simply want to stay fairly peaceful and undisturbed while out in the ocean. This is a personal choice that we must all respect and in many ways is the core of surfing.

It’s not you, it’s me

If you’re asking yourself why are surfers so mean because you’ve just got the cold shoulder for absolutely no reason, just remember, they might be having a crap day.

Just like anyone you encounter in your day-to-day life, surfers have bad days too. Add that to a bad session where they feel they’re not performing or not catching any waves and you’ve got all the ingredients for a bad mood.

In conclusion

We’ve taken a closer look at all of the possible reasons a surfer could be unpleasant or mean to you while in the ocean so next time you wonder why are surfers so mean?

Just remember it’s not always them and in many cases, it’s just a misunderstanding.

Always try to respect anyone else sharing the love of waves in the ocean and stay up to date with surfing guides, reviews and lifestyles with our further reads below.