How to Navigate a Crowded Line Up

Every time a good swell comes there’s bound to be crowds. This is especially true here in Southern California, and although this makes getting waves harder, this shouldn’t be a deterrent to surfers looking to get a good session. Even if you're a less experienced surfer, you can still surf among crowds, but only if the waves are within your skill level. However, the challenge that comes with crowded line ups is that there are more people going for each wave, and inevitably less waves that you’ll end up getting. There’s also an increased chance getting snaked or even snaking someone yourself. As a result, you might find yourself to be more passive when surfing on crowded days. If you’re someone that has no choice but to surf crowded breaks here are some tips to get you more waves.


On a crowded day, surfers around you will constantly be catching and riding waves. The first thing someone should know when surfing in a crowded line up is how to safely avoid other people. When paddling out, make sure not to be directly behind someone, since if they decide to chicken dive then their board has the potential to fly back and hit you or your own board. When in the line up, know who has the right of way. For every wave, whichever surfer has the potential to get the longest ride is the one who has priority. Knowing how a wave is going to break and who’s next to you is key in determining priority. Not knowing this can have some pretty crucial consequences, since you can potentially run into another surfer. On big waves this can be extremely dangerous. Always make sure you have a good understanding of where each of the surfers are around you. Constantly take note of your surroundings, which will change frequently while you’re in the water. If it’s your first time surfing a spot with a crowd, observe other experienced surfers get waves first before trying to get your own. 


So you finally understand priority and are safely getting out of other people’s way. What happens now is that you’re going to find yourself getting a lot less waves. This will initially be frustrating, since there’s nothing worse than watching others score sick rides and not getting any yourself. However, getting waves is all about being in the right place at the right time. This requires some skill so that when the sets come you find yourself in the right spot each time. One of the best ways to do this is to know the spot beforehand. If you know when and where the wave is going to break, you can position yourself in a spot that will give you the greatest chance of catching the wave. Surfer’s that don’t know where the wave will break will spend more time having to react when the sets arrive. Being the first one to the peak will almost ensure you’re going to get the wave. Besides being familiar with the spot, reading the forecast will also give you valuable information such as swell interval and height. Preparation is always key to a good surf, so make sure to take a moment before charging into the water. Another tip is to make sure you’re being mobile and not staying in one spot for too long. The ones that get the most waves are rarely sitting in one spot for a long time. These surfers are constantly watching and reacting to waves to find themselves in the perfect position. Even if the wave breaks in the same spot every time, you should still be changing your position relative to other surfers in the lineup. Being proactive and having the right awareness will greatly increase the amount of rides you’ll get in the long run. 


If you’re still struggling getting waves with these tips in mind, you may need to consider changing your equipment. Remember that a board from SBBC will always help you get more waves, crowds or not. We hope this information has helped, and hope to see you in the water.


Stay stoked,

Phil