Foiling etiquette

This picture has been floating around instagram within our local surf community. Its motivated me to have a discussion within the foiling community on proper etiquette for foiling. For reference, this is not a local foiler, this is someone from out of town that none of the local crew knows. This shot was taken at the Jacksonville Pier which is notorious for getting very crowded and competitive. The surfer in the shot got a broken nose from the incident and apparently destroyed the guys foil set up on the pilings of the pier. Lets talk through this as a community and see where it takes us.


They’re both in the wrong. The picture doesn’t give nearly enough info.

If you’re trying to foil that and getting launched, you can do that alone a mile to either side of that peak I’m sure. So it should’ve been avoided completely.

Foiling is the new kid on the block. It will always be “in the wrong”. So foilers have to be ambassadors whether they want to or not.

Take cues from kite surfing. Kites can catch every wave in a set. So they defer to paddle surfers. Foils can catch multiple waves per takeoff. So defer to the slower craft in the water.

Maybe that’s it. Always defer to someone going slower than you. You have the speed to maneuver away.


It seems like basic etiquette to avoid crowded surf breaks. There are miles of beach on each side of the Jax pier so the foiler has no business being there. From the surfer’s board and body position it looks like the foiler dropped in on him which is bad etiquette no matter what you’re riding.

Beyond that I think when foilers and surfers are in the same area the foilers should avoid making connections onto set waves that surfers are going for.

Some surfers get freaked out seeing foils but the reality is the foiler has the greatest chance of getting hit by the foil, as long as you keep your distance. Some people act like a foil is a predator that will attack if it’s anywhere near them.


I am a foiler and will always give way to surfers period! The way I look at it is I catch more waves, for longer rides and have more fun on all types of waves ;-). So I am more than happy to give a wave away to a surfer who might only get one or two good rides in a session. What also attracted me to foiling in the first place was to escape the crowds. Also, we ride a much larger fin so the chance of getting hurt by two people connecting with each other is greater. Let not take some of the surfing attitude into our sport. It’s what is so fantastic about this sport. I have made more friends in the foiling community in three years than I have in the surfing comunity in decades :slight_smile: More than happy just to keep the peace!


Well said so far brothers! Im in agreement with everything said thus far.

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I pass up on connections pretty much every time when I see a surfer in position for it that clearly has intent. But when I get on one way out back and i’m coming down the line I do consider that my wave at that point. However, I try not to do that over and over again to the same group of guys. I typically try to move a couple hundred yards to the left or right to give some extra space. Would you pull off a wave in that position?


He definitely should not have been foiling there. We have foily sand bars to the north and south of the pier.

My problem with the picture is, the surfer put himself in a bad spot. If he’s a good surfer which I assume he is. It appears he is trying to assert his dominance and prove it was his wave by going that close to someone paddling in. Plus it’s a close out and he’s crouched down like he’s trying to get barreled by the foil board. Still angled toward the other surfer. The fact that it’s a foil doesn’t exactly matter here. If it’s a soft top he still would’ve been hit by the newbie on a soft top dropping in on him. The surfer could’ve turned away or jumped off and not been hit in the face.

There’s no reason for that. Same as there’s no reason for a foil to be dropping into a closeout with someone coming down the line like that.

That’s my reasoning for saying they’re both wrong.


I kind of feel for the Foiler here, since I’ve been so intent to learn this sport I’ve ignored my inner voice. I was catching a left that I had to myself at a beach break, when a surf newbie and their friend who was teaching them showed up and camped to my left. I thought the teacher would keep the newbie from catching it if I caught it, but the inner voice wasn’t so sure. So I did catch it, and was so focused on standing up I didn’t notice her soon enough to avoid contact. All was well luckily, but it was a wake up call for me. I was in the crowd today where small swell still works but I’ve progressed to the point I’m not wearing blinders. TLDR: watch out in the beginning when your frothing hard but still learning and desperate.

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Taking this thread a bit further, some areas of the country and world just aren’t good for prone or SUP foiling because there aren’t decent/ridable waves outside of the standard surf line up. It’s good to know what type of area you live in (or are visiting) so you can adjust your mindset accordingly and maybe change your primary mode of foiling from prone to winging, downwinding, wake foiling, or tow in. We all get excited to catch waves especially early on in our prone foiling journey and it’s really difficult to have the awareness and discipline to steer clear of surfers especially when you’re up and riding so it’s best going into it to know that some places and times are just off limits.

Let’s take the SF Bay area as an example. Most/all of the prone foiling spots in the SF Bay/Nor Cal area are also popular surf spots (Bolinas, Pacifica (don’t do it – too many beginner surfers), Ocean Beach on small days). While it would be great to prone foil in an area that is away from everyone, there just aren’t catchable waves most of the year outside of the line up, it’s no man’s land even for foiling. Some regions outside of the SF Bay Area have the luxury of having decent waves beyond the standard surf line up, but for the majority of the time this isn’t one them. Don’t rely on prone as a thing you’ll be able to do regularly in this part of the world. Fortunately, the Bay Area is windy March through October so winging is a nice way to get a ton of foil time and not have to deal with surfers or even other people. Plus, there are good downwind spots for SUP foiling along the coast. If you must prone or SUP foil in this area, just know there aren’t any areas on tap regularly that aren’t in the surf zone. Certain times of year are better than others, but overall I’d say if you live the Bay Area you’ll have more fun winging and you’ll be able to get some days here and there to prone when Ocean Beach is small but has enough push that’s it’s breaking pretty much everywhere along the entire 3 mile stretch of beach… and not too windy. So like I said, not often.

If you do decide to prone, it’s super important to choose a spot within the limited areas that is as far from surfers as possible and to let waves go by if someone else is around whether they’re paddling out and in your line of take off or paddling for the same wave down the line from you. It can be frustrating but that’s just the way it is so you need to set expectations that despite catchable waves being available they’re mostly off limits due to surfers being there.


More often than not I would, even if it is clear that it was my wave. I am all about keeping the peace and so often I can just pull off and tag the wave behind. There are certainly times when the conditions are slow in our area we have a few longboarders that take the piss (funny enough they are also the ones that don’t wear leggies). You can watch them catch 3 waves in a row then they will paddle straight past you and tag the next one or blatantly drop in on you. So I am less likely to be generous with them when they have had many more waves than everyone else and I am happy to call them out as usually they are also pissing off all the other surfers in the water too.


Good etiquette for me is avoiding the crowd, if not possible for some reason then I try to be as respectfull as possible. Which means, not flying to close to people even thought I know I’m in control (first off all you never know what can happen and it also can scare people).
When pumping I will give wave to surfer paddling.
I wear a leash unless it is super small and no one out (or few people spread out).

When I catch a wave I always analyse the line up, surfers, swimmers, other foilers flying.

All those make sense for most people i think, there will be always some bad attitude unfortunatly but hopfully jsut by a few.

The foil rule/etiquette that we should discuss is the pumping priority. Do we have the right to catch/connect a wave over prone surfer paddling ??? I would say not but sometimes you feel like you earn it so.


Great list of etiquette and safety related pointers from the local crew


A major problem with foiling in line-ups is that ~95% of prone foilers are beginners and often actually kooks who don’t even know how to surf waves in general and therefore are TRULY dangerous.

I just came back last night from Cabarete (winging, kiting, prone foiling, and regular surfing). There are multiple fantastic prone waves there however the main break at Encuentro is absolutely packed with surfers.
As soon as I walked on the beach two burly local surf guides stopped me aggressively and directed me to the “foiling spot”. Which is way down the beach but actually a great crumbling point without any people around.

I foiled for awhile and they all loved it and were hooting and hollering. When I came in they said the problem is that they have never seen anyone who can really connect waves and safely foil and that I could foil out front if I wanted but I was exhausted by then anyway.


Poor judgement on the foiler’s part, for sure. I think we can all agree that it’s a bad idea to be foiling at a crowded surf spot, unless you’re part of the crew and they’re cool with it.

Here’s a tougher scenario: you’re foiling for awhile at a relatively empty spot, and a surfer paddles out right next to you. Opinions?

Yes this.

1 Stay away from the surfers

2 Learn to minimally surf first before prone, primarily to understand a lineup

Yesterday a couple of beginners surfing at our regular quiet foil bank (far up the beach) commented after they left the water that we were super accommodating and friendly, which is NOT the vibe they have got from foilers in the past…

Fly_or-die this is the scenario I find myself in all the time. I’m foiling mostly on the SoCal coast (HB cliffs, Bolsa Chica, San O trails, etc) - I’ll find a place where I’ve got 100 yards on both sides of me. Inevitably after 15 minutes a bunch of guys will paddle right out to me to surf. So I take one in and ask my wife sarcastically “why does everyone want to surf with me??” Then I walk down the beach to another spot where no one is and repeat. Half the game out there is constantly paddling (or pumping) to a place where I’ve got room. I’ve always passed up good spots to surf junk waves because I hate surfing in crowds - junks waves are so much more fun now!!!


No excuses for those guys. Here in Central FL it’s all beach break, so it’s not like the surfers ‘should’ be in a better spot. No major crowds here either, though, so I won’t complain too much.

I’ve had this happen a couple times. I showed them my foil and said I had a weapon (jokingly). We got along fine. Another time I had two longboarders and a SUP show up and take every wave while I waited on the shoulder. That sucked.

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I typically foil with other foilers or away from surfers. If some prone surfers join the lineup I try to keep them out of my possible takeoff sharing zone. If I have the peak and they are paddling to my inside, I won’t drop in because of the potential consequences of a kook dropping in going left on my right. If I see they are competent surfers and play by the rules, it gets a bit easier to share the space.

Wish I knew the whole story about the above photo. A lot of scenarios could have lead to that. Something tells me the local surfer wasn’t happy to have a foil in the lineup to begin with and perhaps he was pushing the issue and the foil board got the better of him. Or perhaps the foiler just did what every surfer has done and didn’t look right when dropping in and tried to bail off the wave. Surfer could have been staying low coming around a section.