Surfing has the potential to be a dangerous sport. Two surfers colliding can result in serious injuries. Or the interference might hamper a surfer’s ability to get a high score from the judges. To prevent this, surfing contests introduced strict priority rules. These determine which contestants can ride the wave. Let’s delve deeper into these rules.
Deciding Who Gets Priority
In contests, priority is given to whoever makes it to the break first. They have the right to catch whichever wave they want without any interference. According to WSL rules, priority ends when they catch the wave or when they start paddling for the wave but miss. The priority then passes to the next surfer in line.
Thankfully, it’s easy to determine who has priority in a competition. Each surfer has a unique color on their wetsuit. This will correspond to a flag or disk on the beach. These are ranked in order of who has priority.
There are some situations where two surfers will hit the same wave at the same time. In this situation, it all depends on who gets to the take-off. Whoever gets to their feet first will have priority.
It should be noted that multiple surfers can catch the same wave. Other riders need to make sure that they stay away from the surfer with priority. To avoid collisions, surfers ride in different directions. For example, if the surfer with priority goes to the right, the second rider will travel to the left.
To keep the competition as impartial as possible, it’s up to the judging panel to determine who has priority.
Penalties For Breaking Priority
Of course, not everyone will follow these rules. In a surfing contest, breaking priority and disrupting another surfer's ride is known as interference. It’s up to the judges to decide when this has occurred. For the call to be made, the majority of the judges need to rule the surfer broke priority rules.
Interference can come with harsh penalties. If this is the first time they interfere, their score will be based on the highest-scoring wave surfed in the heat. In a competitive heat, this can be enough to cost a surfer the win. Interfere for a second time, and the surfer could face disqualification. If they don’t leave the competition area, they could be hit with a fine.
Breaking priority isn’t the only way to get an interference penalty. They can also get a paddling interference penalty. This occurs when they force another surfer to change their paddling line, hindering their ability to catch the wave. For this type of penalty to occur, the judges need to declare that this was done deliberately.
In some circumstances, multiple heats will be held at once. This means multiple surfers with priority could ride the same wave at the same time. Surfers who interfere with riders in another heat could get a penalty, even though they have priority.
If you want to attend a surfing contest, you need to learn the basics of priority. The good news is that a lot of these rules are fairly straightforward and will be easy to pick up.