There’s a positional manoeuvre in surfing called snaking, and as the name suggests, it’s not a good thing. 

In fact, snaking someone in the surf is one of the biggest faux pas in the sport, second only to dropping in. 

What's more, it can get you into a whole lot of trouble if you do it to the wrong guy too. 

But that’s not going to be you, because you’re about to learn ALL about it in this post.


Snaking is surfing’s equivalent to pushing into a queue. Not cool.

Let me explain.

Imagine for a moment you are surfing a right hand point break. 

You’re out there, right on the peak sitting with a bunch of other surfers waiting to catch a wave.

You’ve been biding your time, and you’re third closest to the peak - third in line to catch the next wave. 

Surfer 1 and 2 both catch waves, and now you’re in prime position, ready to catch the next wave that comes through.

But, surfer 1 (after catching the previous wave) decides to jump the queue and paddles all the way back to the peak, paddling inside of you. 

A wave comes, and they catch it. 

That’s snaking right there, and it’s damn rude and annoying as hell.


Unlike a typical queue in a supermarket, there’s nuance to snaking in the surf.

Let's take the above example. 

If surfer 1 had paddled back to the peak past all the other surfers, then proceeded to sit and chill, letting other surfers catch their waves for a bit, that’s totally fine. 

Likewise, if you’re surfing a spot with a heavy local crowd you can expect the locals to snake all the travelling non-local surfers.

It's not right in so many ways, but it's the way lineups work around the world and it's pretty standard surfing etiquette, and it’s how order is kept in the lineup. 


Point breaks, like in the above example, have a clear defined take off zone, however most beach breaks don’t.

So what happens here?

Well, if there is a very clear, well defined take off spot, then all the same rules apply. 

However if things are a little more irregular, the snaking rule kind of goes out the window. 

You’ll just have to use your own judgement, get a feel for the lineup, who’s next in line, who’s been waiting the longest etc. 

Essentially, as goes with all areas of life, just don’t be nob and you’ll be sweet.


Probably the most famous snaking event in history would be the one performed by none other than Kelly Slater back in 1996 against fierce rival at the time Shane Beschen.

Here’s what went down. 

Shane was sitting on the peak when a wave come through, in position to catch the wave with priority as he’s closest to the peak. 

Kelly, sitting close by, sees Shane paddling for the wave and at the last moment swings around, paddles behind Shane Beschen, and pops to his feet. 

Shane, not knowing that Kelly had snaked him proceeds to pop to his feet and ride the wave receiving a penalty for dropping in on Kelly in the process. 

Needless to say he didn’t take kindly to the sneaky, snaking antics Kelly used, and neither did the rest of the surf community either. 


If someone snakes you in the lineup, you have a couple of options:

  1. Call them out on it and escalate the issue.
  2. Just let it go, mutter something under your breath and move on. 

If you escalate things, be prepared for everything to get a bit awkward in the lineup, and be prepared also to have a crap surf from then onwards. 

There’s nothing worse than surfing when you’re angry. 

If you want my advice, just let it go, and if/when that wave (your wave) comes through, you go, regardless of whether the snaker is paddling for it. 

You put your head down and go.


Snaking isn’t something that happens all too often, and you don’t need to pay it too much attention. 

But now that you know what it is, you know how to avoid doing it which is the main thing. 

Hope this article helped.

Rowan 🤙


Rowan is the technical nerd behind the scenes. A lover of everything entrepreneurial, and living a minimal, simple life. Surf, Travel, Create. 

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