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  • Writer's pictureLaura Day

How to Deal with a Lineup Bully

Updated: Mar 26, 2022

Submitted by anonymous Surf Lady:

“What do I do if someone is hogging a break? Literally had one guy going for every wave.”

It took me a long time to be able to identify this behavior for what it truly is.

It took me even longer to learn how to deal with it.

When I was learning how to surf I accepted that I lacked experienced and I wasn't as knowledgeable as everyone else. I knew I wouldn't catch as many waves as the other surfers in the lineup and I was okay with that.

As I logged in my water time, I progressed. I grew in my confidence and ability to read waves and catch waves. I learned how to navigate the lineup and understood what it meant to have priority. I knew when it was my turn to go.

However, even with all this progression, sessions with wave hogs became MORE, not less, frustrating to deal with.

The feeling of being paddled around, paddled past, back paddled by someone who took every wave, even when I was in priority, made me question myself…

“I thought I knew what I was doing... Do I suck at surfing?”

My confidence would come apart and anxiety and stress would take over. I’d become timid and hold back for waves that were truly mine. Even with years of surfing under my belt, a quiver of boards, and plenty of waves caught, I felt like I didn't deserve to be in the lineup.

To cope, I’d mask the insecurities by defaulting to my “just learning” mentality.

“I guess I’m just not that good.”

If you’ve ever felt this way, you’re not the only one.

This feeling is common and experienced by many others, whether they admit it or not…

(Side note: I’ll admit, I don’t think I’ve taken the time to articulate this feeling until now. So just because you’ve never heard anyone talk about it, doesn’t mean you’ve been the only one feeling this way.)

So, If you’ve ever felt this way, I’m here to tell you...


Okay I know, those words of encouragement might be hard to call upon when you need it most and like me, it will probably take some time for you to really believe this.

So, let’s dive a little deeper.

So what do you do if someone is hogging a break?

STEP ONE: Identify the behavior for what it truly is - a Bully in the lineup.

Wave hogs are bullies who work to intentionally intimidate others to their advantage. They play on your self-doubt to get what they want: ALL THE WAVES.

Understand that this is someone being selfish and NOT your lack of ability, worth, or right to be in the lineup.

I know, seeing it for what it is is easier said than done. Especially in the moment because the very nature of bullying is to instill self-doubt so you’re unable to see things clearly.

So, here’s an exercise I developed for getting past this mental hurdle:

Take a step back.

After your surf session with a wave hog, take a step back and reflect on their behaviors.

Once you've regained a clear state of mind and can look at a situation objectively, replay them.

As you replay them take the behaviors out of the water and into a different context.

Something mundane where you feel 1000% confident in your ability to perform.

I like to use activities like checking out at the grocery store, walking down the sidewalk, or driving...driving is always a great one.

So let’s say you’re driving. You’re on the freeway, about to exit and the wave hog is driving a car in the lane next to you. You’ve been trying to exit the freeway for the last 3 exits, but this person is weaving around you, breaking in front of you, swerving toward you, and pretending to drive you off the road.

Because of this, you can’t confidently change lanes to exit safely.

Now, let me ask you:

Would you question your driving abilities and think this behavior was okay?


Would you wonder if you deserved to have a driver's license?


Would you ask yourself if you deserved to be on the freeway or if you deserved to own a car?


NO, you simply wouldn’t!

So why should we put up with this behavior in the water?

More importantly, why should you question yourself?

Once you’ve practiced this self-reflection enough times, you won't have to wait to get out of the water to know what’s going on. Bully behavior won’t make you feel that paralyzing self-doubt and you'll be able to identify it right away.

Now you're ready for step two..


In this episode, we discuss your questions about surf etiquette with Carla Zamora of The Surf Institute. Carla gives the most empowering advice and useful tips for dealing with this situation, and more.

P.S. If you found this post helpful, please share and spread the love and knowledge to other women in our community.

P.P.S. If you have rebuttals to this post along the lines of “Toughen up, Don’t overthink it or Just fake it ‘til you make it” ...Let me present you with an exclusive invitation to an upcoming blog post: There’s no excuse for a bully.

As I haven’t written it yet, feel free to subscribe to our newsletter and I’ll send it straight to your inbox the minute it's published!

This post was inspired by a conversation with Carla Zamora in

EP13 of Confessions of a Surf Lady: Lineup Etiquette and Pursing your Surf Goals

For more inspiring surf lady content listen to the episode below or on all major podcast platforms.


Confessions of a Surf Lady Podcast is brought to you by The Surf Société.

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The Surf Société is our online women's surf community dedicated to empowering women in the lineup through progressing our surf skills, building confidence, and pushing ourselves in challenging surf conditions.

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