I’ve seen it happen too many times. Beginner surfers out in the lineup where the waves are too big or fast for them. Intermediate surfers who think they know what they are doing, but do not have good control of their board. Even the advanced surfers who think they are invincible can get injured. I’ll explain each group, the hazards, and how to limit them.
Beginner surfers are those surfing for the first few times. They can be picked out since they are most often on longboards, and those are often soft tops. They have trouble sitting up right on the board, and take extra time popping up. The hazards are when lose control their boards after a big wave hits them, when they try to catch a wave but shoot the board out when they fall, and when they do catch the wave but head right for you. To avoid them, be aware of where they are sitting and stay at least 20 feet away (the length of the board and the leash plus a few extra for safety).
Intermediate surfers are harder to pick out since they can be riding shortboards, funboards, or longboards. They have surfed for a year or two and can catch waves, but still have trouble turning and finding the better waves to catch. I can pick them out since they still have a wide stance and flail their arms more than usual when surfing. The hazards with them are they can drop in on you and paddle into your path while you are riding a wave. To avoid them to pick them out early and don’t sit next to them. Recognize the board they ride so if you one on the inside while you are surfing, be aware they might not know what to do and so surf cautiously.
The advanced surfer can be picked out by seeing they are catching the most waves, or the best waves of the set. They are often on short boards, or on longer boards when it’s small. One hazard is that they sometimes do not use leashes, and lose the board after falling on a wave. Even on a shortboard they can perform a difficult maneuver and fall close to you or have their leash break. The key to not getting hurt is to keep your eyes out for all surfers in your area, and to make eye contact with the surfer riding the wave so they know you are close by.
Overall it is each surfer’s responsibility to watch out for others and know their limits. The more advanced a surfer is, the more they should know how to avoid a collision even if someone is kooking out. And then afterward, not get mad, but instead make it a teaching moment. And if you are a beginner, don’t use it as an excuse. Give respect out in the lineup and you will get it back, and maybe even be called into a few good waves. Remember, the best surfer is the one having the most fun.