How To Make Friends With Locals In The Lineup

Here’s 6 tips to help ensure that you know how to make friends with locals in the lineup and be on their good side, on your next surf trip.


After living in the Maldives for seven months and travelling to Bali many times, I’m a little bummed to say that I’ve seen my fair share of blow ups in the water. As surfers, we need to visit the places around the world remembering that we are not in fact in our homelands, and that we are at someone else’s local break. I’ve seen so many altercations in the water where tourists have been kicked out of the lineup by locals, making themselves permanently un-welcome to return.

And why? Many of times it’s over a little thing I like to call surfer’s greed; a surfer must try to catch every wave in the line up at all costs, totally disregarding surfing rules and respect for fellow surfers.

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According to the Maldives Surfing Association, three Israeli tourists were responsible for a physical attack on their local surf-guide, Ali Rehan Mohamed, at Thanburudhoo Point in September this year. The guide told the men they needed to respect surfing etiquette in the water, leading to the incident. The incident became a police matter and the tourists were forced to return home early, sadly without repercussion for their actions. The Association also notes that a number of other altercations have happened throughout the 2015 surf season, all without consequence.

I have travelled to a small village in the west coast of Bali for an annual surf trip nearly every year since 2008 and this year I lived in the Maldives. I spent every single weekend of those seven months I lived there staying at a particular island and surfing waves all around the northern atolls (islands). And not once have I ever had an altercation with a local in Indonesia or the Maldives. In fact, my experience has been quite the opposite. I have made great friends with locals in both these places, I’ve stayed at their family’s houses, had traditional seafood barbeques and dinners put on for me, have been invited to local weddings and ceremonies and have been shown around the lesser known places on these beautiful islands. This is what travelling is about. Follow my tips to ensure you know how to make friends with locals in the line up and it could just better your whole surf trip experience.

local surfers lineups

local friends lineups


Number 1 RESPECT – it’s a small word that goes a very, very long way. Without it you won’t get far, especially if you plan on visiting small villages or islands where local’s presence is strong. As surfers we sometimes visit places less travelled, where seeing Western foreigners is still a raw thing. In these places, respect is especially a must.

Always be friendly.It never hurts to smile, say hello and be friendly and polite both in and out of the water. This is how you make new friends and do your bit to positively contribute to the image of Western travellers that locals may hold.

local friends linups 2


Choose your attitude. Consciously choosing how you conduct yourself both in and out of the water will determine how you are in fact treated in return. Go out in the water with surfer’s greed and I am sure you will not be welcomed by the people around you. On the other hand, giving a hoot or even giving waves away may mean that eventually locals will call you into the better waves…Try it.

Have a laugh. Whether it’s at your own expense or making a joke of something in the lineup, laughing is one of the best ways to connect with people. It’s also a good icebreaker in the water and can change the feel of a whole surf.

friends with locals


Give compliments. Be nice! Compliment people. It’s not a competition and I hate to break it to you people but you are not Kelly Slater, therefore you do not need to catch every single wave. Rather pay forward compliments when they are due and again you might make new friends and be welcomed to surf with the locals.

Learn. This is the biggest thing I like to do when I am a traveller. Whether it’s learning a few words in the local language, trying different foods, seeing how other people live or learn a different way of doing something that you have done your entire life. Learning is key to travel. Taking interest in the lives of locals may mean that you are invited to things that not many other tourists have been. You will see life from a whole new perspective and best of all leave your trip feeling content that you made the most of your whole experience.

locals in lineups

There’s more to a surf trip than just surfing. Many of my great friendships have started in the water. Make sure you follow my tips to ensure you know how to make friends with locals in the line up.



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