Rule #1: Right of Way
The surfer closest to the peak of the wave has the right of way. This means if you’re paddling for a right, and a surfer on your left is also paddling for it, you must yield to him or her.
There are a couple variations to this rule:
If someone is up riding a wave, don’t attempt a late takeoff between the curl/whitewater and the surfer. If the surfer who’s riding the wave wants to make a cutback he or she will run right into you. Doing that is also called backpaddling, and it’s just as bad as dropping in.
Just because the whitewater catches up to a surfer riding a wave doesn’t give you permission to take off down the line. Many talented surfers can outrun the section and get back to the face of the wave.
A-Frames or Split Peaks: If two surfers are on either side of the peak, they each have the right of way to take off on their respective sides. It’s not generally accepted to take off behind the peak unless there’s nobody on the other side. These surfers should split the peak and go opposite ways.
If a surfer riding a wave gets closed out with an impossible section or wipes out, the next surfer down the line can take off. If you’re a very new beginner I’d hold off on doing this anyway until you have a bit more experience.
If a wave is breaking towards itself (a closeout) and two surfers are taking off at each other, yes both have the right of way but this is a perilous situation and it’s advisable to kick out early to avoid a collision.