Book safe & secure No booking fee Free advice 4.7/ 5 - 148 reviews

Surfing's Shotgun Rules

No category General

Surfing's Shotgun Rules

Spend any time surf tripping and you’ll inevitably come across the concept of ‘Shotgun’.
It’s a simple concept yet these days the rules have got blurred.
Maybe it’s the breakdown of social order, perhaps the older surf crew aren’t passing down wisdom to the younger groms like they used to. It’s possible that grommets increasingly get bussed to the beach by their folks in comfort rather than blagging rides from older surfers on condition they fit in the boot with all the damp, stinking wetties like we used to back in the day.
Whatever the reason the basic Shotgun Rules (as laid out in the International Shotgun Rulebook 1974, 200th edition, from the last International Shotgun Congress held in Des Moines, Iowa) are alien to many people.
Seems our schools no longer teach about the Old West and how riding ‘shotgun’ next to the coach driver was the best seat in the house.
Plus points being: you were in the fresh air, you weren’t bouncing around inside the carriage with everyone else and you got to take pot shots at vultures with your shotgun.
We’ll ignore the bad points like: getting rained on, the lack of decent stereo systems and the danger of being used for arrow target practice by the real locals.
In modern times riding shotgun in a car passenger seat isn’t just about who calls it first, it’s a position of huge responsibility. The person riding shotgun is putting themselves in the position of wingman. You are the first mate. Main task: to aid the driver. So it’s up to you to read the map, mess with the satnav, hold the coffees, fiddle with the stereo, take phone calls, etc so you don’t crash. Not to mention keeping the driver entertained, awake with witty banter and generally be co-pilot. It’s most definitely not about getting the comfiest seat with the most legroom and going to sleep.
Riding shotgun is about being selfless not selfish. You are offering your services, taking one for the team, doing your bit for the greater good. If you want to go to sleep, dribble down yourself and emit sleepy air biscuits then get in the back.
With this in mind I shall explain the basics for those of you that are not familiar with this noble tradition.
‘Shotgun’ only applies to the front seat of the car.
You can not ‘shotgun’: waves, showers, girls, boys, sun-loungers etc. Nor can you ‘shotgun not’. This modern ‘anti-shotgun’ is invalid and inapplicable so when an unwelcome task comes along saying ‘shotgun not answering the door’ is not allowed and you are welcome to explain their error and tell them not to be so bloody lazy.
Shotgun can only be called with a clear line of sight to the vehicle in question.
You must be ready at the point of calling ‘shotgun’ to go to the vehicle and leave, so shoes must be on, you can’t call it and then pop back into the house for wax, leashes, etc. If you do so you lose shotgun rights and the right to call for the rest of the day.

As you can see, Alan Stokes has failed to call shotgun on this tuk tuk.
As you can see, Alan Stokes has failed to call shotgun on this tuk tuk.

If you call ‘shotgun’ first then as noted above you are the driver’s servant. This is the price you pay for riding up front, so no sleeping and do whatever the driver wants you to do. A good shotgunner should also have semi-pro iPod DJ skills to mix up a fitting soundtrack for your journey. The driver has veto on music, as it’s always drivers choice, whoever holds the wheel is in charge and this is where the other important rule comes in.


If shotgun has been called and the driver is not best pleased with his potential wingman for the trip then at any time before seats are actually taken he or she can call ‘reload’.
In essence negating the original ‘shotgun’ and opening it up for another pop. Only one reload is allowed as shotguns only have two barrels (to get the right outcome it is generally advisable to warn your preferred wingman of the impending reload). This is rarely needed, as why have someone in your travel crew you don’t want to hang with?

Line of sight is the most important shotgun rule.
Line of sight is the most important shotgun rule.

This is just a skimming of the official rules so you get an idea how it works and will hopefully not make a berk of yourselves on any surf trips this year.
There are a few unfortunate sub-clauses like:

  • Dead heat ‘shotgun’ calls are decided by best of three rock/paper/scissors.
  • The driver’s girlfriend or boyfriend get automatic shotgun. It’s just too much hassle otherwise.
  • Anyone guilty of asking, ‘What’s shotgun?’ has to walk.
  • Rule 27b states: anyone dressed as a pirate gets automatic shotgun all day.

It’s a lot to take in but you have the basics. So get out there, go surf, travel, be considerate, be respectful and just be glad we don’t have horse drawn carriages anymore.
What are your crew’s shotgun rules? Do you agree with us or have you got different rules? What’s the call with long trips? Do you shotgun the whole trip or is the front up for grabs with every motorway services stop off?

Hans van Mourik

Co-founder SurfaWhile, ♥️ tech, travel, sports & outdoors.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Only at Errant Surf

The Errant Surf Guide

Order the e-book for € 19.95 or get it for free with your booking!

Related articles

To all articles >