What is a Kook Surfer?

Many sports carry with them a particular culture, from clothing to vernacular – surfing is no different. You might be familiar with the term ‘poser’ associated with skateboarding and other sports. According to Urban Dictionary, this means “someone who pretends to be someone whose not” and “someone who tries to fit in but with exaggeration” In the world of surfing, we call this type of person a ‘kook’.

As a beginner surfer, you might be worried about looking like a kook or may have heard the term and want to avoid classic kook behaviour. In this post, we take a look at the defining characteristics, behaviours and looks of a kook surfer so you can avoid it at all costs.

As always if you visit the Croyde surf school – Surfing Croyde Bay, your instructor will give you plenty of tips to avoid looking like a kook. 

Why is it bad to be a kook?

While being a poser often means looking foolish to other members of the community, posers at skateparks aren’t interfering with anyone else’s experience or fun. Unfortunately, surfers need to share surf spots and waves and are responsible for each other’s safety in the ocean. A kook can ruin the surfing experience for others by failing to observe surf etiquette, not having the required level of skill to surf a specific spot, or acting recklessly and endangering other surfers.

It is not only beginner surfers that can be kooks, but even some intermediate surfers also exhibit kook-ish behaviour, because they have an inflated ego and perception of their skill level. A good example is an intermediate surfer who boldly surfs an expert spot with the wrong timing, equipment and plan, making themselves look foolish and well, like a kook.S

But what exactly does a kook do?

Surf culture can be unforgiving, and usually where someone pretends to be a surfer but in reality is not, will definitely be called a kook. Kooks are often easy to spot, wearing popular surf brands, carrying a surfboard everywhere they go, and posting pictures on Instagram next to a board or the ocean. However, being a kook doesn’t always mean being a pretender – even experienced surfers can act like kooks. For example, a pro surfer who needs a point from a judge catching a last-minute wave? Kook behaviour. An experienced weekend surfer wearing all the wrong gear for the surf conditions? Kookish.

Similarly, beginner surfers don’t need to suffer life as a kook until they master the sport. All surfers make genuine mistakes, wipeout and accidentally irritate other surfers. It’s part of surf life. Being a kook has a lot to do with attitude, respect for the sport, and respect for other surfers around you.

A list of kook behaviours to avoid:

  • Paddling with the nose of their surfboard pointing to the sky
  • Smiling at another surfer as they drop in on them
  • Wearing booties during summer
  • Wearing board shorts over and under their wetsuit
  • Wearing goggles while surfing
  • Wearing a life jacket
  • Asking for someone to take their photo against the backdrop of a flat ocean
  • Practising pro-surfer moves on the beach
  • Making a spectacle of themselves doing strange warm-up exercises on the beach
  • Ditching their board
  • Referring to fins as ‘skegs.’
  • Letting their board hit someone after nosediving
  • Having lots of surf brand stickers on their surfboard
  • Failing to wax their surfboard
  • Waxing up the nose of their surfboard
  • Continuing to ride a wave until the fins of their board are buried in the sand
  • Forgetting fins altogether
  • Choosing to adopt a very low stance in whitewater
  • Charging through breaking whitewater
  • Letting go of their board when in the face of whitewater
  • Attempting to catch whitewater rollers
  • Attempting an aerial manoeuvre in whitewater
  • Carrying a shortboard on its head
  • Failing to use a leash in a crowded lineup
  • Continuing to wear a leash all the way back to their car
  • Paddling with both arms at the same time
  • Paddling with their chin touching the surfboard
  • Paddling for a closeout wave
  • Pearling their board in one-foot surf


Basically, kooks are oddities who disrespect the nobility of surfing as a sport. They can be wannabe pre-beginner surfers basking in surf culture. Alternatively, they may be surfers who act carelessly or demonstrate rude behaviour to other surfers. Kooks may fail to learn about everything the sport requires (conditions, equipment, etiquette) or have an inflated sense of their own skill level. You don’t want to be called a kook, so make sure you understand surf culture, rules, equipment and your own abilities. If in doubt, it is always better to ask an experienced surfer than risk ruining their surf experience and getting labelled a kook – it can be hard to come back from.