Surf’s Up! – Collect the Best Waves

Surf's Up game

The sun’s up and the waves are rolling in. Get off that beach towel and paddle out! Compete against rivals to catch waves as they crash onto the beach, all the while avoiding stings from bluebottle jellyfish. Designed by Jay Bendixen and published by Good Games, Surf’s Up plays 2-6 players, ages 8+, in under 30 minutes.

Score the most points by collecting waves, boards, and avoiding contact with jellyfish.

Setup photo of a 4 player game of Surf's Up.


All players (surfers) start Surf’s Up with an identical hand of six energy cards (0-5) and two respect tokens.

Three ocean current cards make up the Surf on the central game mat. The closest card to the beach is the Breakzone.

Each round, players will bid on the Breakzone card, trying to catch a wave or avoid a jellyfish.

Catching a Wave

Catching a wave is broken into 4 steps: choosing energy, catching a wave, after the wave, and visiting the beach.

1. Choose an Energy Card

Surfers choose one energy card from their hand and place it face down. Surfers who choose their rest card (0 energy) aren’t attempting to catch a wave. They gain a respect and will take all their played cards from their beach towel back into hand after the wave.

2. Catch the Wave

Players simultaneously reveal their cards to see who paddled the hardest to win the wave. If surfers reveal the same energy and are tied for respect, they wipe out without catching the wave. The remaining surfer with the highest energy and most respect catches and wins the wave. The second highest player also catches the wave as the runner up.

Should everyone wipe out or rest, nobody wins. The wave card is discarded and surfers who revealed cards higher than 0 place them on their beach towel.

3. After the Wave

The winning surfer places their revealed card into a collective trash pile. It is out for the rest of the game. They then take the wave card from the Breakzone and place it near their beach towel for endgame scoring.

The runner up discards their energy card to their beach towel.

The winner and the runner up both get a choice: gain one respect, or visit the beach. But if a surfer already has the maximum of four respect, they must buy at the beach instead.

All surfers who revealed cards higher than 0 discard their cards face-up to onto their towel.

4. Visit the Beach

The winner and runner up may buy a card from the beach by spending the indicated respect cost.

There are two types of beach cards. Surf boards score extra bonus points at end of the game for each wave that matches it. Players place their surf boards face up in front of themselves. Temporary energy cards may be played exactly once (and then trashed). After buying a temporary energy card, the player puts it face up on top of their beach towel, to recover it later by resting.

The beach supply is replenished immediately after each purchase.

Avoid Bluebottles

When a Bluebottle is in the Breakzone, surfers must avoid being stung by not revealing the lowest energy card. As with catching a wave, each surfer selects a card, then everyone reveals at the same time.

The surfer with the lowest energy gets stung, and takes a bluebottle token from the supply. They may secretly look at its value, then place it face down in front of them. Bluebottles will subtract 0-3 points during final scoring. In the event of a tie, there is no respect tiebreaker, those players take bluebottles too.

Surfers who rested by playing their 0 card, still gain respect and return cards to hand. Discard the bluebottle card and prepare to start the next round.

Prepare Next Round

Move the remaining ocean cards one space closer to the beach, and draw a new ocean card to place in the empty slot furthest from the beach. Then start the next round!

Game End

The game ends when the fifth bluebottle is resolved, or a surfer’s only remaining card is their 0 rest card. Players then tally their points as follows:

  1. Add points on each wave card
  2. Add the points for each of their surf boards that matches a suit of each wave card won.
  3. Add points from any of the 3 common goals achieved
  4. Flip over bluebottles and subtract any negative points.

The highest score wins!

4 starfish waves (4,3,2,2) and 2 shell waves (10, 9). Surfboards: +3/starfish, +1/shell. Common goals: Win the most starfish waves for +5, Finish with exactly 3 respect for +3. And a bluebottle token for -2.
Surfer scored 50 points!


I’m no stranger to surfing games, and Surf’s Up marks the third one I’ve reviewed (check out Longboard and The Perfect Wave). Sadly, I haven’t had the chance to hit the waves in real life just yet. So, for now, tabletop surfing will have to satisfy my craving for some gnarly wave action!

Surf’s Up is all about timing – play your high-energy card right to catch the wave you want. Savvy outbidding is crucial for snagging waves, while keeping a keen eye on your opponents’ moves can hone your strategy. With the ability to anticipate upcoming waves, strategic players can plan ahead and conserve their higher-value cards for bigger plays by biding their time.

Purchasing temporary energy cards help boost your chances of winning more cards, even though they can only be used once. They are critical to extending your bidding opportunities. Surfboards on the other hand can swing final scoring in your favor as they a 1-3 point bonus points per matching wave suit.

Variety and Player Count

Ocean cards and beach cards are randomly drawn, but each game will only see three of the 18 possible shared goal cards, which shakes up the scoring. Some goals really ramp up competition for cards; scoring 5 points for having the most starfish waves precludes anyone else from those points.

I also liked that the randomness of the blue bottle tokens. Snagging a 0 point token doesn’t hurt as bad a 3! In the games I played, the jellyfish didn’t seem to swing the scores as much as surf boards did.

Having played Surf’s Up and low and high player counts, I’d say I enjoyed it more at the higher counts purely for the social aspect. You’ll run into more ties, but have more boisterous moments when players outwit each other. In that respect, it reminds me a little of Go Nuts For Donuts, where sometimes you and another player continually gel – to your detriment.

But Surf’s Up is still mechanically fine, though more low-key, at two players.

Catchin’ Waves as a Family

Surf’s Up is super family-friendly and rules-light. With older siblings or parents as guides, playing with younger kids can be a breeze. There is tension, but the fun kind, where you’ll laugh it off and fist bump the kiddo for outsmarting you. There’s no take-that unless you consider swiping a surfboard ahead of your kid. The theme and artwork will appear to kids too.

Surf's Up central game mat with three ocean cards and three beach cards
And I love the neoprene game mat!

Are you ready to compete? Grab your wet suit and board wax pick up a copy from Good Games Publishing or your friendly local game store.

The Family Gamers received a copy of Surf’s Up from Good Games Publishing for this review.

Surf's Up
  • 10/10
    Art - 10/10
  • 8/10
    Mechanics - 8/10
  • 9/10
    Family Fun - 9/10


Age Range: 8+
Number of Players: 2-6 players
Playtime: 30 minutes or less