The attenuation of surface gravity waves is an important process associated with air–sea and wave–current interactions. Here we investigate experimentally the attenuation of monochromatic surface gravity waves due to the presence of various surface covers. The surface covers are fixed in space such that they do not advect with the wave motion and are selected such that the bending modulus is negligible for the wave frequencies used in the experiment in order to minimize any flexural effects. Wave attenuation rates are found to be independent of wave steepness and the type of cover used over the tested parameter range. Results are consistent with the theoretical attenuation rate for an inextensible surface cover.