Surfing Safety Tips

January 30, 2024

Surfing Safety Tips

Surfing is no fun if you can't be safe while doing it! An often overlooked part of surfing, safety is the most important thing to consider before you even set foot on a board.  Seasoned surfers live and die by this and inexperienced surfers can end up in stitches (or worse) if they don't take the time to learn.  This informative blog will give you some tips to avoid injuries and have better sessions.   Safer surfing = Better Surfing!

1) Stretch 

Before you enter the water, and at home, be sure to stretch out. This will give you much better range of motion so that you will be less prone to sprains and strains. At home, focus on stretching techniques for greater flexibility. At the beach before your session, focus on mobile stretching to get your muscles warmed up. (think squats, leg kicks, arm circles, etc). 

2) Don't surf waves you aren't ready for

If you are a new surfer, surfing waves that are much too big for you is a near guarantee to get injured, so make sure you check the waves before paddling out. You can find the swell forecast for your area on Surfline, which is an online surf forecasting tool built by and for surfers. If you are unsure of the best spots for you, head to a local surf shop and they will tell you the best places to go. If the waves are big and it is shallow, this is for experts only. 

This wisdom goes for intermediate to advanced surfers as well. Know your limits. 

3) Watch for other people 

The majority of surfing injuries happen as a result of other people. Crowded lineups, and a lack of etiquette from others, can cause collisions, wipeouts, and the possibility of getting run over. We always recommend surfing at the edge of the crowd. If you are right in the middle, you are at risk for the mishaps of other people. We also recommend choosing times and places to surf that are the least crowded. Early mornings are usually the best. 

If you have to surf in a busy crowd, always ere on the side of caution, and don't be trusting of other surfers. Sometimes, unfortunately, surfers can be one track minded. If they see a good wave, or a good on coming section, they don't always look to see if anyone is in the way or already surfing the wave.

4) Understand Proper Etiquette

One the flip side of the last safety tip, don't be hazardous to other surfers. Make sure you do not take off on someone who has the right away on a wave (the person closest to the peak has right away). Also, if you are paddling out and think you might get in someones way on the wave, paddle toward the whitewater. You might get drilled by the wave, but this is much better than getting run over. By doing this, you will also be protecting the surfer from possible injury if they fall trying to avoid you. 

Next, do not bail your board; this is one of the quickest ways to injure another surfer. Bailing is only to be done in very select circumstances, and most surfer's won't bail their board unless the waves are 10 ft and up. Even then, they will only do this if they know there are no surfers around. So rather than bailing, learn techniques that will help you get through waves. For longboards, learn to turtle roll, and duck dive if you are on a shortboard. 

5) Watch for Sea Life 

Depending on where you are surfing, you may deal with some dangerous sea life. This may include sting rays, jelly fish, or even sharks. Starting with sting rays, remember the sting ray shuffle. Shuffle your feet while walking out at a beach break to disperse the sting rays. If you don't do this, you might step on one. When they are stepped on, they feel trapped so they will sting you. For jelly fish, be on the lookout especially when paddling. Not every location has them, so this may be a non issue for you. Last, sharks are always in the back of a surfer's mind. Even though it is very rare for a shark to attack you, it is nevertheless important to know what to do. First, if you see a shark, remain calm. If you splash around or frantically paddle in, you will be acting like prey. Rather, move very slowly and paddle away. If they do attack you, punch them, kick them, or try to put your fingers in their eyes. 

Note: the chances of a shark attack are 1 in 3.7 million, with only 14% of attacks being fatal. So do not let sharks or other sea creatures deter you from having a great session. 

6) Do not hold the board in front of you when a wave is coming

This common sense safety tip is not followed as much as one might think. Often new surfers, thinking they will protect themselves from the wave, put the board in front of them and get hit in the face with it. Instead, hold the board to your side. 

7) Do not wrap the leash around you hand. 

When it is shallow, we are tempted to pull the board behind you by the leash, but doing this has resulted in many broken hands. When a wave comes, the leash with tighten and crush your hand if wrapped in this. It is best to hold the board itself when walking out to the line up to avoid this.

8) Do not jump off at the end of the wave without knowing what is beneath you

If possible, it is best to end your wave by getting back to your belly to paddle (if it is deep enough for you to paddle). Often, surfers will leap off the board at the end of a wave onto a rock or sharp part of reef. For obvious reasons, it is best to avoid this unless you know for certain there is a sand bottom beneath you. Also, make sure that you never dive head first... it can be shallower than you think. 

9) Surf with a friend when possible 

Even when following all safety tips, sometimes injuries can be out of our control. Because of this, it is important to surf with someone who can be looking out for you, and vice versa. If you do paddle out alone, make sure there are at least a few other people in the line up. 

10) Cover your head when wiping out

Wipeouts are inevitable, but there are ways to avoid injury when you do. The first is to cover your head when you fall. This will help you avoid getting hit by your board, or hitting the ocean floor.  If you are a newer surfer, or a surfer who falls often trying new maneuvers, we recommend using a soft top board. Our line of hybrid epoxysoft surfboards are perfect for helping you to stay safe, without sacrificing performance. 

Degree 33 Hybrid EpoxySoft Surfboards

Last Thoughts

Notice that the majority of these safety tips have little to do with the impact of waves, but rather how to respond to waves and people. Although waves themselves can be our biggest fear, most of the waves we surf, unless you surf bigger or shallower spots, will only shake and rattle us for a few seconds. The majority of serious injuries, therefore, do not occur because of the waves themselves, but because of poor decisions made in the waves. So make sure you keep referring back to this blog and stay safe!

We hope these are some informative and useful tips for you. If you'd like to hear more on safety, or if you need help finding the right board, call us directly at (800) 920-2363 and we'd love to chat! 

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