Dangerous surfing situations can happen fast and without warning. Follow these tips to do your part to stay safe out in the water.
Know how to swim. You must be a strong swimmer to surf. Treading water won’t be good enough if you’re tossed from your board or pulled out by a rip.
Wear safety gear. Use a leash. You’ll avoid losing your board or having it hit others in the head, and it can help you find your way back to the surface if you get disoriented underwater. Rash guards, wetsuits, and booties will protect your body from cold waters, reefs, and the sun.
Watch out for rips. Rip currents can be exhausting at best, deadly at worst. Avoid them at all costs. Watch for “rivers” in the water, areas of faster or backward flowing current. The waves will look flatter or uneven in this area. If you do get caught, motion for help or start paddling parallel to the shore until you break free.
Practice sun safety. Wear sunscreen and sunglasses or a UV-blocking wetsuit top. More surfers die from skin cancer than drownings.
Don’t dive head first. Never dive head first into unknown waters. Neck injuries can be life-long and debilitating. If you’re taking a fall, extend a hand out in front of you and fall flat. This is especially important in surf breaks over reefs or in shallow areas.
Protect your head. Make sure you know where your board is at all times. A leash helps with this. Protect your head as you surface to avoid getting hit by your board.
Surf with a friend. Use the buddy system every time you hit the water. If you get in to trouble, you’ll have someone to help you.
Know your limits. Don’t attempt to tackle waves beyond your abilities and don’t rely on your leash to protect you. Leashes can break in big surf, which means you’ll be out there without your board in conditions you may not be able to handle.
Know And Practice Surf Etiquette
Surfing is a fun and laid-back sport full of camaraderie. A lot of this philosophy can be attributed to practicing good surf etiquette.
Watch out for other surfers. Hang on to your board so it doesn’t hit other surfers. Never ditch it if you can help it.
Wear a leash. Related to #1 above, a leash helps keep your board with you. You won’t have to swim after if it you lose it and you won’t have to worry about it hitting someone else.
Don’t paddle in front of others. Also called “snaking”, this involves paddling around someone to get ahead of him or her and closer to the wave in an attempt to gain right of way.
Practice right of way. The surfer closest to the curl has right of way. Don’t drop in on them. Wait for the next wave. Paddling surfers yield to surfers riding a swell.
Help others. If you see a surfer in trouble, help him or her. The ocean is no place to ignore someone in distress.
Keep these safety and etiquette tips in mind next time you’re out riding the waves and you’ll gain the respect of your fellow surfers, as well as come back from your excursion in one piece.