There are so many ways to hurt yourself when you’re surfing. One of the first rules you’ll do well to learn is that the water is your master.
You’ll meet all kinds of people on the water – old salts that really enjoy sharing tips with you about the local break or your stance, quiet kooks that are trying to keep themselves to themselves, “sharks”; young men that are desperate to prove how easy it is for them to carve it up – but the king of them all is the ocean itself. In an instant you will realise that every single person in the water is bound by their fragility in comparison with the great swelling beast.
If someone gets turned over and smashed around in the washing machine of an 8footer and comes up gargling, you won’t be the only one eager to help them find their breath again. Everyone helps everyone WHEN they know that something is wrong – sometimes it’s impossible to tell if you’ve damaged yourself, let alone when someone else is in trouble.
There’s a post here that does really well to explain drowning. Know the signs and act quickly. Much better to risk looking like an idiot if you’re rescuing someone that’s doing okay than miss the opportunity to save a life. Don’t forget that you’re attached to one of the best life-saving resources available – your surfboard is designed to be buoyant and stable.
Aside from drowning there are hundreds of ways to injure yourself on the surf. Two of the most common are reefs and, you guessed it, that piece of solid fibreglass and resin you’re riding about on:
- Reef breaks are renowned for their ability injure; if you’ve never come into contact with a reef you should know they can break the skin after the slightest of touches. Make sure you’re competent in the water before you approach your first reef break – they’re arguably the best waves in the world, but the price is high.
- Boards are big and hard; you’ll learn to love surfboards as you go through the learning process, but they come with their own dangers. You might get a whack over the head with your own board, or a nasty puncture from the nose/fins of someone elses. You can get a nose tip for your board like these in order to protect yourself and those around you (make sure you get one of these on line – the product itself is hugely over-priced because it’s such a niche, so forking out £25+ in a surf shop is a waste of money).
Surfing is inherently something that you find yourself doing in new countries. The chances of finding yourself in a sticky situation when you don’t know local habits, languages and topologies are greatly increased. Always make sure you’re covered by travel insurance.
The bottom line, as always, is to keep your eyes and ears open, and show respect for yourself, your fellow surfers and the ocean. Make sure you’re strong enough for the break, fit enough for all eventualities and switched on enough to read the conditions (talk to the lifeguards and locals BEFORE you get into the water).