Surfing is a very safe sport with proper knowledge and experience. However like any sport it has inherent risks. Poor judgement might be catastrophic, therefore it is better to learn before you go, as to learn as you go. Remember surfing takes place in an ever changing environment so ocean safety should be your number one priority. Do not take the ocean too lightly, do some research and do not overestimate your surfing ability.
Here are 8 factors to be taken into account when going for a surf:
1 POWERFUL WAVES
The ocean and the waves it produces are very strong natural forces. Even small waves can pack a powerful punch. They knock you around and make you feel you’ve been tumbling in a washing machine. A wipe out doesn’t have to be dangerous, just make sure you are not surfing in conditions above your ability.
2 STRONG CURRENTS
Currents run along the shore parallel to the shore line (longshore currents), rip currents run from the beach back out to sea. If you recognize them and know what to do if you are caught, they should not be life threatening. You can actually use a rip current to drag you to the surfing line up.
3 SOLID OBJECTS
Rocks, boulders, cliffs and jetties are a couple of examples of solid objects you might hit when surfing. Always keep an eye out for these objects when entering into the water. Sometimes boulders or rocks are submerged directly under the surface. It is wise to ask for advice from other surfers. In some locations with lots of coral and a reef bottom it is advisable to wear a helmet and booties.
4 SEA CREATURES
Getting bitten by a shark is every surfer’s worst nightmare. Fortunately it does not happen often. Jellyfish stings, sea urchin wounds and stingray injuries are more common. Prepare yourself and know what to do when you get stung.
5 YOUR OWN BOARD
Hitting your own board is not uncommon when starting to surf. That is why most beginners learn on a foam board. As you progress you will learn how to fall and minimize the risk of getting hit by your board. Occasionally you will get cut by your own fins but usually these are not very deep and painful.
6 OTHER SURFERS
Other surfers (and their surfboards) are one of the biggest hazards of ocean safety. Some areas are very crowded and it is wise to respect the surf etiquette at all times.
7 SWIMMING ABILITY
Be sure that you are always in a position to swim out of a dangerous area. Leashes do break occasionally so be sure you know how to tread water. Take some time swimming in the ocean and you will be more comfortable and less likely to panic once a situation occurs.
The weather might be unpredictable at times. It can turn harsh in moments causing dangerous lightning storms and high waves. An increasing wind might cause waves to get bigger and choppy. Lightning storms are dangerous, so get out of the water as soon as possible. Always check the weather forecast and local conditions before entering the water.