Surfing First Aid: Basics

It is a good idea to learn the first aid basics in case you encounter an emergency. Until professional help arrives you can give basic first aid and possibly keep the person breathing, reduce their pain or minimize the risk of permanent damage.

This information is of a general nature only and should not be considered a replacement for proper first aid training.


DRSABCD stands for:

  • Danger: Always check the danger to you, bystanders and the victim. Don’t put yourself in danger trying to assist another person.
  • Response: Does the person respond when you talk to him or squeeze him. Is he or she conscious?
  • Send for help! Call the doctor or ambulance and explain the situation.
  • Airway. Is the person breathing? Check if the airway is clear by opening the mouth.
  • Breathing. Monitor their breathing until handing them over to ambulance officers.
  • CPR. If you have attended a CPR course, use CPR until you hand him/her over to a trained person or the ambulance officers.
  • Defibrillator. For unconscious adults who are not breathing, apply an automated external defibrillator (AED).


It is wise to bring a first aid kit with you when you go an a surf trip. You might end up at a perfect desolated beach with beautiful waves but no medical kit or assistance near by. The first aid kit could potentially save a life, so make sure it is readily available, well stocked and organised.


When using bandages consider the following:

  • The injured person should be sitting or lying down and their injured body part is supported in position before you bandage it.
  • If the injured person can help by holding the padding in place, wrap the ‘tail’ of the bandage one full turn around the limb, so that the bandage is anchored.
  • Make sure the bandage is not too tight so you do not reduce blood flow to the extremities (hands and feet). Check by pressing on a fingernail or toenail of the injured limb.


Open wounds are prone to infection. Suggestions to reduce the risk of infection include:

  • Wash your hands if possible before managing the wound. You could also use an antibacterial hand sanitiser.
  • Put on the disposable gloves provided in your first aid kit.
  • Try to avoid breathing or coughing over the wound.
  • Cleaning of the wound depends on the type and severity of the wound, including the severity of the bleeding. You may just clean around the wound.
  • Cover the wound with a sterile dressing. Try not to touch the dressing’s surface before applying it to the wound.
  • In an emergency case, these suggestions may not be practical. If the injured person is bleeding heavily, do not waste time.
  • Immediately apply pressure to a heavily bleeding wound (or around the wound if there is an embedded object), and apply a bandage when the bleeding has slowed down or stopped.


In an emergency case: Call for help or let bystanders call for help while you help the victim. Call:

  • The ambulance
  • The nearest doctor
  • The hospital
  • Qualified emergency response officers


  • Some knowledge of basic first aid could might potentially save lives. Consider doing a first aid course so that you will be able to help if someone is injured. Knowing how to do CPR is an important skill and one everybody should learn.

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