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Knowing and avoiding risks in surfing
Surfing naturally involves some risks, but as in every nature sport real risk is minimized if our level and fitness are in the right relationship with the difficulty of the respective situation. That requires knowing how to properly assess both our level and the sea conditions. If this is possible, the legitimate question is whether it is not more likely to get a herniated disc when playing chess than to hurt yourself during surfing ...
It is true that you can learn the necessary theory and safety rules through reading but what you can not do through reading books is to acquire the ability to correctly assess the situation in the water. That is exactly why beginners and intermediate surfers should not surf without the support of an experienced surf instructor.
What you can already do before your surf course
For more fun and safety reserves, it is a good idea to get physically fit before your surf course, e.g. swimming (even better: paddling upside down with a surfboard in a lake, river or pool), diving and skateboarding.
New beaches are exciting, but ...
At a beach you don't know, before you go into the water, find out about
- Characteristics of the shore
- Type of seabed (sand, rocks or coral)
- Sandbanks and places with risk of currents (tide-ways)
- Direction and intensity of possible currents
- Effect of tides on waves and currents
- Other dangers
- Location of lifeguards and emergency telephone number
Before you start . . .
Even in a well-known place always do a safety check!
Watch the sea and the waves
- Are there any currents?
- What about the height of the waves and the way they break?
- How many waves are there in a set? How much time elapses between two sets?
- What are the other surfers doing?
- Is there any shorebreak (hollow waves that break directly on the shore)?
Physical condition and level
- Are you sufficiently prepared physically and psychologically?
- Do you feel fully fit?
- Do your level and your fitness sufficiently match the maritime conditions?
Control your equipment
- Is the leash undamaged?
- Are the fins well fixed and in good condition?
- Does the board have sufficient wax or is it equipped with a traction pad?
- Are you sufficiently protected against sun and cold?
At last in the water . . .
- Never surf unwatched!
- Never go into dangerous conditions alone!
- Never carry your board between your body and the wave, always carry it at your side!
Where is the wave? Waiting for waves ...
- Always watch the waves!
- Look often to the shore to see if you are being carried by the current.
- Always sit on your board when you are not catching waves or paddling. This way you will see the waves earlier, others will see you better and you can turn faster while sitting to get more waves.
Yoo-hooo! I caught one!
- Before catching a wave and surfing always look to all sides!
- Only take the wave if you are absolutely sure that you have right of way!
- If you are not sure if you have the right of way, or if there are other people in front of you, don't catch the wave or stop immediately!
- There is only a risk if your board is alone in the water or flying through the air!
- If you fall while paddling or catching a wave, hold the board by the edges, it is the safest way to avoid crashing with your board.
- If you fall standing up, try to grip the board with your hands. If this is no more possible, jump as far as possible to the side of your board.
- Whenever you can't catch your board when you fall, protect your head with your arms and keep an eye on your board so that you can dodge it in case it flies towards you. As soon as the board is back on the water, immediately grab the leash near your ankle and pull the board back under your control.
- If the water is too deep for standing and you can no longer control your board (try to avoid this!), jump to the side as far away from your board as possible, immediately protecting your head with your arms, diving as deep as possible, until you feel a pull from the invention. Then slowly surface upwards. Once on the surface look first towards the waves, in case your board is between you and the next wave, you have to dive back down. Otherwise grab your board as soon as possible to get it back under control.
Back to the shore
- Get off the board sideways before you reach the shore by holding the board tightly.
- If there is a shorebreak (hollow waves that break directly on the shore) get off the board very early and keep swimming alongside your board holding on tight and continuously watching the waves behind you. Let yourself be carried towards the shore by smaller waves, and in the event of a high wave coming in, plunge the tail of your board hard into the water. Once the water depth allows you to do so, stick your feet wide apart in the sand, standing sideways, to resist the undertow that will lose strength as the next wave approaches. Shortly before the next wave arrives, run out of the water while keeping an eye on the waves behind you. Before you have reached a safe distance from the waves, don't rub your eyes or put your hair up!
If you get into an emergency situation
- Never leave your board - stay calm - save your power!
- If you are having problems with the current, get out at right angle to it and try to get to the centre of a broken wave zone as there is usually no current into the sea. Never try to paddle against the current!
- If you need help, give an emergency signal in time! If you can sit on the board, slowly raise and lower your arms straight out to the sides of your body until they cross over your head. If you are swimming in the water, stretch one arm upwards.