As most experienced surfers will tell you there are many dangers associated with surfing, some more obvious than others especially when breaks are particularly crowded. For example:
Surfboards and Leg Ropes
A surfboard is not simply a piece of foam. It is strengthened with wood, hardened with fiberglass, shaped like a giant spearhead and with razor blade-like fins designed to drive and cut through the water. It can be a lethal weapon in the hands of the inexperienced.
If at any time you land on your fins, there is a 90% chance you’ll be cut open. Fin chops are possibly the most common injuries in surfing. Although they are usually self-inflicted, they can happen as a result of being run over.
Another common injury is getting hit with your own board after it sling-shots back at your head and face. Surfers often get hit with the nose of the board which forms a sharp point. The best way to avoid this is to allow for the tension in the leg rope to reduce before lifting your head out of the water.
Although there are times when it may be safe for experienced surfers to go without a leg rope, average and inexperienced surfers – especially as the waves get bigger and the breaks more crowded – should wear them as an out of control board can cause serious and even fatal injuries.
It is essential that inexperienced surfers know their limitations when it comes to wave size versus their skill level. Waves 3ft plus can have considerable power and simply falling off a wave near other surfers can be very dangerous. The impact of boards can break bones, knock you unconscious and cause serious gashes.
As the waves get bigger, the dangers become more critical. Just paddling onto a wave takes commitment and timing. Inexperienced surfers often tend to hesitate and risk wiping out or even going over the falls and putting themselves and others at risk of injury.
As the waves get over 5ft, other dangers become prevalent such as jumping off the rocks where timing is important and paddling through rips and currents which can be very exhausting. Although drowning is not common among surfers, learning to relax when getting held under, is a skill not easily mastered by just any surfer.
There are many sea creatures that can cause injuries to surfers such as stone fish and blue bottles for instance, but it is the ever-presence of sharks that must be taken into consideration by surfers.
Despite recent shark related incidents reported in the media, deaths from shark attacks – usually a case of mistaken identity – are very rare. However, it is crucial that surfers never surf alone and behave sensibly by knowing where and when to surf.
For example, it is generally risky to surf near river mouths due to excessive fish activity, and at dawn and dusk as these are considered shark feeding times.