Is Surfing a Dangerous Sport? Top 10 Dangers From Surfing

Yes surfing is a dangerous sport. It could cause injuries and even your life. Even experienced surfers are not safe from the dangers of this sport.

Hence, it’s important for surfers of all mastery levels to not be too complacent and practice safety precautions at all times to lessen the risks of the sport.

Surfing is cool, especially if you’re going to look at how professional surfers ride the waves. But, this kind of sport is more than what meets the eye.

Apparently, surfing is considered an extreme sport due to the dangers that it involves.

Is Surfing a Dangerous Sport? Top 10 Dangers From Surfing

Like any other sport, surfing poses more dangers to beginners. Because this sport requires a good balance, beginners might find it hard at first and may fall many times.

Because of this, injuries are likely to happen. And if you’re not confident in the water, it could also affect your surfing, which could cause added dangers.

But, it’s also worth noting that even experienced surfers are not safe either. No matter how skilled you are at surfing and swimming, there are still many factors in the water that could affect your safety. In fact, many accidents that resulted in deaths have been recorded in the past years.

Donnie Solomon is one of the experienced surfers who died while surfing. After failing to catch a wave, he got hit by a giant wave and drowned.

Briece Taerea is also a well-known big wave surfer who drowned while trying to duck dive a giant wae, which resulted in his demise in 2000. 2013 also saw the death of Kirk Passmore, also an experienced surfer.

No matter how well you are at doing surfing, there are numerous factors involved in the sport that make it dangerous regardless of your skills. Here are some of the dangers that you need to be more aware of when surfing.

1 – Drowning

Drownings are some of the common dangers of surfing. Whether you’re a pro at surfing and swimming or not, drowning is still one of the biggest challenges of this sport.

You see, for you to be able to surf, you will need to catch big waves. For more adrenaline rush, experienced surfers catch the bigger ones.

And for you to be able to catch huge waves, you need to go to the deeper parts of the ocean as the wave changes with depth.

However, bigger waves also mean a stronger impact. This increases a surfer’s chances of getting drowned.

With strong impact hitting a surfer, one may get caught in the water, making it difficult to get out from the water. This could also hurt a surfer’s head, making them lose consciousness.

Many people are often too complacent with surfing because they’re confident with their swimming skills.

But, no one should be too complacent as research shows that more than 2.30 per 100,000 people per year drown on surf beaches. It is also one of the reasons why some of  the experienced surfers die.

Hence, it’s advisable to surf with a friend who can help you get out of the water in case you got into trouble while surfing.

2 – Rip Current

The waves that you try to catch to surf aren’t the only ones you need to worry about, which could cause you to drown due to the existence of rips.

For starters, rips are caused by the breaking waves and winds that push surface water. And they can get high as 8 feet per second.

It’s so strong that it can sweep even the best swimmer; therefore causing incidents of drowning. In fact, in 2014, it is what caused the death of three surfers in Cornwall.

Rips may seem fascinating and harmless at first glance. But once you get caught it in, it’s life-threatening. Therefore, if you see a rip current, make sure to stay away from it and don’t go trying to test your luck or your strength. It’s better to play safe.

3 – Marine Life

The world is occupied by many creatures. Even the ocean is a habitat for numerous marine life. Unfortunately, human activities are one of the causes why many animals are disturbed in their habitat – and surfing is one of them.

And when animals feel threatened, they will only do what they think is best based on their instincts. Hence, they attack humans invading their habitat.

Sharks are one of those creatures that attack with no warnings when their habitat is disturbed. And in deep waters, it is one of the things you need to be worried about as they don’t only cause injuries, they can even cause death.

In Volusia, Florida alone, nearly 300 shark attacks have been recorded between 2000 and 2015.

The danger that sharks present are obvious. But you should also be wary of the less obvious ones like jellyfish, urchins, stingrays, and even seals.

While they may look cute and harmless, some of them can be venomous or trigger allergic reactions that can potentially be deadly. 

Others, on the other hand, such as seals, can become aggressive and attack you. Aside from major wounds, they can also cause infections.

You should also be careful with seaweeds. While they may not seem dangerous at all, they can also cause drowning as you can get caught with them.

To lessen your risks, here are some things you need to bear in mind:

  • Watch out for warnings. Beaches often warn surfers if dangerous marine creatures are rampant in the area. So, make sure to read the signs first.
  • Don’t surf at night or at the break of dawn. Sharks often go out during the darker times of the day. To not disturb them and, of course, avoid being their meal, it’s best to stay out of the water at these times.
  • Consider wearing booties. The majority of the surfers do not wear shoes while surfing, so they can get a good feel and traction while surfing. However, just as how regular shoes work, surfing shoes will help protect your feet, especially from rocks and urchins. They could lessen your risks of getting injured.

4 – Surfboards

Your surfboard plays a huge part in surfing. Without it, needless to say, you won’t be able to surf. However, your surfboard could also endanger you.

Falls are common in surfing no matter how experienced you are. And when you do fall from your surfboard, you won’t have full control of it, especially as the waves move you and your board in the water. Because of this, you’re at risk of bumping into your equipment.

As a result, you could injure yourself. You could get bruises and might even hit your head. In worst cases, your surfboard might cause you to lose consciousness while in the water. This could potentially cause you to drown.

Your surfboard is also equipped with one or more switchblades that resemble fins. This helps improve your directional stability, giving you more control of the board as you ride the waves. However, this could also cause injuries.

Unfortunately, during a wipeout, it could slice everything that comes into its way. Hence, it could potentially cut you too.

5 – Leash

Your leg rope or surfboard leash is there to keep you attached to your surfboard. This way, in case you fall, your board won’t get swept away by the waves. Additionally, this also prevents your board from hitting other surfers, as well as swimmers. But, contrary to what others think, surfboard leashes can also be dangerous.

Apparently, entanglement can happen. Because of the long length of leg ropes, they could get tangled around you and cause injuries.

They could also get caught in corals and seaweeds and this could lead to drowning. While it comes with quick-release mechanisms, you could still get caught in the corals or seaweeds if you’re unconscious.

6 – Locals

Nature can be dangerous. But, humans can be scary too. Everyone has their own values and because of this, some people can sometimes be not so friendly at all. In some cases, they can even be aggressive towards others.

Thus, when surfing, it’s vital to always observe the proper surf etiquette. This will reduce your chances of getting caught in an incident with aggressive locals.

7 – Crowds

With the population growing, tourist attractions, especially surf beaches, are often filled with crowds. And, unfortunately, the more people line up to surf, the more dangerous the experience can be. Crowds of newbies can also be a nightmare.

Because of this, you’ll have less area to surf. Plus, limited waves to catch. Also, your chances of getting hit and accidentally hitting others are increased as surfboards fly left and right.

8 – Hypothermia

Surfing isn’t only done in tropical countries. Some good places for surfing can also be found in cold parts of the world.

Truth be told, these plaes offer unique views and different surfing experience that you won’t always get to see and feel in warmer places. However, when surfing cold water, you should also be worried about the cold.

Hypothermia is one of the risks involved in cold water surfing. For starters, it’s a condition that occurs when your body loses heat faster than its production of heat. This could lead to heart and respiratory system failure, which could potentially cause death.

Thus, it’s a must for cold water surfers to stay warm. For this, you will need a wetsuit that’s dedicated to surfing cold water.

9 – Water Pollution

Water pollution is not just a problem that’s becoming greater for marine life. They can also affect surfers. And just as how it imperils sea creatures, they could also endanger surfers.

The trash in the water could get in the way of surfers and cause accidents. It could also affect beginners’ experience. Aside from that, the water is becoming more and more dangerous due to ocean issues such as chemical spills, which could not only cause itching but further skin damage as well.

Fertilizers, pesticides, sewage, oil leaks, plastics, and other human waste won’t just get into your way while surfing. They could also harm your overall health if you go into the waters unwarned.

10 – Sun

Everyone has a love and hate relationship with the sun. Of course, sun exposure is good for the health. But, it can also cause diseases, especially when you’re surfing under the sun for too long.

When surfing, of course, there is no shade. Hence, you’re exposed to the direct rays of the sun. While it can be beneficial for your skin, too much o fit could lead to skin aging, sunburns, and even cancer.

And many surfers are often unaware of how long they’ve been under the sun since, of course, the sport is fun. Additionally, the water cools your skin down. But after you get out of the water, only then will you notice the damage that the sun has done even for only a few hours of surfing.

For this reason, sunscreens are mandatory for surfers – experienced or not – before that put on their wetsuit. Much better if it would be coral reel-safe.

Surfing is exciting. And because of how pro surfers ride the waves so smoothly, it’s tempting to try ad test your skills too. While it’s okay to try it and be inspired by experienced surfers, note that the sport can be dangerous too. To lessen your risks, don’t go overboard in challenging yourself.

Related question:

Is surfing a good workout?

About David Miller

Passionnate about extreme sports since a young age, I started my journey with brazilian Jiu Jitsu and skydiving. After 2000 jumps, I’m now a professionnel skydiver focus on wingsuit flying. I’m writing about all kind of extreme sports, trying to find the best spots in the world to do it.

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