Common Surfing Injuries
Common Surfing Injuries
Surfing injuries are simply a part of the commitment to surfing that we call “paying our dues”. Some of the most common surfing injuries like sunburn, marine stings, reef scrapes, “surfers-ear”, and the occasional skin rash are all the price we are willing to pay for glory. In the frothing, barrel-eyed perspective of a committed surfer, surf injuries can even be a point of pride, simply because those minor injuries represent progression. They remind you of that time you charged just a little bit harder, allowing nature to instruct you.
Common surf injuries lead to common precautions. You can use these simple strategies below to avoid getting slashed, rashed, burned and stung. So here is your shortcut to glory, a simple “don’t learn the hard way” list of what not to do when you haven’t got time for mother nature’s hard knocks. Full disclaimer: she’ll probably come for you anyway, but now you’ll be slightly more prepared.
1. Reef Scrapes:
The reef is arguably where some of the best waves break. When the setup is deep water, long-period ground swell, and shallow reef, you’re going to score. The first thing for beginners: don’t surf shallow reef breaks! Work up to it; practice dropping in reliably at more forgiving, deeper-water breaks. Before charging shallow reef breaks, you should know how to make consistent bottom turns so that you are never going to ride straight over the reef, endangering your board and your precious skin. But even for the veteran surfer, common surfing injuries like cuts, scrapes, and pokes from the reef are a fact of life when the wave pitches too soon or closes out, or you choose a higher line or deeper barrel than maybe you should. What to do about it? Wearing a wetsuit can protect you from gashing your skin if you do get raked across the reef. Wetsuits provide an extra layer of protection, just like having thicker skin. In warmer climates, springsuits or neoprene rashguards are common and well respected at shallow reef breaks.
The obvious one, am I right? Wear sunscreen! Even with a good, reef-safe sunscreen (maybe choose the non-fish killing, coral-bleaching, enviro-toxin kind), the sun’s UV rays will get the best of you when you are surfing perfection for more than an hour. Sessions can be 2-3 hours long if the waves are pumping. Life drama is blissfully forgotten and the brain returns to its animal state. The fix for sunburn? A good UV rashguard, for skin protection and a longer time in the surf, with no regrets. Sun hats are also good for mellow days if you don’t mind your friends calling you “old man” or “aunty”. You can also plan your sessions for early morning and sunset, so as to avoid the burning rays of midday.
3. Marine Stings:
These are common in windswell because most stinging jellies blow around at the surface of the ocean and do not discriminate. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been surfing, you are at risk for stings if you’re surfing in the wind. How do you prevent stings? A wetsuit or long-sleeved rashguard is a good option because stings usually occur on the torso and arms since they’re the parts of your body most often at the surface when you’re paddling around. When you get stung, you can use vinegar to neutralize the actual stinging cells that cause the pain. But the only known way to dissolve the whole tentacle is with urea, aka pee. There are products you can buy containing urea if you’re uncomfortable with asking your best mate to pee on you. My best advice is don’t be a weirdo, just stash a spray bottle of vinegar in your car, or toughen up.
4. Surfer’s Ear:
This is a common surf injury that happens “after the fact”. Long hold-downs or even just repetitive duck-diving means water is going to live in your ear for as long as you’re in the water and often remains in the ear long after returning to dry land. And you know what they say about “standing water”: it’s nasty! Millions of bacteria can form and cause an ear infection, which, if ignored, can lead to zero dating successes and a blown eardrum! The way to prevent is to shake that water out as best you can and allow your good bacteria to fight off the bad by taking a break between sessions long enough for your ears to dry out. If that’s not good enough, you may need to use alcohol drops for some extra ear-drying power. There are special formulas available for big wave surfers available on the market today, to help you really seal the deal long after your session is over.
5. Skin Rashes:
Perhaps not an actual “injury”, but a very common surf-related problem nonetheless. This is very preventable and is usually caused by being a filthy grom and simply not taking care of yourself or your wetsuit. After surfing, always rinse off in fresh water to remove the salt water from your skin, board, and wetsuit. Also, just like mom told you, you should wash with soap at least once a day. That way the bacteria will not grow into itchy patches or colonies of mold on your skin!
Now that you’re in the know, you can set yourself up to be free from common surfing injuries. And don’t put your surf obsession on hold just to heal up from what was totally avoidable. Get yourself a good wetsuit and rashguard, stash a little bottle of vinegar and a bar of soap in your car, and get back out there for more nonstop glassy walls, green barrels, and launchy sections.