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Safety in the surfing zone

Summer time is beach time for many people across the United States. Beach communities will see their populations swell with locals, tourists, family visitors and vacationers pouring in from across America. Some come to sun bathe, some to swim and play in the waves and others will be inspired to actually learn to surf. With overwhelming crowds, lifeguards will be staffed to full capacity and yet with all the swimmers and beachgoers still be underhanded. With this in mind, as a service to the lifeguards and the community surfing experts, the Willis Bros. present the following safety tips for the surfing zone.

One note of interest: More rescues are performed in the ocean by surfers than city and county lifeguards. It doesn’t matter how long one has surfed or his experience level, these surfing safety tips are for everyone who decides to pick up a surfboard and hit the waves. Use scissors to cut out these important surfing safety tips and tape them on the wall or refrigerator where children or visiting guests can read them. By practicing these surfing safety tips we can make this summer safer in the water and the lifeguard’s jobs a whole lot easier. Happy and safe surfing.

  1. Do a beach observation checking tides, wave size, general conditions, posted flags or marine warnings. Look for possible beach hazards such as exposed rocks or rocks along the shoreline, pier pilings, rock jetties, rip currents and more. Ocean waves often come in series. One moment the ocean may appear calm, and 10 minutes later it can be roaring. Thus it is extremely important especially for those not familiar with the ocean to take their time observing before heading out.
  2. Before entering the ocean look for rip currents. Rip currents generally occur on or along the shoreline and in between the waves. Though dangerous for weak or inexperienced swimmers rip currents are beneficial for surfers who can use them to more efficiently get out to the waves. Lifeguards tell swimmers caught in a rip current to swim parallel to it. A simpler way for swimmers or surfers who have lost their surfboard who are caught in a rip current is to swim to the closet waves as the waves are water coming in and will help swimmers get back to shore.
  3. Use a beach marker to line up in front of. Rip currents going out to sea are not the only currents in the ocean. In the wintertime long shore currents generally run from north to south and in the summer from south to north. It is important for surfers and swimmers to have a marker on the beach as a reference point to aid in maintaining position so as not to be swept or drift up or down the beach into possible hazards.
  4. Always do the stingray shuffle. Stingrays are not aggressive but if steped on they will react. It is important for surfers and swimmers to slide or shuffle their feet along sandy areas so as not to accidently step on a stingray. Stingrays are most abundant in the warmer summer months but are still present in winter. If stung immerse the wounded area in as hot of water as possible until the pain subsides. By practicing the stingray shuffle it is unlikely you will step on a stingray.
  5. Keep your surfboard pointed straight and to the side of you. When walking out with a surfboard your surfboard should always be to the side or underneath you when paddling to prevent a wave from knocking it back into you.
  6. Never have anything including other surfers in between you and the incoming waves. When paddling out do not follow directly behind another surfer as the wave may knock them into you. If you paddle behind another surfer and they accidently do get washed into you it’s your fault.
  7. Be aware of loose surfboards and surfers riding waves. Always avoid interrupting the ride of a surfer. (Stay out of the way.) A surfer up and riding has the right of way over a surfer paddling out.
  8. There is no such thing as an undertow in the surfing zone so relax under the water. Practice the ABC’s of surfing - Always Be Cool.
  9. When you come up after being under the water cover your head with the palms of your hands on the top of your head and elbows in front of your face. This is a good habit that all surfers beginning and advanced should know and practice.
  10. Never dive off the surfboard head first in shallow water. The best way to fall is toward the horizon into the wave, or off the back of the surfboard (flat on your rear in).
  11. Know how to remove your leash without looking at it. Before going surfing really look at your surfboard leash as to how to take it off in a hurry with out looking. This is important as in rare cases surfboard leashes get tangled up with the bottom, lobster traps or even other surfers.
  12. Show respect by never turning your back on the sea. All surfing begins with respect. It does not matter how long a surfer has surfed, how strong or smart a surfer is, every surfer must humble themselves to the power of the ocean. Watch out for yourself by practicing safe surfing and watch out for others at the same time.

For more free surfing safety tips and surfing info on beginning to advanced big wave surfing visit our website wbsurfing.com. Sea you in the waves!