How dangerous is Surfing
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How dangerous is Surfing? (Explained)

Surfing is an adventure sport and therefore has associated risks. 

However, the risks of surfing have been shown by research to be far less than is usually assumed.

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The greatest risk factors for surfing are deep water, BIG Waves,  hard bottoms (reefs, etc.), large surf and occasionally Sharks!

None of these above factors will be always present while actually surfing. 

Surfing is generally a shallow water sport wherein a person is tethered to a floatation device in a large group of people.

Serious injuries are uncommon. Notably, serious injuries with surfing are far fewer than in soccer.

Surfing may appear to be a fun, enjoyable, and healthy sport, but after reading this list, you’ll probably never want to go near the water again. 

It’s like a horror movie out there, with crazed locals and life-threatening leash tangles.

If that doesn’t scare you off, consider some of the dangers you might face while surfing, as well as the dangers that lurk out there in the deep dark ocean.

Recreational surfers, most of whom will never dream of paddling out at either of the aforementioned sites, find the sport much less risky, with injury rates comparable to long-distance runners.

According to a 2013 Australian survey, placing surfing below football and hockey on the list of most dangerous sports.

While there is no precise number of people who have died while surfing, it is estimated to be no more than 10 a year, which is astonishingly low in a world of approximately 23 million surfers.

What are the Major surfing dangers?

Huge Waves

Waves can appear pleasant from the beach, but they can be extremely strong. 

Some are capable of breaking bones. Surfing injuries are mostly caused by wipeouts on the waves. 

Marine Creatures:

Sharks from the sea must be at the top of the list. All the shouting and bubbling red water, big teeth, attacks without warning.

The threat posed by a shark is apparent, but there are other marine life species that are just as threatening. Seals, Snakes (obviously sea snakes), Urchins, Jellyfish, and Stingrays are among them. Many of them have the ability to be life-threatening.

Water Drowning

When surfing, there is a real danger of drowning. Drowning while surfing can be caused by hold-downs, being stuck on the reef, being separated from your board and unable to swim in, and being unconscious as a result of a crash. So, always go surfing with a friend who can assist you.

Surfboards 

Surfboards are potentially hazardous piece of sports equipment. One or more switchblade-like fins protrude from one end, ready to slice through anything that gets in their way.

It’s the stuff dreams are made of. When surfing, maintain hold of your board and try to stay out of the way when you wipe out.

The Seabed( Reefs)

If you’re standing on a sand bottom, a wave can make it feel like concrete. 

It might as well be concrete if it’s a rock reef, but it’ll be far more jagged and likely to cause more damage than standard smooth concrete.

You’re in big trouble if it’s coral. It will first slash you like a razor blade. 

Then it will leave behind tiny fragments that will continue to kill you for months. Here’s a tip; never, ever, fall off your board.

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Is Surfing dangerous for beginners?

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As with any sport, surfing carries a certain degree of risk, especially for beginners. These potential dangers can include:

  1. Drowning: Even in shallow water, a strong wave or current can pull a surfer underwater.
  2. Collisions: Beginners may have difficulty controlling their surfboard, which can lead to collisions with other surfers, the ocean floor, or the board itself.
  3. Riptides and Currents: Oceans often have strong currents that can carry even a strong swimmer out to sea.
  4. Marine Life: Depending on the location, surfers may encounter potentially dangerous marine life like jellyfish, stingrays, or even sharks.
  5. Injury: The physical nature of surfing can lead to various injuries, including sprains, cuts, and, in rare cases, more severe injuries like spinal damage.

However, most of these risks can be significantly mitigated with proper instruction and safety precautions:

  1. Take Lessons: A certified surf instructor can teach you the necessary skills and techniques to surf safely.
  2. Use a Soft-Top Board: These boards are safer for beginners as they are less likely to cause injury in a collision.
  3. Learn to Swim: Every surfer should be a strong swimmer. If you aren’t confident in your swimming ability, consider taking lessons before you start surfing.
  4. Understand Rip Currents: Learn how to identify and escape rip currents.
  5. Respect Marine Life: Learn about the potential marine life in your surfing location and how to handle any encounters.
  6. Use a Leash: A leash connects you to your board, ensuring it won’t get away from you if you fall off.
  7. Surf with Others: Especially as a beginner, try not to surf alone. Having others around can be helpful if you get into trouble.

Surfing can be an exhilarating sport, but it’s essential to prioritize safety while learning. Always respect the ocean and understand your limits.

Here is what Beginner surfers needs to Avoid:

Big Waves

Learners should avoid large waves. Big waves, which you’ll eventually want all the time, will be frightening and unfamiliar at first.

Big waves are dangerous because they are extremely strong and can keep you underwater for an extended period of time. 

This is extremely dangerous for a novice who isn’t used to being kept under for long periods of time because they can panic and swallow water.

Collisions with on your own board

It’s no fun to be stuck on your own board. To make it worse, it’s much worse when it’s your own.

This can happen in a few different ways. This is most common when returning out through the waves after riding a wave in. Many beginners choose to pick up their boards over waves, which is perfectly acceptable.

Collisions with other surfers. 

This is a big one. You can not only injure yourself but other people as well. 

And also jack some boards up in the process. Collisions happen when two surfers run into each other, either on a wave or in the process of going in or out of the surf. 

Rocky Bottoms / Reefs

When an ocean or wind swell collides with a shallow surface, waves form and break. 

This surface may be either ground, such as a beach, or coral or rock reefs.

What is under you when riding is what causes a wave to split. As a result, if a wave breaks off a coral reef, sharp coral will be waiting for you on the bottom when you fall.

Is It dangerous to surf in the night?

Is it risky to surf in the ocean at night?

Surfing at night is normally dangerous. Because of the lack of light, surfing at night is usually dangerous.

It’s quick to get into trouble if a surfer can’t see where they are, where the waves are coming, their immediate surroundings, or their beach marks. 

Furthermore, surfing late at night makes it difficult for your surfing buddies or you to find a suitable spot.

What makes night surfing dangerous?

Because of the lack of light, surfing at night is usually dangerous. Surfers can struggle to see where they are in the water depending on how dark it is on a given night.

Surfers are more likely to surf into or around obstacles such as piers, boats, rocks, other surfers, swimmers, cliffs, or buoys as a result of this.

It’s crucial to remember to keep a safe distance from all obstacles in the water, not just to prevent collisions but also to avoid potentially harmful currents that form near obstacles. 

Avoiding piers can be difficult, particularly because night surfers often surf close to shore.

How dangerous is a big wave for surfing?

Big waves could be Extremely dangerous if you are Untrained and not properly equipped. Even medium-sized waves have a lot of power and volume and can put you down underwater for a long time.

The problem is that you instinctively let the air out as you go down to prevent water from entering your nose, and soon enough you’ll run out of air if you don’t get to the surface quick enough.

Even worse is that waves come in sets. So if you’re down after the first wave in a set, you’re in trouble if you don’t get up quickly enough.

The next waves are coming, and that whitewater can be brutal. Once that panic of drowning starts to set in, it’s hard to stop it.

Surfing with a Big wave depends  on many  factors including:

You – Your experience, confidence, training and abilities

You have to be an excellent swimmer and also have to be able to hold your breath underwater for a long time.

You have to have the confidence of not panicking once you wipe out. You will be underwater feeling the full force of tons of water raging over you.

You also need to have the right equipment and people to help you in case of trouble. Never, ever try surfing alone.

The relative depth of the water (bathymetry)

The danger factor is the consequence of wiping out or getting caught inside water.

 Falling on the first wave of a set can result in getting caught in the impact zone for the next few waves of the set.

A hollow, barrelling wave that breaks on one foot of water over a reef can be much more dangerous – even if the wave is half the height.

The nature of the swell and wind conditions

Waves are being produced at different speeds and with different wave cycles. The waves with a longer time are quicker and pass ahead of the slower waves.

As the waves move away from the wind source (propagate), they begin to form swell lines. “Wave trains” shape, and all of them crash onto the beach at the same time. 

Waves that are no longer affected by the wind that generated them can be referred to as groundswell, gold dust for surfers!

Here are three main factors that affect the size of a wave in the open sea.

  • Wind speed – The greater the wind speed is, the larger the wave will be.
  • Wind duration – The longer the wind blows, the larger the wave will be.
  • Fetch – The greater the area the wind affects the wave, the larger the wave will be.

The type and proximity of the shoreline

How busy the lineup is

Big waves during Surfing is not always dangerous though, unless you’re unfit, inexperienced if the shore is rocky or the shore break very heavy.

As with many things in life, there’s no simple answer.

However, if you feel a wave is “too big”, ask yourself why.

Listen to your gut instinct, but work out what the actual dangers are and see if you can reduce the fear through gaining experience.

Surfing deaths per year stats

Accurate and recent statistics on deaths related to surfing can be difficult to find, as this data is not always consistently reported or tracked worldwide.

📌However, according to a study by researchers at the University of New South Wales and the University of California which covered data up to 2013, the fatality rate among surfers was estimated to be about 3.5 deaths per 100,000 surfers per year, mainly due to drowning and trauma.

More recent data may vary and might be influenced by many factors, including changes in surfing safety practices, equipment, medical response, and the popularity of the sport.

Also, it’s important to note that fatalities in surfing are still relatively rare, particularly when compared to many other outdoor and adventure sports.

Big wave surfing and other more extreme forms of the sport can have higher risks, and therefore possibly higher fatality rates, but specific data on this is not readily available. It’s also crucial to understand that most of these risks can be mitigated through safety practices like using the proper equipment, never surfing alone, and only surfing conditions that match your skill level.

As always, for the most accurate and updated statistics, it’s best to refer to official reports or databases, or contact relevant sports health and safety organizations.

How do surfers die?

While fatalities in surfing are relatively rare, they do occur and are typically the result of a few common hazards associated with the sport:

  1. Drowning: This is the most common cause of death while surfing. It can occur as a result of a heavy wave holding the surfer underwater, a surfer becoming trapped underwater by their leash or board, or a surfer being knocked unconscious by their board or by the wave itself.
  2. Trauma: Injuries caused by collisions with the surfboard, other surfers, or the sea bed can be severe and, in some cases, fatal. Head injuries are particularly dangerous, as they can lead to unconsciousness and subsequent drowning.
  3. Rip Currents: These strong currents can carry even a strong swimmer out to sea. If a surfer is unable to escape a rip current, they may become fatigued and drown.
  4. Marine Life: While it’s quite rare, surfers have died from encounters with dangerous marine life. For example, shark attacks, while extremely uncommon, do occasionally happen and can be fatal.
  5. Health Issues: Sometimes, a surfer may suffer a health issue while in the water, like a heart attack or stroke, which can lead to drowning.
  6. Big Wave Hazards: Big wave surfing presents additional risks, including multiple wave hold-downs (being held underwater by two or more successive waves), causing extended periods underwater that can lead to drowning.

It’s important to reiterate that most surfing deaths are preventable. Proper instruction, safety precautions, maintaining physical fitness, and respecting the power of the ocean are all critical components in maintaining safety while surfing.

Wrapping up!

There are many major causes of death in this unfortunate group of Surfers.

A blow to the head is the most common, in which a surfer is knocked unconscious after hitting the bottom of their board, and then drowns.

Multiple wave lockdowns, rip currents, or a caught leash catching the surfer underwater account for a large portion of the overall death toll, while shark attacks and other deadly wildlife incidents account for a small but well-publicized number.

Pre-existing conditions such as brain aneurysms or heart attacks are normally to blame for the remaining fatalities.

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