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Surfing After a Storm: What the Experts Say


After last week’s stormy weather hit San Diego, it is now safe enough to get back into the water. For veteran surfers the waiting period following a storm is well known, but some might ask, why wait? What are the dangers of surfing after a storm?

According to Kiana Fores, who has surfed for 14 years and is a member of PLNU’s Surf Team, surfing after a storm is more likely to put a surfer in even more danger than surfing during a storm.

Despite the storm last Sunday forcing the surf team to cancel their weekend competition, PLNU surfers were back the next day to ride the tides.

According to PLNU Biology Professor, David Cummings, people who still surf after storms are risking serious health threats and could even die.

“When it rains in Southern California, the concrete, asphalt and hard soil don’t allow the water to be absorbed into the ground,” Cummings said. “It runs off the ground and as it flows it picks up every imaginable pollutant and sends it straight to the ocean.”

Cummings said pollutants like pesticides, fertilizers, car fluids, trash and even human and animal feces are what get washed into the water. He added that many of these pollutants are resistant to drugs that are normally used to fight them off.

“Even road-kill ends up in the water,” said Fores, who said she got sick from surfing right after a storm during a surfing contest in Tijuana last summer. “I was throwing up a lot and couldn’t eat normally for ten days. It was awful.”

Andrew Niemann, a member of PLNU’s surf team, said he got a sinus infection from surfing after a storm.

Surfing after a storm can even carry a risk of death and in January 2015, ABC News reported that award winning surfer Barry Ault died from a staph infection from surfing in polluted water at Sunset Cliffs.

“Beaches along cliffs and river- mouths get especially gross after a storm because of all the pollutants they harbor,” said PLNU Freshman Tristan Curnow, who has been surfing since the age of eight. “Sometimes you just surf at your own risk.”

Fores said that sharks are more active after a storm as well.

“The water is so murky and they are looking for dead animals they don’t have to chase to eat,” Fores said. “Sharks are naturally very lazy creatures.”

Aside from contaminating the water, storms also can make conditions more attractive for surfers according to Curnow.

“The soil that gets washed into the ocean makes for better sand bars and bottom contour conditions which make for really nice waves,” Curnow said. “I have surfed after a storm many times and have never gotten sick, so I just keep doing it.”

Niemann said that there are ways to prevent getting sick from surfing after a storm.

“Taking lots of showers and flushing out your nose immediately after is the best bet,” Niemann said. “Ultimately, though you need a good immune system.”

Fores said that it’s more than good waves that draw surfers to after-storm waters.

“It’s just so calm and serene,” Fores said. “The sky is different and the water feels alive. It’s just different…more appetizing.”

David Cummings says that a good rule of thumb is to wait 72 hours before entering the water, but most surfers use a different measurement.

“If the waves are good I’m going to surf,” Curnow said. “It takes more than a possible infection to keep us die-hard surfers out of the water.”




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Jordan Ligons

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