Sharks. That’s the first thought when contemplating the dangers of surfing. Admittedly, it’s important to be wary, but there are many other factors, many of which no one even thinks about. Other surfers, for example, can be a potential danger. Whether inexperienced kooks, posing a danger by just being out in the lineup, or overzealous locals, taking a literal approach on the phrase “locals only,” surfers of all levels are a potential threat. The point is there are dangers of surfing everyone thinks about, but it is the ones that are not so obvious that you really need to look out for.
Fins. They are the number one cause of catastrophic surfing injuries. When on land, anyone touching a tripod of fins would use words like dull and harmless as descriptors, but out in the water slashing through the waves, these trifecta blades act as knives that can cut through skin as easily as water. This can wreak all kinds of havoc on the human physique. Completely separated phalanges, gouged eye sockets, crippling head injuries, and lacerations of all sorts to name a few.
Reef. This is what creates some of the best breaks in the world. And when I say breaks, I mean in both interpretations of the word. Reefs create amazing surf breaks, but they also break bones. Just look up professional surfer Kelly Slater, who’s had his fair share of encounters with the reef floor and the scars to prove it. Along with broken limbs and torn skin, reef injuries have this special ability to create something called “reef rash.” Many surfers wear this title as a badge of honor, and consider it one of the rights to becoming a true surfer. The reality is that the reef is grimy. Infested with bacteria and viruses, the reef, which is also living tissue itself, poses multiple infectious threats. Therefore, without proper care, reef rash can turn into full blown infection. Decidedly not good.
Sea life. Okay, besides sharks. Unbeknownst to many, there are other forms of sea creatures other than those big baddies. Stingrays have razor sharp barbs used for stinging a wandering foot. Australian TV personality, Steve Erwin from “The Crocodile Hunter,” essentially died from a giant stingray attack, which goes to show how sharp those barbs really are. Sea urchins are another form of sea life that can harm fragile human skin. While not commonly fatal, urchins have latent poison that causes extreme discomfort and, if the puncture wounds are not thoroughly cleaned, infection. The third and last danger lurking in the water is probably the most common: jellyfish. Though most jellyfish only cause slight discomfort and the accessional misguided pee remedy, some types of jellyfish have the capacity to fully incapacitate a human being. Box jellies are breed that fall into that dark category. Portuguese man-of-war are another species to watch out for. All together there many species to be careful of when heading out for a surf session.
Seaweed. Almost no one considers this peaceful plant life to pose a threat, but in totality they would be wrong. Seaweed is heavy and thick. Twisting and turning just below the surface, it can reach up and catch on unsuspecting victims. Seaweed in all its forms has been known to trap people underwater, leading to suffocation. Although just being careful of not swimming into dense clumps of it should be sufficient for longevity, seaweed should always be taken seriously.
Head injuries. Obviously head injuries are bad news, but not very many people consider the true repercussions of sustaining one while out in the waves. Concussions are bad and no one enjoys them, but the lack of consciousness that sometimes follows can prove fatal while surfing. Going under without full mind capabilities can cause direction confusion about which way is up and full loss of consciousness while underwater leads to drowning. Protection of the head is of utmost importance to a surfer.
In conclusion, there are many things to be cautious of while riding the power of the ocean, but to be honest, this is the reason many surf in the first place. The dangers aren’t a hindrance to surfing, but a drive and a source of adrenaline.