You’ve probably seen footage of big wave surfers getting crazy wipeouts and thought to yourself:
“If that surfer, falls on that wave, at that moment… they’re definitely dead.”
Only for them to pop up a moment later without a scratch.
So how is that?
I mean, how dangerous is surfing, really, or is the fear all made up in our heads?
Let’s find out.
HOW DANGEROUS IS SURFING
Is surfing dangerous, let’s take a look at some stats:
There are approximately 25 Million surfers on our little planet.
And of those 25 Million people, roughly 10 die per year from surfing.
Put another way, the odds of dying in the surf are 1 in 2,500,000 or a probability of 0.00004%.
In other words, very unlikely.
But you don’t have to die for surfing to be considered dangerous, injuries are a concern too.
According to the American Journal of Sports Medicine, the approximate rate of injury for surfers is 6.6 injuries per 1000 surfs.
So you can expect to get injured in the surf once every hundred and forty(ish) times you go in.
Don’t know about you, but I’ll take those odds.
WHAT MAKES SURFING DANGEROUS
Although we’ve established that the risk of injury whilst surfing is low, and the risk of death extremely low, surfing still has its dangers.
So what are they?
1. PRE EXISTING CONDITIONS
The most dangerous thing for surfers in the water is pre existing medical conditions - above everything else.
Well, when an emergency happens you’re surrounded by water, you’re often alone, you’re getting bashed by waves, and all in all it’s not a good situation to be in.
Even something as innocent as a blackout can be fatal in the surf.
2. BLOWS TO THE HEAD (UNCONSCIOUS)
Second to pre existing conditions is being knocked unconscious.
Either knocking your head on the bottom, or your board hitting you in the head.
Getting knocked unconscious is not a good idea in the water.
Occasionally drownings do occur in the surf, but they’re very rare for surfers.
The thing that people fear the most in the surf, is sharks.
But here’s the thing, they virtually never attack surfers.
Yes, there’s the odd incident here or there, but the dangers don’t warrant the associated fear.
Surfers and sharks live harmoniously 99.999999% of the time, so it’s not something to really concern yourself with.
COMPARISON TO OTHER SPORTS
We’ve established that surfing is dangerous, but perhaps not quite so dangerous as it might first appear, but how does it stack up against other sports:
Stacks up pretty well to these other sports I reckon.
HOW CAN SURFERS MITIGATE THE RISKS
I see surfers getting wipeouts on massive waves and just can’t fathom how they can survive, but they do.
They mitigate their risks wherever possible.
Let’s take a look at how you can do the same:
NEVER SURF ALONE
Big wave surfers almost always surf with water safety present to help out if/when needed.
You can do something similar by always surfing around other people, preferably with friends.
LEARN HOW TO HOLD YOUR BREATH EFFECTIVELY
Big wave surfers train so that they can hold their breath underwater for longer, with many of them having underwater breath hold times of 4 minutes plus.
You don’t have to go to the same extreme, but if you can’t hold your breath for over a minute you need to sort it out.
KNOW YOUR LIMITS
Sure, big wave surfers are pushing their limits, but they know where their limits lie too.
Never push yourself too far out of your comfort zone, as this is when accidents happen.
Big wave surfers know how to manage their fear responses in the surf, and they’ve trained to minimise its effects.
They’ll have a pre determined hold down routine to follow when they’re put in a heavy situation, and this routine will help to keep them calm, and manage their resources.
You should do the same.
So, how dangerous is surfing in reality?
Is it really the extreme sport that it looks from the outside in?
Yeah, I guess it kinda is, but not so dangerous as to be reckless.
Plus, if you manage your risks, surf within your limits, all in all you’ve got nothing to worry about, except for the odd knock ever 140 surfs or so
I don’t know about you but I’ll take these odds every day of the week.