Satellite High Surf Club

Water Safety Tips by Surfers for Surfers


While surfing is a very safe sport, injuries and death sometimes do occur.  A lot of the scrapes, lacerations, and fatalities that happen are easily prevented.  Read on:

1.  Wear a leash.  It used to be "cool" to not use one; people used to say, "Leashes are for those who plan on eating it."   There's nothing macho about having to swim after your board and then going home to fix dings when it bounces off the rocks (yes, you WILL eat it, no matter who you are).  Also, the safety concern is not entirely yours alone-  your board might hit someone as it gets washed to shore.  The most frequent injuries caused by leashless surfing are: 

  • a) innocent bystanders getting bashed and cut by loose boards and
  • b) missing teeth when said innocent bystanders get angry and attack leashless surfers.

2.  Realize some water animals might not be friendly.  While one statistically stands a much greater chance of getting struck by lightning or being severely injured hanging Christmas lights than getting bit by anything in the ocean, things do happen. In fact, nearly a third of all the world's reported shark attacks took place in Florida.  The vast majority of those took place in Volusia and Brevard counties.  The Central Florida region is also a host to yearly bluefish runs (bluefish are like ocean-dwelling piranha in their voracity, yet they grow much larger and swim in bigger schools than their Amazonian counterparts), the occasional desperate barracuda, flotillas of Portuguese man-o-war jellyfish, and a host of other things that bite and sting.
      While most sea animals are only interested in getting away from humans, sometimes people make themselves look like a meal.  A case in point is Dave, who wanted to catch a few quick waves at Pet Den during a break from work.  Instead, he literally gave a shark a knuckle sandwich.  He was wearing a shiny metal watch, which, when splashed repeatedly on the surface while paddling, probably looked like an injured mullet.  Hence, a large shark (Dave figures it was in excess of 6ft) decided to give it a try and, in Dave's words, " hit my left arm like a giant bass hitting a lure.  It came on so fast and hard that it yanked me up in the air and off my board."  Dave suffered deep lacerations up to the middle of his forearm, several ripped tendons, a gouged-out knuckle, severe bruising, massive blood loss, and a dislocated shoulder.  Check it out:

After months of physical therapy, Dave's back in the water. The last I saw him, he was NOT wearing anything metallic/shiny!  Flashes of metal look like injured fish to sharks, barracuda, and bluefish.   It's best to leave the Rolex at home while surfing. . . .
  Man-o-wars can cause severe reactions and, for people with allergies or heart problems, even death if stung badly enough.  Fortunately, the bizzare-looking creatures are easy to see and avoid.  If there are only a few, it'd be a good idea to wear a rashguard or wetsuit to minimize exposed areas of flesh.  If you go to the beach and it's covered with the gross little blue bubbles, you may want to wait for another day to go surfing.  Apply a paste made from ammonia and baking powder to the affected area if stung.

3.  Know your limits!!!  If you just started surfing, going out at Monster Hole during a hurricane wouldn't be brilliant.

4.  Use sunscreen.  Cancer is very, very real.  It may not show up when you're young, but letting yourself get sunburned day after day will cause problems down the road.

5.  If you see a thunderstorm coming, leave IMMEDIATELY.  Florida in particular is very prone to lightning strikes, and, unlike in movies and tabloids, getting struck is usually fatal.

6.  If in doubt, give the other guy/gal the right-of-way.  Collisions are the cause of many a suture.  If it's so crowded that it's hard to catch a decent wave without 5 people dropping in on you and swerving around half a dozen more paddling out, it may be best to try the empty peak 50 yards down the beach (sometimes it's better there and you won't have to put up with any attitudes).

     Again, surfing is usually fun and extremely safe.  Just keep your eyes open and anticipate hazards in order to circumvent injury.


Now get off the computer and go surf!