Is Surfing Dangerous?


Considering the stereotypical ‘surfer dude’ is relaxed and easy going, you’d assume that surfing must be a pretty relaxing sport, right?

Well, when everything goes right, it’s an amazing way to spend an afternoon but, when it goes wrong, surfing can actually be extremely dangerous.

This article will look at the dangers of the sport, including how many surfers die a year as a result. Don’t be put off, though, (spoiler) the number is actually considerably low.

Keep reading to find out.

How many surfers die a year?

There is no official, extensive data on how many surfers die each year, but it is estimated that on average, there are around 10 surfing-related deaths per year which considering how many surfers there are across the globe, is a pretty reassuring number.

That being said, the number of surfing-related incidents and injuries is, much, much higher.


Why is surfing dangerous?

Surfing doesn’t actually kill that many people each year, in fact, surfing is considered safer than sports such as snowboarding and skateboarding. That being said, surfing is certainly a dangerous hobby, particularly in some parts of the world.

So, why is surfing so dangerous? We’ve compiled a list of the most likely dangers you might encounter when surfing.

1. Drowning

Coming in at number one, the most likely cause of surfing-related death is drowning. Even if you’re a very strong swimmer, when it’s you against a strong current, or you’ve lost consciousness from being hit by a board, as bleak as it sounds, the water is most likely going to win.

Don’t let that stop you from experiencing surfing, though, if you’re a strong swimmer your chances of drowning are very low.

2. Huge Waves

This is also a big factor that contributes towards drowning, but it deserves a point of its own because big waves are up there as one of the most common dangers associated with surfing.

Getting caught out by a big wave doesn’t guarantee death, but it can be incredibly scary and can certainly wipe you out.

Some of the gigantic waves (like Nazare in Portugal) can even be powerful enough to break bones!

3. Rip currents & tides

Possibly the biggest cause of drowning is the ocean’s powerful currents. In fact, most surfing-related deaths are linked to them.

You may think they pull surfers underwater which is what kills them, but actually, they’re most dangerous when people panic and use up all their energy trying to swim out of them and eventually drown.

The best thing you can do in this situation is to stay calm and let it take you, once you’re out of it swim away and use the breaking waves to help you back in.

Making a note of a particular point or building on the surrounding land, so you can tell how far you’ve drifted, is a good way to figure out if you’re in a strong current.

4. Sharp rocks and coral reefs

Surfing over rocky seabeds can result in lots of nasty injuries and even death. The sea may seem vast and deep, but certain areas can be much more shallow than you realise.

If you’re surfing in an area that you know is notorious for rocks and reefs, you could even consider wearing protective gear like a helmet, at least.

5. Hypothermia

Thanks to winter suits, cold water surfing is a common occurrence, especially in the UK and other parts of Europe.

That doesn’t mean hypothermia isn’t still a possibility. You should always check the temperature before getting in the water and know your limits. If you think the water is too cold to be swimming in, you should definitely call it a day.

Allowing yourself to be in a situation where your body temperature has dropped to hypothermia levels, you put yourself in a dangerous situation.

You could find yourself confused and with very low energy levels.

6. Sharks

Every time a surfer decides to surf somewhere where sharks and other dangerous marine life are known to live, they are putting themselves at risk.

While the chances of anyone in the UK coming into contact with a shark is very, very unlikely, it is not impossible. However, in other parts of the world like the US and Australia, shark attacks are much more common.

That being said, being involved in a shark attack is still far less likely than getting into a car crash or choking on your food.

Read Next: Do Sharks Attack Surfers?

7. Other marine creatures

Like with sharks, the ocean is home to lots of possibly dangerous marine creatures, and every time surfers take on the waves, they leave themselves vulnerable to surprise bites and stings.

To protect yourself from nasty jellyfish stings and other ocean life bites, wearing a wetsuit or rash guard will help, although it all depends on the creature and size of the bite but the more protection you have the better.

The most common creatures you might come across are stingrays, jellyfish, sea urchins and more. Some stings can be fatal, and others can cause incredible pain, nausea and even loss of consciousness, which is not good when you’re in the middle of the ocean.

8. Other surfers, surfboards, and fins etc.

Getting a bump on the head from a heavy surfboard and/or its owner can certainly knock you out and give you some pretty gnarly injuries.

All it takes is a less experienced surfer putting themselves in a silly position or a nasty wipeout, and you could find yourself in a dangerous situation.

Surfboards are heavy and have sharp fins, pointy noses etc. that can easily cause injury from little knicks to serious skin lesions and broken bones.

Remaining vigilant and surfing in less crowded spots will help to prevent this, but there’s always the risk.

Final Say

This isn’t the most fun article to read, I must admit, and while it seems there are countless reasons listed here to put you off surfing for good, these dangers can be easily controlled, just take care and remember to enjoy yourself, too.

And if you would like to know more about the dangers involved with surfing then check out this article.

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