What Are The Dangers Of Surfing?


If you’ve been asking yourself, “Is surfing dangerous?” and if you should learn to surf, keep on reading to know the most common dangers of surfing and click here if you want to delve more into the subject.

Now let’s dive in, shall we?

How Dangerous Is Surfing?

Any sport is dangerous; however, there are more risks involved with surfing than with other sports. If any person is unaware of these hazards or careless, they may get seriously injured or even drown. 

What Are the Risks of Surfing?

The Waves

While waves are relaxing to look at when you’re on the shore, they can actually be quite brutal when you’re surfing out in the ocean. A monster wave packs a ton of force and energy, and if you get caught up in one by mistake, it can break bones, pop your eardrums, or even knock you out.

Not to mention, a wipeout may submerge you underwater for a prolonged period until the wave clears. You may even hit the ocean floor if the wave is strong enough. So, never act like a big wave surfer if you can’t deal with one properly, and stick to a beginner wave if you’re just starting.  


When you’re surfing out in the open, drowning becomes a genuine possibility. Multiple things can put even big wave surfers at risk of drowning, such as long hold-downs, separation from the surfboard, or getting tangled in something. Occasionally, people can lose consciousness from hitting a wave, board, or rock, causing them to drown quite quickly.

Therefore, all surfers must be adequate swimmers so they can break the water’s surface and make it back to the beach in case they get knocked down or separated from their boards. Additionally, they must remember to relax and not struggle when they’re being held down so they can make the most of the air they have left.

The Sea Creatures 

No one can think about the dangers of the ocean and forget about sharks. A shark attack, although extremely rare, can happen to experienced and beginner surfers alike, and it’s never a pretty sight.

Like Bethany Hamilton and Mick Fanning, pro surfers have been attacked/bitten by lurking sharks while surfing, and they never saw it coming. So, don’t exclude the possibility of a shark attack, especially in waters known to have shark sightings, and always be on the lookout. You can click here to find out more about sharks and know what to expect.

And, believe it or not, it’s not just sharks that you have to look out for when you’re in the ocean. Sea snakes, urchins, seals, stingrays, jellyfish, stonefish, and weaver fish are some of the various creatures considered a threat.

They can be found in shallow waters under the sand, and their stings will cause extreme pain and, again, potentially cause fatalities in rare cases.  


When local surfers are aggressive toward visiting surfers and hog all the best waves, this is known as localism. This usually happens at the peak of the surfing season, when good waves become a much sought-after commodity.

To avoid this phenomenon, always be respectful and give the locals a few nice waves before you start to catch any yourself. However, if you find yourself about to engage in a nasty altercation, pack up and go because the fight won’t be worth it.

Surrounding People

Crowded areas where numerous other surfers and swimmers are present make surfing full of risks. Beginner surfers are especially dangerous because they don’t have complete control of the surfboard.

A newbie won’t know surfing techniques, etiquette, or even how to stay out of another person’s way. The same goes for disrespectful surfers who don’t respect a lineup and try to get in on all the waves.

In any of those cases, if one or more surfers collide with other people in the water, both parties can incur injury. So, whether you’re an experienced or new surfer, make sure to observe your surroundings first before getting in the water.

Don’t outswim others to the peak and never try to cut in while others are catching waves. Also, always remember to respect the lineup, and you’ll be perfectly fine.

The Equipment

Under certain circumstances, the board and its leash can cause harm and near-death experiences if something goes wrong.

The sharp nose or fins of surfboards can cut you if you mishit them. Moreover, the leash may injure your face, feet, arms, or eyes in the process.

Even if the surfer is lucky and the leash doesn’t break, it may still get tangled around the neck, arms, or something dangerous like jagged rocks or coral reefs that can hold surfers underwater, leaving them trapped. Consequently, the leash tangles will pose a risk to the surfer if he can’t unwind the leash before the next wave comes.

The Sea Bed

The bottom of the ocean is no easy place. So, while you may think that surfing a beach break or a wave break caused by sand bars is no big deal because of the sandy bottom, it can feel as if you’re falling on asphalt when you hit the sand after getting dumped by big shore breaks.

Alternatively, if waves are breaking against a shallow rock reef, a wipeout near the jagged rocks can cause bruises, open wounds, or even concussions if you fall on your head. The same can happen with coral reefs that will not only cut you but may remain embedded in your skin, causing an infection later.

Rip Currents  

Rip currents are an unfortunate accompaniment to the spectacular waves in various surf spots. A rip current can sweep out surfers and swimmers alike into deep water in a matter of seconds, resulting in drowning from sheer exhaustion as they try to fight against it.

That’s why you remember to stay calm and swim alongside the shore if you ever get caught in a riptide. That’s the only way you can escape it. If you try swimming or paddling against it, it’ll drag you further inside until you lose all your energy and give up.

Environmental Hazards

Please don’t underestimate the power of mother nature as its elements can be life-threatening to more surfers than you think. For one, the burning sun can cause painful burns and skin complications further down the road.

Furthermore, a lightning bolt suddenly hitting the water will result in more than minor injuries. Honestly, many things can put you at risk, and having unpredictable weather conditions make everything worse.

So, stay hydrated and put on a helmet when surfing near rocks. Also, always wear sunscreen and regularly reapply (preferably a water-resistant, broad-spectrum one with SPF 30 or more). Additionally, put on a rash guard if you’re swimming in warm water to protect your skin from UV rays and possible abrasions.

Conversely, if you’re swimming in cold water temperatures, opt for a wetsuit that preserves your body temperature but still satisfies surfing demands. Finally, check the weather forecast and pollution levels after heavy rain to avoid any unnecessary mishaps.

What Is the Most Dangerous Surf Spot?

The reef break called the Banzai Pipeline of Oahu, Hawaii is notorious among surfers for being a tough and dangerous surf spot. The incredible waves and a sharp reef have combined to, unfortunately, cause fatalities in the past.

Other dangerous spots include Teahupoo in Tahiti, Shipsterns Bluff in Australia, and Mavericks in California. Still, they’re all quite popular with experienced surfers, even with their high-risk factors.

Is It Safe to Surf at Night?

Absolutely not. At night, surfers can’t see their surroundings well. As such, they may not notice a shark or the right timing to ride a wave. They might also slam into a coral reef or get caught in rip currents. So, it’s safe to say that surfing at night is dangerous, especially when you’re by yourself.

When Should You Not Surf?

First off, you should never surf when you’re under the influence of alcohol or drugs for obvious reasons. The same applies if you lack physical fitness or you’ve lost blood, are sick, tired, or injured.

Moreover, don’t go surfing in a new spot without studying it first, and never surf when the water conditions are less than optimal or out of your skill level, even more so if you’re not a good swimmer. Another apparent time to avoid the water is directly after a rainstorm when the water pollution has risen. You must wait at least three days for the polluted water to disperse.

Also, don’t surf when the wind is strong or when you don’t have adequate equipment. Lastly, never surf when marine life, like sharks and jellyfish, are active and avoid surfing alone at night at all times.

How Do Surfers Avoid Shark Attacks?

While shark attacks aren’t that common, all surfers should still know how to avoid them and what to do if they encounter a shark. Generally, to circumvent a shark encounter, you should NOT do the following:

  • Surf in areas known for shark activity as well as those that contain rotting or sick marine life.
  • Surf at nighttime or the break of dawn because sharks are more active then.
  • Ignore official warning signs or the advice of locals.
  • Swim by yourself as this makes you easy prey for sharks.

Nevertheless, you may still come in contact with a shark even after taking the proper precautions. In that case, your best bet is to do as follows:

  • Call out for help immediately.
  • Stay on the board as still as possible, and don’t try to swim to shore as the shark will most likely catch you.
  • If help is late and the shark shows aggression, punch it in sensitive areas like its nose, gills, and eyes with your fists or board until support arrives.

Final Thoughts

Surfing isn’t an extreme sport for nothing. While many things can make surfing a more dangerous sport than most, you can still stay safe if you adhere to the proper rules and safety measures.

Respect the lineup and other surfers and listen to the locals and lifeguards. Moreover, make sure to perform an appropriate risk assessment and adequately prepare your wetsuit and surf equipment.

If you’re not the best swimmer, don’t venture too far out, and if you or your children are still learning the correct form of standing or duck-diving, then get a foam board as it’s less likely to cause injuries. If you keep all this in mind and give a commitment to surfing, you’ll be able to enjoy riding waves safely and enjoyably.

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