The Dangers And Hazards Of Surfing

Surfing can be even more dangerous than it looks. Often, spectators will wonder how someone can muster the courage to ride 20-foot waves. In reality, the size of the waves is only one element of danger facing surfers. There are several others. Surfing can be one of the most dangerous sports anywhere. The unpredictability of the water, sea life and locals can collectively pose a serious hazard to the unwary surfer. Below, we'll explore a few of the dangers that can threaten the safety of a surfer.


Most surfers are skilled swimmers. They can handle rough waters. That being said, the waves can be relentless and unpredictable. The ocean can include rip tides, strong undertows and uncontrollable white water. Some locations (such as Mavericks) are known for monstrous waves. Ambitious, thrill-seeking surfers gravitate toward places like this. But, tragedy can strike. In 1994, Mark Foo (a well-known titan of surfing) drowned at Mavericks after trying to surf a 40-foot wave. Drowning is always a danger for surfers.

Sharks And Other Sea Life

If you surf, you'll see sea life. It's inevitable. Some are harmless. Others can kill you. For example, in some locations, sharks are common. Sharks are eating machines. They do two things: feed and move. Though shark attacks are rare, they occasionally happen. If you're on the waves and you see a shark, don't panic. Paddle or ride the wave to shore. Also, yell to any other surfers in your area to alert them to the shark's presence.

Stingrays and jellyfish can also present a danger to surfers. They usually won't attack, but it's easy to become ensnared in their defense mechanisms. If you do, it could become potentially fatal.

Rocks And Reef

While you're riding on top of the waves, there's plenty beneath the surface that can harm you. Many injuries sustained by surfers are caused by the rocks and corral underwater. In areas that attract massive waves, these objects have proven to be fatal. Wiping out into a reef can knock a surfer unconscious, allowing him to be battered by the waves against the reef. Some surfers have even drowned as a result of being caught against corral by their leash. In fact, many surfers who chase the larger waves won't leash themselves to their surfboards for this reason.

Beware The Locals

Local surfers can be dangerous to those who are new to their territory. They protect their waters in the same way homeowners protect their homes. They feel a sense of ownership. Any stranger on their waves implies a trespass. If you respect the local surfers, they may have no problem with your sharing their waves. If you show them a lack of respect (by dropping in, cutting them off, etc.), it may be safer for you to find other waters in which to surf. Don't take the locals lightly. In some areas, they've physically assaulted new surfers to protect their waters.

Taking Precautions

While there are plenty of dangers that await surfers, don't let that dissuade from enjoying surfing. The tranquility and raw natural power of the waves is awe-inspiring. Riding them successfully can be seductive. But, learn to take precautions. Know the types of waves and currents in which you're surfing. Watch for sharks and alert others. Avoid outcroppings of reefs or corral. Finally, beware of irritating local surfers. If you pay attention and remain aware of your surroundings, you can practically eliminate the hazards of surfing.