The Traveler Beginners Guide to Riding Waves; Part 1. Staying Safe & Having Fun

The Traveler Beginners Guide to Riding Waves; Part 1. Staying Safe & Having Fun

 If riding waves brings you joy, you’re a surfer, no matter the skill level.

Now that you’re an official surfer, your mission is to have as much fun out there as possible while encouraging everyone else to have fun and be safe.


Injury and Bad Vibes are the Opposite of Fun.

Here are the easiest ways to avoid them:

1. Be mindful of conditions: Without a trained eye, it can be really tough to judge from the shore what the conditions are like out in the water. It’s good practice to check in with a lifeguard or more experienced surfer to get the low down.

2. Hold onto your board: Your board is both a handy flotation device for you and a very dangerous threat to those around you. Hold onto it at all times, and pretend as if you aren’t wearing a leash. If a giant wave is about to crash on you, the absolute worst thing you can do is to ditch that board and dive under the wave solo. Not only could it seriously injure you or another person, it’s also the #1 way to make other surfers very angry, whether or not you actually hit them. You’ll inevitably lose your board from time to time, but even hanging on as long as you can can be the difference between a little bump and a serious injury. Hang in there!

3. Never turn your back on the ocean: We mean this literally this time. Waves can be sneaky when you don’t have your eyes on them, so you’ll want to position your body so you can see them coming at all times. This includes when you are exiting the water. Surprise wipeouts are only fun for the beachgoers on the sand watching you!

4. Follow your nose: When walking into the water and paddling out, keep the nose of your board pointed out toward the waves. If you hold it parallel to the waves it becomes a hurtling death-log of destruction. This is because you’re giving the wave more board surface area to crash into, which can then push you over.

5. Cover your head: Wiping out is an art in itself. To be really great at it, you only need to know two things: cover your head and pop back up slowly! Or as a wise surfer might say, “If you’re going down, protect the crown!” This shields your noggin from hitting rocks or sand on the bottom, and whatever you can’t see on the surface. After spinning in circles underwater for what seems like years, your first instinct is going to be to pop back to the surface as fast as you can. Nine times out of 10, your board will be the first thing to greet you. Pop back up with caution, and cover that dome.

5. Fall like a starfish: If you feel a choice wipeout coming on, don’t ever jump or step off the board. Outside of high potential for knee injury, you could also be hurling yourself into shallow water without knowing it. Instead, open your arms wide and fall slowly backwards, like a starfish performing a trust fall. This will soften the blow, keep you closer to the surface, and take your delicate leg joints out of the equation.

6. Keep your eyes peeled: Many beginner surf breaks are filled with ... well ... beginners! Imagine a freeway filled with student drivers. It’s important to keep your eyes out for other surfers who might not have control over their boards, and also to ensure that you aren’t about to get washed into someone else’s path. Despite your strongest desires to make new friends, it’s best to give everyone as much space as you can.

7. Stay calm and know when to call it a day: Ocean conditions can change very quickly, so it’s important to stay alert. If you find yourself getting more than you bargained for, stay calm and make your way toward shore. A cool and collected mind and body will get you there faster.

Rip Currents

Rip currents can be both a danger and a benefit to surfers; whether they’re a danger or a benefit to you depends on you knowing as much as possible about them.

A rip current is basically a river within the ocean.

They form when water accumulates between the breaking waves and the beach. At some point this water must return to the sea so it will naturally create a narrow stream moving swiftly away from shore. This stream has the ability to pull you out to sea with it if you are unprepared, but can also be a helpful “express lane” when paddling out.

If you do get caught in a rip current and are moving quickly away from shore, keep three things in mind:

1. Stay calm! The rip is not going to pull you underwater, it’s just going to pull you away from shore. Take time to evaluate your situation, and don’t panic.

2. Don’t try to paddle or swim against the rip current and toward shore. You won’t win this battle and will more likely tire yourself out and make the situation more dangerous. Instead, paddle parallel to shore along the beach to get yourself out of the stream of the rip current, and then follow breaking waves back to shore.

3. Call and wave for help if you need to, but always remain calm.



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