Tips for Surfing Safely

Safe Surfing Tips

So something about surfing intrigues you and wanna learn how to surf. Before entering the water you should know that surfing is an extreme sport with many dangerous elements to consider. It requires some prerequisite knowledge like basic surfing safety tips, so you don’t end up in a life threatening situation. Following these surfing safety tips and basic surf principles will prevent you from getting yourself into a situation you can’t get out of. Here are the main things to keep in mind.

surfing safety guidelines

Weather conditions

Keeping an eye on the weather is an extremely important part of surfing safely. As we all know, it can be unpredictable at times. As surfers, we are constantly exposing ourselves to the elements and they can pose a real threat to surfers who are caught off-guard or are simply unaware.

You should always exit the water during thunderstorms. Salt water is an excellent conductor of electricity and the threat of being electrocuted is very real. Changing winds and local storms can affect the direction and strength of currents. Additionally, fog and even heavy rains can decrease visibility, making it difficult to figure out where you are located in the lineup, leaving you disoriented. With regards to weather conditions, the most important thing is to be constantly aware of your surroundings. Weather alterations can generate swell changes, which means shifting sea patterns. If not dealt with correctly these can catch you off guard and get you in some serious trouble especially if you are not a strong swimmer.

Wave size

Knowing the wave size you are comfortable in is a crucial part of basic surfing safety and a tip for beginner surfers is to always start small. Losing your interest because of early unpleasant experience happens way to often, so stay within your limits and keep your ego in check. If you’ve never surfed before, aiming for anything bigger than 2-3ft on reef and 3-5ft on sand is crazy or plain stupid. This is a surfing safety guideline that should never before overlooked and you should always start small and work your way up to bigger waves.

The general rule is the bigger the wave the more powerful, but there are some exceptions. Reef or slabs generate a more powerful punch per pound than sand beaches and if we had to compare, reef would win the danger prize money every time.

Big waves that are hollow, known as “barrels” are some of the most dangerous. They suck harder and spit further, creating trouble on the take-off and if you want to continue to ride one of these waves you’ll need to crouch in tightly to get a tube, which isn’t beginners territory. Only after years of surfing should you attempt to join some of the people that might be keen to take these waves on and if so, our advice when falling either on the drop, over the lip or in the barrel is to fall away from your board for obvious reasons.

Currents and Rips

Another important surfing safety tip is to always be aware of currents and rips. They can be a friend or foe and the experienced surfer will turn them into a friend, just like hitch-hiking a ride straight to the lineup.

Tide changes are a classic indication of outgoing rips and are usually the main factors when someone finds themselves getting sucked out to sea. Some surf spots can have a rip sweeping you along the beach, to avoid disorientation, keep a line of sight on a land formation. This will help keep your awareness up and avoid dangerous situations.

Safely riding a river mouth can be a good place to start from, but remember getting back in from the surf the same way you got out will be almost impossible.


Safely surfing a reef means being aware of the shallow parts, as coral cuts like ‘fire coral’ can be deadly. Cliffs are experienced surfers territory and being between waves crashing against solid walls isn’t a great idea for most. Jetties stop erosion and can stop you dead in your tracks if you hit them. Piers are solid pillar-like objects that some surfers weave in and out of, but that’s not advisable for beginners. Boulders and rocks can be visible at low tide, but only slightly submerged when the tide is high, so sometimes checking a spot both at high and low tide deepens your surf spot knowledge and obviously increases your safety, which is crucial. If you are a beginner and are going to surf a brand new spot we always recommend that you ask either the surf shop where you are renting your board or local surfers about the dangers of this particular spot. This bit of knowledge can really go a long way.

Other surfers

Surfing safely means being aware of surfers both on and off the wave. Surfers can be territorial and depending where you are in the world this should not be overlooked. This surfing tip might save you from losing your board to a local surfer who has decided it looks nice or even a few teeth. Ok, this isn’t likely to happen and most people are friendly, but being a rookie and generally over keen might cause you to upset a few people.

Surfing a wave by dropping-in on someone will get you on everyone’s radar, but a pair of fins might not be so forgiving when you’re caught on the face of a wave whilst someone is cruising in your direction.

When you’re paddling back out to the line up after catching a wave and someone is riding a wave or about to, its the surfing etiquette and your responsibility to move out of their direction even if your facing a wall of white water.

Surf Fitness

Wanna feel good out in the surf? Then be as fit as you can before entering the water. Don’t find yourself in a tight spot with no lung or muscle power to manage the freak wave set that’s just broke 10 meters out in front of you. GO SWIMMING!! Run, bike or whatever your choice of cardio is it will definitely help your surfing. Having extra weight on you however will not, so cut those pounds and reap the benefits in the water. Get used to holding your breath for prolonged periods of time and work on expanding your lung capacity. From a surf safety perspective, this will help you feel comfortable when the conditions aren’t in your favor.


The last of many surfing safety tips, is your board and surf gear. This should be the final decision on making your surf trip a safe one. Make sure you’re not taking a short board (under 7ft) out because you seen guys rip on them at the beach or on TV. The best beginner surfboard is usually a foam soft top of 8ft or bigger. These boards float better and are most stable which makes them easier to paddle, catch waves on and leaves you more room for error. Just as important it makes it safer for other surfers around you. Let’s face it, when starting out you will have little to no board control and it’s only a matter of time before you fall and launch your board into someone. Stuff like this is not taken lightly and when it does happen, the consequences between hitting someone with a foam board versus an epoxy board can range from a dirty look to a fist fight on the spot. You also need to make sure you have a strong leash, lots of wax, sunscreen and a warm wetsuit that is thick enough in those colder regions.

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