5 Common Surfing Injuries and How to Treat Them

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Like any other sport, surfing is also another activity where athletes or performers experience getting hurt or injured. There may be bleeding, bruises, cramps, cuts, dehydration, fractures, head injuries, scrapes, sprains, trauma and more, but nothing beats the act of being prepared. Knowledge in first aid will definitely save someone’s life.

Surfing Injuries and First Aid Treatments

1. Drowning

When a person surfing becomes unconscious after a fall, a hit to the head, or staying too long under water, the chances of drowning are high. When you see an unresponsive person on the beach, paddle to them immediately and get them to the shore to initiate rescue breathing. Make sure they’re lying flat on their back. Check for signs of life (maximum of 10 seconds) and if you see none, perform good quality CPR starting with five rescue breaths. Call for help immediately.

How to perform CPR:

2. Ear and Eye Injury

A blunt trauma to the face can injure the actual eye. Bacteria is also common in the water, which can cause infection to the eye. Pterygium, or also known as the “surfer’s eye,” is caused by long exposure to sun. When vision is disrupted, a surgery will be needed.

Image Source: Surfer Today

A blunt force trauma to the ears can rupture the eardrum. This usually heals, but it also needs medical attention. Exostosis is a common ear problem experienced by surfers, also known as the “surfer’s ear.”

Image Source: The Inertia

Consult a healthcare professional immediately for any eye and ear conditions.

3. Lacerations

A surfer can have bruises and cuts to the head and legs when they come into contact with their own board (especially the fin) or when they collide with another surfer. Hitting the ocean floor or colliding with rocks or debris can also cause lacerations. Some cuts are shallow while others are deep, which require sutures and sometimes antibiotics.

Lacerations are prone to infection, which is why it’s important to know the first aid treatment for it. What you need to do is to stop the bleeding by applying direct pressure on the area. Then clean the area with warm water and gentle soap. Apply antibiotic ointment to reduce the chance of infection. Then put a sterile bandage on the area. For minor lacerations, remove bandage after a couple of days to promote healing.

When you’re in a remote area and there are coconut trees, use the water from the green coconut to clean the area. This water will sterilize and clean out the wound in a good way. Remember to use green coconuts only, not brown ones.

Most lacerations can be sutured. Here’s a video on how to do a suture using basic techniques:

For more serious cuts and bruises, call a healthcare provider.

4. Neck injury

A neck injury is oftentimes obtained after a fall. If the patient is conscious and his neck is hurting and he can’t feel his legs, there is a chance of drowning, especially in deep waters. The first thing you need to do is get him to the shore safely. Use a floatation device for assistance and recruit as many helpers as possible. Make sure that his spine is as straight as possible in doing so.

In shallow waters, you can rescue the person by placing his hands above his head, hold it with one hand (this will serve as a splint) and use your free hand and legs to swim on your back. When you reach the shore, place him flat on his back and instruct him not to move his head. Call for help immediately.

Here’s a video of a shallow water rescue:

5. Shark attack

When you see a fellow surfer who has been attacked by a shark, get the person out of the water immediately and call for emergency services. Stop the bleeding by applying direct pressure to the wound using any item of clothing or a towel. If the person is wearing a wetsuit, tear it off to assess the wound and apply pressure.

If direct pressure is not stopping the bleeding, use a tourniquet; but only use them when benefits outweigh the risks as tourniquets have a known risk of causing limb damage. Tie the tourniquet loose just above the wound, avoiding joints. Place a stick over the knot and complete the tie. Tighten the tourniquet by rotating the stick. This should stop the bleeding. Take note of the time you applied it and relay it to the paramedics.

Elevate the uninjured leg to maximize blood flow to the brain. Blood loss can lead to death so make sure to get the patient to the hospital as soon as possible. Remember to keep the patient warm as hypothermia increases the chances of bleeding.

Video tutorial on creating a makeshift tourniquet:

Here’s a step-by-step guide on what to do on a shark bite victim:

Your First Aid Kit

Whether you’re an amateur or a professional surfer, knowing how to perform first aid in any situation is definitely a must. So after packing your favorite surfboard or wetsuit, make sure your first aid kit is prepared as well.

What should be in your first aid kit?

  • Absorbent pads
  • Antibiotic ointment
  • Antiseptic wipes
  • Antiseptic cream
  • Aspirin
  • Band Aids (various sizes)
  • Balsam
  • Burnaid sachet
  • Cotton tips
  • Eye pad dressing
  • First Aid book
  • Gauze strips
  • Itch relief
  • Latex gloves
  • Micropore tape
  • Nail clippers
  • Pocket knife
  • Prescription medicines
  • Pressure bandage
  • Safety pins
  • Stainless steel scissors
  • Stainless steel fine point tweezers
  • Sterile strips
  • Sterile saline solution
  • Thermal blanket
  • Tourniquet
  • Waterproof tapes
  • Wound dressings

* A First Aid mobile app can also come in handy.

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