Surfing is a sport completely at the mercy of Mother Earth’s will. The size of the waves can vary extremely from day to day. So, how do you know when you should surf and when to avoid it?
A person should not go surfing if the waves require more skill than they have. Avoid surfing at night, in areas that have wildlife warnings, and while there are strong winds. Waves vary in intensity; it is important to know what level of wave each person can handle when deciding to surf.
Below are some conditions that should make you reconsider whether you should go surfing or not.
When the Difficulty is too High
This might seem like a no-brainer, but it is a very important thing to consider. Some waves are harder to surf than others. One rule most surfers live by is if a wave makes you nervous or worried, do not surf it. It is as simple as that.
There are plenty of surfing thrill-seekers, but even they know when to take a step back and evaluate their skill level and comfort level. It is extremely important to know and keep in mind your limits when it comes to a sport that could easily result in disaster. Surfing can be dangerous, you could be swept out to sea, drown, or face any other number of tragedies when you surf a wave above your skill level.
Simply ask yourself, “Am I comfortable with the size of the waves today?” If the answer is no, go home. The ocean will still be there tomorrow. Do not paddle into waters that are too rough, crowded, or strong for you. There is no place for bravado in this sport.
After it Rains
It is well known among surfers in California specifically that it is never a good idea to surf right after it rains. Surprisingly, this does not have much to do with how the difficulty of the waves changes and everything to do with how the water could affect your health.
When it rains, runoff increases from urban parts of the coast and sends pollution such as trash, waste, fertilizers, oil, and other pollutants into the water. This pollution will eventually reach the ocean through waterways. This is more relevant in coastal areas with higher urban and residential areas, but it is important to consider anywhere.
Due to this increased pollution, health experts suggest waiting three to five days after heavy rainfall before surfing again. This is because the pollution could expose you to diseases and infections such as E. coli, amoeba, and other dangerous pathogens.
You should never surf when injured or in pain. This is another no-brainer but is important to remember. You may not be able to put your all into surfing if you are facing muscle pains at the same time.
Make sure your body is in optimal condition before facing the waves!
To avoid cramping and digestive problems wait as little as forty minutes before you hit the water after eating. Cramps and discomfort can easily lead to drowning if you aren’t careful and, as always, it is better to be safe than sorry!
Surfing at night might seem like the ideal time. It is quiet and serene, not too crowded, and you can get plenty of waves. However, night surfing is incredibly dangerous.
The main reason not to surf at night is due to visibility. If you cannot see where you are, how can you see where the shore is? How will you know where to paddle to return to the beach? Not only this, but you are at risk of not seeing the waves or not noticing rocks that you would usually know to avoid. It is far too easy to get turned around when surfing, and adding the uncertainty of night will not help your situation in the slightest.
You must stay aware of your surroundings when surfing so you can notice any trouble you may be headed your way, and you simply cannot do this to the best of your ability while surfing at night.
In Strong Winds
Strong winds can not only break the waves you are surfing on and make your session disappointing, but they can also pose a danger to you. You always want small winds when you are surfing but as soon as they pick up, be wary.
Strong winds can make it difficult to paddle back to shore. They can make surfing a constant uphill battle with the elements. You could easily be blown too far from shore and out to sea if you are not careful.
During Wildlife Warnings
This is another safety concern that seems obvious, but many a surfer has come to regret not listening to wildlife warnings in their area. This warning does not just include sharks, though those are always at the forefront of people’s minds. This risk includes jellyfish, bluebottles, and a number of other dangerous creatures that could harm you and end a surfing session early on a deadly note.
Jellyfish injuries are far more common than sharks. While some jellyfish stings are simply painful, other jellyfish, such as the Man o’ War, are deadly and almost impossible to see in the water. Some species can cause paralysis or even cardiac arrest, so be careful and aware of the dangers posed when facing waters with high-risk notices of sea wildlife.
In Unknown Waters
This does not mean you cannot branch out when it comes to location. It can be a great experience to surf at new beaches and get to know other shores! In no way do we want to discourage change.
However, when surfing, you always want to research the spot first. Plenty of other people have surfed the coast you have your eyes set on. There will be someone out there that can inform you of troubles or spots to look out for. The ocean acts differently wherever you are. There might be secrets to this beach that others have found that you can be hurt by if you don’t know about them.
This is why it is never a good idea to surf at an unresearched beach. Make sure you are well acquainted with the secrets of any beach you surf at. Whether by word of mouth or an online forum, researching your destination could save you from making mistakes, including ones that could cost you your life.
When Can You Surf?
As long as you take these conditions into consideration, it is perfectly safe for you to surf! We recommend surfing at dawn and dusk because this is when the wind is optimal, and you can find waves that break evenly and cleanly due to the lack of wind. The beach also isn’t extremely crowded at dawn or dusk, which means there is less competition for you.