If you're gearing up for your first surfing experience, you're probably wondering what to expect. Although you can bet you will have a lot of fun on your first adventure into the waves, there are some precautions to consider too. The good news is surfing is a relatively safe sport, provided you follow some basic safety guidance. Here are five safety tips for your first surf.
1. Don't go it alone
If you've never been surfing before, your best bet is to hire an instructor or join a group for beginners. This way, you'll be taught the correct surfing technique and learn how to handle your board safely.
Not only that, but your instructor should have good knowledge of the area you'll be surfing in. This includes knowing the best spots for beginners and an awareness of the currents. At the very least, you should make sure you head out with someone who has experience of surfing in the area.
2. Make sure you're feeling fit and well
Surfing is a physically demanding sport. As a beginner you'll spend a lot of time on your board, paddling out to the waves. You will likely get tired fast.
If you're already feeling exhausted - or hungover from the night before - it's a good idea to postpone your first surf. To be safe in the waves, you should be alert and aware of your surroundings.
3. Check the sea conditions
Before you head out, check the sea conditions. Only paddle out if it's safe to do so. If you're not with someone experienced in the area, ask a local about any specific hazards you need to be aware of.
You also need to remain aware of conditions when you're out on the water. When you first paddle out, make a mental note of a landmark on the shore. Be mindful of your position in relation to this point of reference as you surf, making sure you don't drift too far from safety.
4. Protect yourself from the sun
Most beginners are busy worrying about the unlikely event of a shark attack, yet forget the hazards they're much more likely to encounter. If you're surfing in a warm climate, the sun is almost guaranteed to be one of them.
You will spend a lot of time paddling with the back of your legs, arms and head out of the water. Make sure you wear protective clothing and water-resistant sunscreen to protect you. It's important to choose eco-friendly sunscreen to ensure you don't harm the ocean's wildlife or fragile reefs.
5. Learn how to fall safely
When we fall, our first instinct is to hold out our hands to break the fall. But this is the last thing we want to do when we fall off our board. The sea bed contains a number of hazards, including sharp rocks or coral that will rip your hands to shreds.
Instead, learn to fall sideways from your board, using your arms to protect your head, and aim to fall "butt first". Protecting your head should always be your first priority, even if it means hurting another part of your body in the process (a reported 46% of surfing injuries are on the legs, for example). We're sure you'll get plenty of time to practise the right way to fall during your first surf!