DO: Have the right equipment
Before you dip your toes into the salt surf, make sure you are fully prepared with the right equipment. A common factor when a surfer dies or is injured is the actual surfing equipment. Do not walk into a store and buy a surfboard off the rack. Be sure you choose a board that is light enough for you to handle in the water, is sturdy, and is the right length for your height. In order to keep your surfboard with you, you will need a leash that attaches to your ankle. Choose a swivel connector to lessen the chances of getting tangled. If you choose to wear a wet suit, be sure the fit is snug.
DO: Go prepared
A major factor when a new surfer dies is inexperience. Do not attempt to hit the waves without proper training. Without the proper knowledge of riptides, tangles, and other hazards, you will not be prepared if an accident happens. There are many instructors who are willing to spend a few hours teaching you basic safety skills. Learning these skills will teach you how to react instinctively in an emergency situation.
DO: Watch out for sea life
Many new surfers do not take into consideration the presence of marine life on their surfing turf. From sharks, dolphins, and jelly fish to a variety of plants, there are a lot of hazards beneath the surface. One reason for surfer injuries or death is marine life. Boards or bodies can become tangled in plants. A fast crash into an animal can knock a surfer from their board causing serious injury. Many times these types of encounters are unavoidable, but a little preparation can increase your odds of survival.
DON'T: Go alone
The temptation to hit the waves when the beach is quiet lures many surfers to the ocean. This decision can be deadly. While surfers die when they are with someone else, the odds of survival increase significantly if you have someone there who can help if you become injured or trapped.
DON'T: Ignore warning signs
There are warning signs for a reason. If a beach is closed for tide or the presence of riptides, do not think your swimming abilities are sufficient. One of the most common factors when a surfer dies is water conditions. If you get caught in a riptide, you can be pulled away from shore and under water before you have time to react. Before you head into deeper waters, even on calm days, be sure you know how to get out of rip currents. Most surfing accidents occur when a surfer ignores warning signs and attempts to hit the waves despite poor conditions.
DON'T: Ignore the terrain
There will be bigger waves around rocks, cliffs, jetties, corals, and reefs and you should choose caution when attempting to hit these waves. More than one inexperienced surfer has died or been seriously injured attempting to ride waves too close to this terrain. If you are a novice surfer, avoid potential collisions and other injuries by steering clear and keeping an eye out for underwater rocks and plants.
Surfing is not for the weak of heart. This sport can be a lot of fun but there are serious risks involved. In many cases, when a surfer dies, the accident could have been prevented. Be aware that despite your preparing you are likely to run into dangerous situations, particularly involving invisible water hazards. Having more than just the basic swimming skills is vital before you head out into the waves. Stay safe by being prepared and avoiding any obvious danger zones.