Surf Safety Series: Episode One - Fact & Fiction

21 Jan 2019 3 Share

Nick Carroll

Senior Writer

Presented by Coastalwatch & Surf Life Saving New South Wales

Number One in a six part series, hosted by Nick Carroll.

Surfing’s not that safe. That’s why we dreamed up this series. As surfers, occasionally we get ourselves into danger. Sometimes — not often, but sometimes — it’s mortal danger. We also see other people in danger. But how many of us know what to do when things go pear-shaped in the ocean?

Over the next few weeks, we’ll:

  • Talk through some of the fact and fiction around who’s at risk in the water
  • Suggest six things everyone can do, like right away, to make things safe
  • Show you the first moves to make in a watery crisis
  • Demo a simple method of rescuing a person using your normal, everyday board
  • Do a step-by-step, surf-specific CPR instructional
  • Give you some ideas about resources if you want to take your rescue skills to the next level

This series was made with thanks to:
Surfers: Nina Lindley & Dylan Wilkinson
Footage: Matt Dunbar, Surfer Films, Ethan Smith & Surfing NSW
Written & presented by Nick Carroll
Filmed & produced by Sally Mac


“Look at that kook! How dangerous is that?!”

I musta heard this a hundred times, I know I have said it myself. It’s the classic complain of many experienced surfers as they watch a novice struggle with some situation or other.

Thing is, it’s not true. The novice might struggle for a bit, but he or she survives pretty easily. The ocean is awesomely good at kicking people out of the water. The real dangers emerge when they learn how to fight back.

If you look at the past two decades both here in Australia and around the world, you’ll find two types of surfers who are most at risk of death or serious injury in the surf.

1: Middle-aged men. A major cause of death in the surf is heart attack. These are usually suffered by men between the ages of 40 and 60, sometimes (but not always) on holiday. They’d probably have had a heart attack anyway, but because it’s in a surf zone, where the person might drown or just not get enough help quick enough, it’s much more dangerous.

2: Skilled surfers who run foul of a situation they believe to be in their comfort zone. These are often, but not always, people charging extra mega surf, and they are massively over-represented in the stats. Occasionally they’re very well known surfers at spots like Pipe. They may indeed be in their comfort zone, but when something goes wrong in that zone, it really goes wrong.

I kinda think there is a third category here, but it’s one we don’t usually address on CW or anywhere else. The third most dangerous surfer is the one who is unprepared to help someone else in a heavy situation. Not unwilling – unprepared.

If there is one common theme among survival stories from these two types of critical incidents – whether it be Aaron Gold at giant Cloudbreak, or Kevin Lynch – a surfer who suffered a heart attack on the Goldie in early 2017 and survived – it’s the speed with which people took action.

In Aaron’s case, he was the beneficiary of his fellow big wave riders and their commitment to skilling up in CPR and rescue techniques. In Kevin’s case, he was saved by a 13-year-old girl surfer who also happened to be a clubbie, and who got him to help, fast.

This is not about superhuman rescue efforts or heroic lifeguards or whatever. The fact is: we are our own safety nets. The more of us who know what to do when bad shit happens, the safer we all are.

Tags: video , Surf Safety , Surf Safety Series , Safety , Nick Carroll (create Alert from these tags)

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