You’re in the Water and Something Bad Happens, What Do You Do Next?

4 Feb 2019 4 Share

Nick Carroll

Senior Writer

Presented by Coastalwatch & Surf Life Saving New South Wales

Number three 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?


So you’re in the water, and something happens. A fellow surfer suffers a heart attack, or suffers a bad cut, or is knocked unconscious and floating underwater, or, god forbid, is attacked by a shark.

What are your priorities?

– Have a good look around. You’re looking for danger to yourself and to the person. You’ve gotta be clear on this. We’ve all read about the Dad who ran in to rescue his little son from a rip and drowned himself in the process. You’re also looking for the best way out of the situation. And for help (see below).

– Get a response from the person. If he or she is conscious, you wanna start communicating here. Don’t ask them too much about what happened, just focus on the moment. Get a name, ask where they’re hurt, have they got friends or family with them. If he or she is unconscious, do the next bit – quickly.

– Get the person to the beach – unless it is radically unsafe to do so. Anything you can do to help the person will be massively easier to do on dry land. In the water, you’re unlikely to slow or stop any bleeding, you won’t be able to do CPR because you need to push against something to get a compression of the heart, and the longer you’re in the surf zone, the more you run the risk of losing the poor bastard under a wave or some such.

– Recruit help in doing this. Don’t let this slow you down though.

– On the beach, call 000, or get someone else to. (Not 911, that’s a USA thing.) This will get skilled people on the way as soon as possible. If you’re in another country and you’re not sure of the emergency number, just call 112 – that’s an internationally recognised emergency number and works anywhere.

– Get control of the situation. People freak out, they’ll curiously gather round, all that stuff. Keep a safe space around your patient.

– That said, the more helping hands the merrier. We’ll explain CPR in episode five, but one thing for sure, it’s best done in cycles, it’ll wear you out pretty quick. So if there’s a few of you who know how to do it, take turns.

– Defer to skills. If a lifeguard shows up with oxygen and defibrillator etc, let the lifeguard take charge. He/she will need you around so don’t just bail.

– If there seems like not much wrong with the person once back on land, also don’t just bail. Keep the person in a comfortable place, help them contact friends/family/etc, and keep watching him/her until that support arrives.

Other Episodes

Episode One: Fact & Fiction
Episode Two: 6 Things You Can Do Today To Become A Safer Surfer

Stay Tuned for the next episode: SURFBOARD RESCUE — how to get someone on your board and back in, fast. Even if they’re out cold. It’s easier than you think.

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

Over the series, Nick will:

  • 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

Tags: video , surf safety series , nick carroll , safety , surf safety (create Alert from these tags)

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