Surf’s up!

With the fantastic weather recently, we thought it might be a good idea to share some basic safety advice and remind you of factors you need to take into account when you go into the sea, particularly if you’re taking a surf or bodyboard into the water for the first time.

  • Weather
  • Waves
  • Currents
  • Rocks, cliffs etc
  • Surfers & other animals
  • Swimming ability

Weather

The best surfing days are often nice and sunny with a few puffy clouds. The weather can cause unexpected changes in the patterns of currents and waves, whilst a sudden increase in the wind can cause waves to increase in size or get choppy. It’s helpful to have a rough idea of the day’s predicted weather so you don’t get caught out.

Waves

Waves can be a great source of joy or fear, depending on your personality!

Big waves can be very hazardous for beginners. Even small waves can pack quite a punch. Water isn’t solid, but it’s pretty heavy and can knock you around quite a bit. Its no fun when a wave bodyslams you like a sumo wrestler—on steroids!

Currents

When you think of sea safety, the first thing that comes to mind is the dreaded rip current. There’s more detailed information on our Beach safety – rip currents page.

Small rip currents that periodically form along the beach are usually very small, only about 10-15 feet long at the max, and sometimes only form for a few minutes.  If you’re in shallow water (do this only if you can touch the sea bed, and ideally in water even more shallow than that) you can use these rips to help you gain experience in spotting rips and understand how they work – you’ll know you are in a rip because the water will pull against your legs.

Longshore currents run parallel to the beach and can be rather annoying as they tend to drag you down the beach but not usually out to sea.

Rocks

If you are not familiar with the beach you’re at then ask the locals or watch for low tides so you can see where any rocky peaks are and avoid them!

Popular local beaches for surfing:

  • Freshwater West: notorious submerged rocky reef area to the left (when looking out to sea) of the beach, around the base of & to the south of Rabbit Island. Also known for other submerged objects along the beach at very low tides.
  • Manorbier: rocky reef to the right & continuing along under the cliff

Cliffs

Sometimes the best waves break right in front of a cliff. This is for experienced surfers only and it can be a safety nightmare. Cliffs make it very difficult or impossible to get out of the water, and getting caught inside can be very scary.

Animals

A very important element of safety is the presence of the “real” locals, such as fish, crabs and jellyfish, Avoid these latter at all costs. They hurt!

Other Surfers

Make sure you know the rules of surfing etiquette and obey them. This is probably the no 1 rule in surfing ocean safety.

When surfers don’t respect the established etiquette, the situation can get very dicey. This is why there are established rules in surfing. Respect others space and they will also respect you.

Find out more about local surf etiquette on the BBC Wales website (http://www NULL.bbc NULL.co NULL.uk/wales/nature/sites/surfing/pages/etiquette NULL.shtml).

Swimming Ability

Many believe that the surfboard will act as a float, but this is not always true. If you become detached from your board, which you will most definitely do if you are a beginner, then you need to be reasonably confident at swimming.

Swimming in the sea is different to swimming in a pool. There’s no ledge you can grab hold of, and there’s not a solid and unmoving floor. Oh, and pools don’t have currents or waves!

Final Thoughts

If you’re getting a bad feeling because the waves might be too big, or the beach is deserted, listen to your gut reaction: there will always be more waves. Don’t take your safety for granted, the sea is not something to be taken lightly.

Have fun!

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