Surfing is a terrific way to enjoy the water from a whole new perspective. If you love to swim no matter the temperature and can swim in a wetsuit, you can expand your time in the water past just the summer. To make sure you get out of the water safely, check out the tips below.
Use a Leash
Your surfboard leash wraps around your ankle and tethers you to the board. In the event that you fall off your board, the leash will make it possible to get back to it easily. Because your surfboard will always float, the leash can be a lifesaver if you take a hard fall or lose orientation to the surface of the water. Before you get out on the water, carefully check the condition of the Velcro on your leash so you know that you and your board will stay connected.
Protect Your Head
If you do hit the water, your board may become at least partially airborne and come back at you. Practice getting in the habit of
-taking a deep breath as you fall
-protecting your face and head
-relaxing into the wave
A wave that is big enough to surf on is inherently powerful; once it has you, it's going to hold on for a time until it passes. Once you feel the wave releasing you, trust your tether and get back to your board, which can serve as a life preserver until you catch your breath.
When you catch back up with your board, take time to reorient. Be very aware of the bottom; a fall off your board in shallow water can put you at risk of injury if you land hard, up to and including a broken neck. Once you're confident of your orientation to the shore, the bottom and deeper water, you can decide if you're ready to head out for deeper waves.
Monitor and Protect Your Board
After a day in the water, it's a good idea to review the condition of your board. In addition to keeping it carefully waxed, you need to protect it from
-bumping up against your other gear
Anything that risks damage to the surface of your board limits your ability to float on it, which can put your safety at risk. Designate a spot in your home for board storage and avoid leaving it in the sun or inside a hot vehicle for extended periods of time.
Stay Inside the Flags
Pay attention to the flags along the surfer's beach. If the lifeguards have posted No Surfing signs or other warnings, be ready to go elsewhere. Getting beaten up by your board, caught in a riptide or stung by a jellyfish will not be a good use of your summer vacation time. Learn the different flag warnings for your intended surfing beach and follow them.
Wear a Wetsuit
Even if the water isn't terribly cold, a wetsuit can add buoyancy and protect you from getting scraped up on the bottom of the beach. While salt water is inherently more buoyant, a swimmer in a bathing suit managing to swim in cold water may suffer scrapes and bumps that don't register until you are out of the water. Anyone who's ever been scraped in a riptide or pulled out when a big wave recedes knows that having a wetsuit on can protect a lot of skin.
Build Strong Swimming Skills
In addition to having the strength to swim well, make sure you build smart swimming skills. Don't fight big waves. Not only will you lose, but you will be exhausted at the end of the tussle. Learn to tread water efficiently; if you lose your board while surfing, treading until you see it again can protect you from drowning.
Like learning how to fall off a surfboard in your early training increases your trust of your board, learning how to not panic in a riptide is a process. If you feel yourself moving in a way you didn't expect, relax. Focus on staying afloat and parallel to shore until the rip lets you go.
Learn to Lifeguard
Take a CPR class. Because your board can float, you may find yourself in proximity to a swimmer in trouble. In that situation, make sure that you give a struggling swimmer a tool (the board) to latch onto instead of your body. Know the signs of dehydration, hypothermia, sunstroke and any stings or bites that can occur on your favorite beach.
Surf With a Partner
It only takes one bad fall to put yourself in a really tough spot. If you take a hard hit to the head, getting back to shore will take help. It's never a good idea to get in the water alone; when possible, swim where lifeguards are watching. Even if you can get yourself back to shore after a hard bump, having a driver to take you home or to medical help is critical.
The sea calls to a lot of us. By taking great care of your gear, building your skills and relying on community, you can build skills and become a skilled surfer just in time for your next Costa Rica surf resort trip.