The iconic sport of surfing harbors a number of submerged dangers that often go overlooked due to its contemporary appeal.
The traditional idea of surfing usually entails idyllic beach settings, complete with umbrella-drinks and tanned athletes maneuvering through the waters.
This perception, however, fails to reveal the complete picture.
The second meeting of the beginners surfing class at Cal State Fullerton was dedicated to overviewing safety advice and regulation in order to prevent unfortunate occurrences.
The class was also tested on rudimentary swimming skills and a student’s ability to hold their breath underwater.
“I figure out (which) things go bad, and then next semester I can prevent that,” Alain Bourgault, the surf program’s class instructor, said.
There are a large number of natural dangers present in the water that can be avoided with a little knowledge and affirmative action.
Rip currents are a serious threat to those unfamiliar with the water and for poor swimmers.
Ocean water continually moves toward the shore as it is carried by currents. At certain points, the water returns back out into the ocean where it has broken through the local sandbar in a circular motion.
These flows of water are also referred to as ‘rip tides’ and have been known to carry the unwary out to sea.
Students learn that by swimming parallel instead of directly to shore, those stuck in a rip can break through the swifter moving areas to the safety of calmer water.
“People freak out, then they get tired, then they die,” Bourgault said. “And it is illegal for people to die in the class.”
A prevalent concern amongst the students was the possibility of a shark attack.
Movies and pop culture have dramatized and embellished shark attacks into paralyzing horror stories that don’t quite reflect its relative rarity.
“As long as I won’t end up as a shark’s dinner, I think I can handle it,” Theresa Hoang, a foreign exchange student, said.
Quieting fears regarding these dangerous sea animals, Bourgault turned the class’ imaginations toward the more realistic threats of stingrays.
Relaying a tale of encountering the venomous barb of the creatures, Bourgault made the class aware of the fact that a debilitating stingray encounter can be avoided by shuffling feet while moving out to the lineup.
“A lot of people get out there and they’re like, ‘Oh, I’m scared of sharks,’” Bourgault said. “Don’t worry about sharks, worry about stingrays.”
While the activity of surfing itself occurs on a softer, more yielding surface than the familiar grounds of land sports, there is the potential of a surfer falling on their own surfboard.
Sometimes resulting in damage to the surfer or the board, impacts are regrettable, especially on the nose, fins or rails.
These unfortunate events often begin with a poorly timed takeoff on the wave that usually coincides with improper foot placement, ultimately leading to bodily imbalance and, eventually, the fall.
When tumbling, it is very important to guide the surfboard away from your body or the area of water you expect to land around.
Beginner surfers often avoid timing pitfalls entirely by opting to acquire their basic skills riding whitewash or the churning wall that forms with the breaking of a wave and advances toward shore.
Contributing toward safety, the boards that most beginners use are made of a softer, more malleable material than the rigid fiberglass and polyurethane models favored by the sport’s more adept.
Diving into the water having finished a ride is also discouraged because visibility is often low and a misjudged descent into shallow water could result in injury.
Despite these hardships, surfing is renown around the world and exists as a uniquely challenging workout, a stress-reliever and an arguably spiritual experience.
“(I) signed up for this class because I decided I should finally learn how to surf, seeing that I’ve been following it for ages,” Savannah McGovern, another student taking the class this semester said.