How to not get injured during a wipeout

The other about surfing here in Hawaii with so much reef and heavy water is how easy it is to get injured. One of my good buddies I was looking forward to surfing with broke his nose in 6 places the day before I arrived. Below is a picture of my face after taking the nose of my surfboard to my face on just a head high wave in Mexico probably 6 years ago: 

Key guidelines:

  • When you wipeout, always lift your arms up to protect your face and head. I’ll usually take both arms up and put my elbows in front of my face with my hands on the top of my head. If falling backwards or funky I’ll take one arm up and cover the back of my head and use the other arm to protect my face. I do this especially even in small waves because those tight spaces are more likely to shoot your board back at you.
  • If falling from the top of the wave and it isn’t shallow, straighten your body and hit feet first so you can penetrate the wave and not get sucked over the lip. A new thing I learned on my trip to Hawaii is that you’ll also want to make sure to really try and tense up to keep your body straight. My buddy pin dropped but he had a slight bend in his legs and ended up kneeing himself in the face and broke his nose in 6 places. Don’t lift your legs and go butt first either because you may impact the reef with your butt and do damage to your spine. I know of a big wave surfer at Nazare who hit butt first and broke his spine just from the impact with the water.
  • If falling in shallow water generally, you’re going to want to starfish out with your hands and arms splayed out wide so you don’t penetrate deeply, but if it’s critical you may still want to protect yourself and cover your head and hit the reef with your feet instead of some other body part. It’s tricky but you have to use your judgment.

1 comment

  • Rob Curley

    Hey Van thanks for all the vids etc great help – the best out there!

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