What Should You Do In a Surf Accident?


What would you do if you were involved in a surf accident or witnessed one? Would you stay in the water and finish your session or paddle in to make sure the injured person was stable?

On the road if you accidentally hit another car or person, it is illegal to flee the scene. Most people would make sure all parties were stable. In the ocean the rules are not as cut and dry. As a matter of fact, there are no real rules or consequences, just human decency guided by one’s own moral compass.

I’ve heard this many times by multiple people, surfing is a selfish sport. Are surfers intrinsically selfish people? In a crowded lineup, with mixed skill levels, any and all surf etiquette is thrown out the window. It is just mayhem. Every woman, man and child for themselves.

While SIP draws more people to the ocean, crowded lineups are the new normal. Accidents are bound to happen and I bring this up because I was injured by someone else’s board, enough to require an emergency department visit and five stitches to the scalp. That wasn’t the worst part. The worst part for me was the two individuals whose boards made contact with my body, stayed in the water.

These are the possible reasons I came up with as to why they chose to stay in the water and not exit with me to make sure I remained conscious. They:

  1. were in shock because they’d never been in this situation before
  2. were afraid to get close due to COVID-19
  3. lacked empathy and are truly selfish surfers/humans
  4. secretly hate my guts

There is surf etiquette when it comes to where to paddle out, when to go for a wave and who has priority, but there is no etiquette for surf accidents. So, what should you do if you see another surfer under distress, in the water?

This doesn’t seem to be written anywhere I could find, so I thought I’d start an evolving list:

  • Ask if they can get themselves to shore on their own or if they need help
  • Exit the water with them
  • Ensure they are stable and/or determine if an ambulance or emergency department visit is needed
  • If you were the cause of the injury offer to drive them to the hospital or follow them to make sure they make it

Call me crazy, but this just seems like basic human decency.

What are your thoughts? We’d love to hear from you. Leave a comment below or email us at gosurf@bombwaves.com

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2 thoughts on “What Should You Do In a Surf Accident?”

  1. I can’t imagine not helping them to shore and if need be, getting them to the hospital. I would do that even if I was not the cause of the accident but was there at the time and witnessed it. I just assumed everyone would do the same. Perhaps I’m naive?

  2. Saw a gal once take a board to the head, might have been hers. Watched her for a minute, she didn’t look good tho it was a small cut. Asked her if she needed help and ended up driving her to the e.r. for stiches, waited there, drove her back to the beach. Said she wanted to thank me. So we made dinner plans, took her out to dinner, I paid she said thanks… Never heard from her again. I didn’t want anything in return, perhaps just genuine appreciation, didn’t feel it. That makes me think twice about going out of my way for strangers again. Though I have and will continue to but that gal is always in the back of my mind.

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